Essays from The Education of a Bengali Gentleman –
Gardening in the Fall
From July to September my garden bloomed, changing shapes, sizes and colors as summer progressed. Creating a Zen garden to replace an old and fraying stretch of hedges along the alley was very fulfilling. With every passing day it became a delight for neighbors, walkers, bikers, and joggers. Compliments were exchanged. Everyone worth retelling. A passerby saw us relaxing and taking in the view one evening. He asked if he may join us. I gave him a spare chair. Together we watched the tall grass sway, bees and butterflies savored the honey from carpet roses, pink and white cone flowers, and a bunny hopped across the grass. The water in the pond spiraled out of the fountain and fell back with a soft murmur. Above on some utility wires doves cooed. A cardinal sang from a sagging branch of the neighbors tree.
Time turned. Now it’s October. Fall is upon us. A brisk and chilly wind scatters the leaves. The sun sets earlier. Squirrels are gathering their winter stockpile. And I am putting the garden to bed. But first I decorated my Halloween patch. Out came the years old scarecrow. He replaced the upturned water pond container that went into safekeeping in the garage till next Spring. Old Jack has a swaying, green and purple witch to keep him company. By night a string of pumpkin lights adds to the attraction. I gather the dry leaves and make a huge pile, different sizes, multiple colors, crunchy to step on. A Wisconsin like fall in our own backyard.
Without a visual it’s hard to picture the various gardens in our wrap around 18,000 square feet yard. But a 30ft by 4ft plot we call our wild flower garden has really seen its best days for this season. It’s the space I use to house all the cut down bushes, flowers, and vegetables, I clear in the fall. All the left overs from the carpet roses, the bleeding hearts, the hydrangeas, the Russian sage, the globe amaranths, the lilies, the hostas, the clematis, the Indian bitter melon, the tomatoes, the cucumber, the zinnias, the calla lilies. Sort of my natural mulch and compost bed.
My wife and I nearly cried the day I took down the pink globe amaranths. They started as two six inch potted plants in July and over the summer they completely filled up a 25 feet by 3 feet plot. Thousands of blooms, always looking fresh. Waving and swaying in with the wind. It is the sunny side of the yard facing true south. I prepped the bed for our tulips and daffodils. First the amaranths came out, flowers, foliage and roots. I turned the soil around with a rake. Then I topped the entire area with two inches of enriched topsoil. Next was the back breaking work. I strapped on my knee protectors and on my hands and feet, I went back and forth the twenty five feet, first planting the tulips, roughly six inches apart, six inches deep, staggered front and back, all fifty bulbs. Then I repeated the same with fifty daffodil bulbs. When I finally straightened up it was 1pm. I had started at 10 am after a hearty breakfast of eggos with maple syrup, topped with strawberries, and a scoop of my favorite scrambled eggs. Here I have to share a secret. For next I lit up a cigar, stretched out in a lounging chair, and enjoyed a few puffs, saving the cigar for when the job was done. I hauled out a new fifty pound bag of black munch and evenly spread it out to cover and hide the newly planted bulbs. Now all there is left to do is wait for next spring.
It’s not yet winter. It’s a little nippy in the mornings. But I still go out for a walk before breakfast. Squirrels are darting around collecting the nuts. I hope they will find them when they are buried under three feet of snow. Sometimes my front yard looks like a slab of iceberg ready to break away. Hopely that can wait another month. I want the kids to have a safe Thanksgiving trip home. I checked out the Christmas decorations in the garage. Our Christmas tree is one that stores away every year. Yet, it does look handsome and pretty. Fills out the living room.
Before then there will be Diwali, the Festival of Lights. My Halloween decorations will come down. The outdoor lighted trees will go up. They all make a garden of sorts from Fall, through Winter, and next Spring.