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A Gathering In

Sunday, November 22, 2015




This fall has been a long, slow, luxurious time for harvest. Mostly, it's been a gathering in of beauty. I really appreciate Japanese maples for their form and the beauty of their tiny baby-hand leaves. But I love them most in November, when they start coming into color as all the other trees lose their last leaves. Thank you, Japanese maples.


 These are the two liberated bonsais now living in the yard.


I enjoy imagining them back in their tiny pots, twenty-three years ago. They've always been full-grown trees. It's just that being in the ground lets them realize their full potential of growth.

Here's to being planted in good ground.

I keep the bonsais out on display until they're pretty much leafless. Then it's time to put them to bed for the winter.

I've been thankful every minute for the mild, sunny weather this fall. It makes everything so much easier. 
As many of you know, I've been wintering these trees in a pit in the backyard. When they got too tall for the pit, I started heeling them in on their sides. Then I'd cover the pit with glass for the winter. I had to take it off and water them every couple of weeks. 
When they got too big for that, I built the pit higher with cinder blocks. 
And then they got too big for that.

This fall I'd finally had it with trying  to shoehorn them into the pit. They were losing branches from being half-buried on their sides.  And I realized I had been fighting this for more than a decade, and decided to change the program.
I decided to ask Bill to dig a hole in the nice loose loam of our vegetable garden, and bury the unpotted trees halfway up their trunks. This would put them about 8" underground, far enough, I think, to keep the roots from freezing.  They'd be in a deer-proof enclosure as well in Jurassic Garden.

Bonsais awaiting burial. At this point, my back was still buggin' me and I couldn't do it myself. I was very grateful for the boys' help.


 I was there in a supervisory capacity, helping bury the trees. I hope this works. It's got to be better for the trees than being half-buried in soil. If it gets wickedly cold, I may heap fresh straw over them to help insulate the tops from the cold. But they should be just as hardy as the big trees in the yard.

While the boys dug, I harvested the sweet potatoes. Last spring I found a sprouty sweet potato in the cupboard and lopped off the top third and stuck it right in the garden soil.


The fork turned up the most marvelous treasure!


A dozen red yams from 1/3 of one--that's math I understand. And the coolest thing, to me, was the way the yam fragment I'd planted in May stayed intact. It didn't rot or wither away. It simply sent out a fountain of roots that then made a headdress of tubers. That we are now eating. 
Being a tropical plant, I wonder if this old yam piece would keep on going, throwing out tubers, but for November cold. I guess I'll never know.


As I worked around the yard, I took stock of all the lovely things still clinging to life after one frost.
My old tea rose "Rio Samba" is on its way out. It sent up only two blooms this year, off one thin stalk.  How fitting that it should push forth a flower in November.


I watched the bud swell, while the zinnia hung in there, waiting.


The rose seemed to find strength from the red zinnia that found itself in similar straits: blooming in November, the last leaf on the tree. 

I found myself going out at dawn, dusk and other times to photograph them together. I liked the way they clung together.


By and by the rose opened full, and the sweet sunny days wore on and on. 

All told, they had more than two weeks together, rain and shine, watching the winter come on. For flowers, that's an eternity. Something was keeping them fresh. Maybe the cold nights.


 I found myself visiting those two flowers at all times of the day. 

My favorite shot of them together conjured a Sheryl Crow lyric from "Home."

I want to watch the sun come up
In a stranger's arms


That same morning, looking the other way...you can see the Groanhouse twinkling with lights and flowers. I'm already looking inward, building my fortress against the dreary winter.
What's my choice? Killing frost and snow are coming soon. Get those twinkly lights up, girl. Bring in everything blooming, cheat winter as much as you can.

And the rose and zinnia bloom on.

 I think this will be the last blossom we see from Rio Samba. There's no way it's going to send up another shoot next spring. It's 20 years, and goodbye. You were the best rose of all.

And then I walked out to see them on November 21, and a deer had come in the night and nipped off the rose, leaving the classic angled snip of a white-tail's tooth. 

A single petal lay on the patio. And the zinnia bloomed on.  If she mourned her sweet fragrant friend she wasn't going to show it. She was going to trudge on, into winter.

But I thought she looked a little puffy under the eyes.

And just behind them, what was left of the great morning glory tower bloomed on, taking warmth from the cement patio.


I had cut the frost-bitten top off the vine, and carted it over to my brush dump. While taking another load days later, I found Zombie Glories still blooming on the pile. Rootless but hopeful.


 I kept shooting the morning glories that were left, this miniature landscape of ethereal color, withered balloons of flowers past and the twirled buds of flowers yet to come, frost permitting.



 I'm pretty sure this is my last photo of morning glories. November 21. That's darn late, and I'm thankful to have had their beauty, however tattered, for this long.


Fall rituals: the hoisting of the Halloween jack-o-lantern to the top of the tower for tossing off. Liam's up top, cranking the dumbwaiter to raise the pumpkin, which is in a laundry basket. It was so far gone that when tossed 42' to the ground, it vaporized on impact, which made us laugh for a long time.


And the dog warms his old bones by Liam's birthday fire. Like a cat, he jumps up, finds the warmth wherever it will be found.


9 comments:

"Zombie Glories" Julie, you slay me! Loved your blog.

Posted by Kerry Reynard November 22, 2015 at 9:08 AM

A glorious last hurrah for Rio Samba and autumn.

Posted by Gail Spratley November 22, 2015 at 9:17 AM

The color of those maples against the color of your house... just exquiiiisite! I don't know what a painter calls that shade of red, but I'll just call it redsplendent.

I love it when everything sprouts with excitement, and that tipping point at Lammas when everything is at its voluptuous peak, but this long slow goodbye and its final ending are when I feel I am really one with the earth around me. Thanks for the celebration.

That rose though..

The countdown widget on my tablet shows 100 days until the start of spring training. *sigh*

Ah, me... I must've needed a good cry; Rio Samba really got the waterworks going.... Your posts always affect me. Whether they draw laughter or tears, they always provoke an emotion.

I love the photo of the two flowers watching the sunrise, I could see you writing a whole essay out of that.

Hart, dearest: I can envision an entire short story out of it!

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