A few nights ago, the local weatherman said a few things that got my attention and made me think about changing seasons with a new perspective.
He started with, “now that we’ve set our clocks back one hour, our days are getting shorter.” Excuse me? I thought every day was 24 hours. He probably meant to say something like “falling back” meant earlier sunsets and therefore, less daylight for the next few months. Because his pronouncement startled me, it made me pay more attention to how the changes change me. Sometimes this time of year feels cozy and my nesting instincts kick in but, for whatever reasons(s), this year I feel like things are “neither here nor there.” This feeling I blame on my garden rather than the weatherman.
This year the garden’s transition to winter dormancy seems extraordinarily drawn out. There are still remnants of summer, signs of fall and hints of winter in the garden. The landscape’s not vibrant and I don’t search through the beds for daily changes but it’s definitely not stagnant. However, when the weatherman continued and assuredly stated, “now that our days are getting shorter that means it’s the official end of the growing season” I stopped short.
Did he really just say that? Less sunlight is like a work stoppage and nature calls it quits? Nothing is growing? This isn’t true: fall is often referred to as the “root growing” season and although some think of this time as winter, I know there are roots still growing in my garden. Plants going dormant now aren’t visibly active but they will be when the conditions are right for them to return. The spring ephemerals were dormant during the summer and we didn’t think of that as the end of a growing season – it was a period of time in the cycle of growth. Most people are familiar with winter dormancy (perennials without evergreen foliage) but they’re not dead. Dormancy is not equated with death. Fewer hours of sunlight is not equated with the lack of growth.
My garden is a curious sight this year at this time. Last year, as we approached Thanksgiving, I would have been hard pressed to find blooms in the garden. Not true this year – my gardens are not void of color and evidence of growth is everywhere. Many plants are going dormant and some are withering but I know things are still growing. Just as each day has 24 hours, nature continues 365 days a year. I am a 24/7 gardener.
This year, with three seasons visible in my garden, I’m no longer getting fresh herbs from the garden or delighting in new blooms but I delight in the reluctance of some summer blooms to call it quits. I’m holding onto some of my warmer weather clothing before resigning to heavy sweaters and I haven’t started cooking typical winter meals yet, either. No clear delineation of seasons and certainly no official end to the growing season.
The garden is spotted with color from the pentas, coleus, several varieties of salvia and fuchsia. My garden, like me, is a little reluctant to completely let go of summer:
But we know it’s a new season – seedpods are beautiful, interesting and evidence of change. The fuchsia’s pips drip from the branches winding through the trellis, woodland peony seedpods decorate gardens, sedum’s fading and the Edgeworthia’s forming its pods which will slowly evolve into pom-pom-like, orange-white and deliciously fragrant blooms. It’s like taking baby steps towards another stage and/or season.
Not long ago I had fall crocuses, asters, false dragonheads and obedient plants brimming with color. Those are gone now – they got the memo about dormancy but they’re not dead, just waiting until the time is right to jump into action.
Did the weatherman mean to say that with the sun setting earlier and temperatures dropping, gone are the days of mowing the lawn, frequent trips to the nursery, endless planting and tending to the garden? To a certain extent, that’s true but even with the sun setting earlier and cooler temperatures, there’s growing and gardening to be done. Now begins the time to plant bulbs, divide certain plants, amend the soil, plan for next year, leaf mulch and plant certain trees and shrubs. Unlike the weatherman, I don’t see an end to the growing season no matter how his statement’s interpreted.
Although the days of overflowing window boxes full of color and the casual bouquets gathered in gardens are gone, it is still a time of color and enjoying nature’s growth. Bringing pots of summer blooms indoors keeps summer going even if it’s snowing outdoors. These lovely blooms have been thriving since spring and I brought it inside to watch it GROW all winter. There’s no official end of the growing season for this plant. This, too, is a change in my perspective as I usually let nature take its course when it comes to annuals. This year, I’m reluctant to let go.
If desired, enjoying nature’s growth is a year round sport without end. There’s no official end to the joy of watching things grow. Coaxing bulbs, watching the buds on a Christmas cactus slowly open and/or planting a terrarium brings life, change and growth into your home.
Next month certain hellebores species begin to grow – there are enough varieties to plant them for sequential blooms beginning in December. I have a green and white variety that begins in December and enough other varieties to keep various hellebores colors opening until early summer. Their arrival is something I really look forward to as I continue to look for signs of growth.
The witch hazel blooming in February, often covered in snow, is evidence that growth is picking up the pace and soon, the early bulbs will make an appearance. I can’t wait to see the first fresh little green tips of foliage break ground. I won’t let go of the growing season and strongly disagree with the weatherman’s assessment that the growing season has ended.
Plant now – even if you think the days are shorter and the growing season has ended. The work you do now makes entering the next major seasonal transition that much more lovely.