Autumn is a time to come to terms with both the fantasy and the reality of gardening.
We fantasize about the beautiful garden we can create. We intend to grow delicious fruits and healthy vegetables. We see visions of beauty in areas of bareness, and imagine the great shrub which can grow from our tiny potted start.
I’ve come to understand that gardeners, like me, are buoyed on season to season and year to year by our fantasies of beauty.
I spend many hours pouring through plant catalogs and gardening books; especially in February.
And I spend days, sometimes, making lists of plants to acquire, shopping for them, and making sketches of where they will grow.
As far as fantasies go, I suppose that dreaming up gardens rates as a fairly harmless one. Expensive sometimes, but harmless in the grand scheme of things.
But there are times for planning and imagining; and there are times for dealing with the realities a growing garden presents.
I spent time bumping up against the realities, this morning, as I worked around the property; preparing for the cold front blowing in from the west.
I spent the first hour walking around with a pack of Double Mint chewing gum dealing with the vole tunnels. This is our new favorite way to limit the damage the ever-present voles can do.
Recent rain left the ground soft. My partner spent several hours and three packs of gum feeding the little fellas on Tuesday. So the damage I found today was much reduced, and I only used a pack and a half. Much of the tunneling was in the lawns, but I also found it around some of the roses.
Another hour was invested in deadheading, cutting away insect damage on the Cannas, pulling grasses out of beds and digging up weeds.
I wandered about noticing which plants have grown extremely well this year, and which never really fulfilled my expectations.
As well as our Colocasias and Cannas have done, the little “Silver Lyre” figs planted a year ago remain a disappointment.
Sold as a fast growing variety, these barely reach my knees. Between heavy clay soil which obviously needed more amendment and effort on my part at planting, and our very cold winter; they have gotten off to a very slow start.
I hope that they will catch up next year and eventually fulfill their potential as large, beautiful shrubs.
I admired the beautiful Caladiums, and procrastinated yet again on digging them to bring them inside. Maybe tomorrow….
Even knowing the weather forecast, I don’t want to accept that cold weather is so close at hand. I am reluctant to disturb plantings which are still beautiful.
I did begin bringing in Begonias today. And, I’m starting to make decisions about which plants can’t be brought inside.
Space is limited, and my collection of tender plants expands each year.
Each season brings its own challenges. There are the difficult conditions brought by heat and cold, too much rain and drought.
Then there are the challenges brought on by the rhythms of our lives.
I’ve been away from the garden a great deal this spring and summer. And when I’ve been home, I’ve often been too tired to do the tasks which have other years become routine.
What I was doing with loved ones was far more important than trimming, weeding and fertilizing in the garden.
And my partner has helped a great deal with the watering this year. But the neglect shows.
I am surveying the reality of which plants were strong and soldiered on without much coddling; and which didn’t make it.
I pulled the dead skeletons of some of them today.
This is a garden which forces one to face the facts of life… and death. It is probably a good garden for me to work during this decade of my life.
At times effort brings its own rewards. Other times, effort gets rewarded with naked stems and the stubble of chewed leaves.
It forces one to push past the fantasies which can’t make room for disappointment and difficulties; for evolution and hard-won success.
The wise tell us that all of the suffering in our lives results from our attachments.
That may be true. And yet, I find joy even in this autumnal mood of putting the garden to bed for the season.
Even as I plan for the coming frost, and accept that plants blooming today soon will wither in the cold; I find joy in the beauty which still fills the garden.
I am deeply contented with how I have grown in understanding and skill, while gardening here, even as my garden has grown in leaf and stalk.
And I am filled with anticipation for how the garden will grow and evolve in the year to come.
It is a work in progress, as are we all.
While fantasies may lead us onwards and motivate us to make fresh efforts each day; so reality is a true teacher and guide.
Our challenge remains to see things just as they are. To be honest with ourselves, learn from our experience, and find strength to make fresh beginnings as often as necessary as we cultivate the garden of our lives.
Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014