Oct 14, 2011

Let the Fireworks Begin

We've yet to experience our first frost which is somewhat unusual and something I hope Al Gore doesn't hear about. But, one of the many vine maples [Acer circinatum] I started from seeds or cuttings many years ago has responded to whatever primeval genetic code orchestrates such things and dyed the top of its canopy Sedona red. Almost makes me want to go into the woods at midnight and perform some ancient Druid dance to hurry the mercury down. We have two other large maples whose leave are only able to produce varying shades of yellow, but we do have five Japanese maple [Acer palmatum], and while small, all under ten feet, their amazingly varied foliage turn half a dozen shades of red, bronze, copper, gold, and a few tints that aren't recognized nor produceable on an artist's pallet. Then there is the incendiary Euonymus alata 'compactus', variety "Chicago Fire". Although in a shady location it too has begun to take on its brilliant crimson fall color.

And so many others who grace our gardens with their temporary farewells, The ancient birch, perhaps the first tree I planted 37 years ago, the leaves of which, while only turning a somewhat uniform yellow are so dense and intense that when light is behind them the tree appears festooned with freshly minted doubloons, but without the portrait of Ferdinand and Isabella. But the treasure chest has not been opened this year, we need the nip of frost to snap the lock.

Most of the Hosta raised from seed earlier in the year (I mentioned them in May) have developed into nice little plants, and, not having decided where to plant them, and, realizing they would not survive the winter in their four inch pots I planted them in three rows in an 'out-of-the-way spot until next spring. When you can't prune a shrub or a rose or a tree without wondering if you might turn the trimmings into additional plants, and you never cease to marvel at the potential hidden in every perennial or annual seed pod, well, you end up with considerably more plants than anyone, other than a commercial nursery, can use. The fifty or so day lilies started from seed last year should begin to flower next year and although I don't expect any surprises, just like buying a lottery ticket, one can always hope that among the new blooms one of them proves to be unique, so different in fact that daylilyomania might sweep the land as did tulipomania Europe in the 1600's and I can at last afford a copy of Hortus Veitchii.

Oct 13, 2011

The Maxfield Parish Effect

It begins, or becomes noticeable, around seven pm. The rounded hills running along the east side of the valley are suddenly awash in an ethereal, lilac light not present most of the year. I can only liken it to the quality found in many of Maxfield Parish’s paintings. Perhaps it’s due in part to our location at 45.516976 N latitude, and at this time of year sunlight must pass through miles of ozone, soot, pollen, sloughed off skin cells from a few billion people, carbon-based energy fumes, a myriad frantic insects in either a mating euphoria or lingering death buzz, water vapor from the transpiration from a land turned green by summer sun, the belched gas from herds of countless bovines busily chewing their cud, and who knows what other collections and amalgamations of aerial rubbish are suspended in the air this time of year. Whatever the cause the result is mesmerizing. The unworldly pastel glow suffuses everything with what seems like a physical harmony, work and play both cease. There is a sense that one could reach out and embrace the light as one might a friend. It doesn’t last long, a couple of weeks in late August or early September, and the effect lasts just the time it takes for the shadow of the western hills to climb and darken those to the east. By October we are preparing the cave for winter, hoping that perhaps this year we might have sunshine to brighten the snow occasionally. We read and make long lists from nursery catalogues, mumble incoherently about spring, and wonder if we should buy a Maxfield Parish calendar next year.

Oct 11, 2011


This is my first opportunity to write since May – that’s the Prospero magic a garden can cast over your life.

After what can only be described as a miserable summer (for us spring never ended) fall has arrived. Steady cold rain shuffled with a dark cloud deck heavy with showers, wind, and the scent of snow, presupposing, I suppose, a dreary, if not a loosing hand. Still, we work/play almost every day in the garden, lately in what we call our Conifer Garden, adding new evergreens and understory plants (we try to plant those listed as zone 4 or lower, but sometimes add a particularly desirable plant or two, or three, only rated zone 5/6) as often as our meager income allows. It is sometimes disconcerting to realize the trees you are planting today will not reach a reasonable or appreciable size until long after you yourself are providing nutrients for their growth. Even worse is thinking about those who may live here twenty years from now, people (?) who will simply call in the logger and the backhoe and carve out a place to park their 1200 square foot recreational vehicle (?) wondering all the time what kind of ‘fruitcake’ planted all the firewood.

OK, this is not our garden, yet. Butchart Garden, BC, Canada

Anyway, this morning the rain was continuous and filled my rubber boots so I spent the afternoon listening to Bob Dylan, sipping a glass or two of $3.00 Pinot Grigio, and working with the many cuttings I have taken over the past few months, [I couldn’t help noticing cuttings taken from a Meidiland rose on 8.3.11 had already sent roots through the bottom of their pots. Up to now only Darlow’s Enigma as been so accommodating] I did manage to heel-in several dozen potted plants and collect too much seed from too many plants before my fingers stiffened from the cold. Too many books to read, too much music, too many ragged poems to write. Never enough books to read, and never enough music or poems to bathe in.

This is part of our embryonic conifer garden.

My head is too filled with words and thoughts after a five-month hiatus, what a hodgepodge.

Appropriately Dylan is singing “Restless Farewell” at this moment, so, if not farewell, goodnight.