Okay, maybe not in the entire world – but certainly in my world.
This is the first weekend where fall really feels like fall – as in leaf fall, temperature fall, and mood fall. As much as I would love to live in denial and believe that I can still put on a pair of shorts and sandals and play like it’s July, the cold front that came in last night has proven that the calendar is indeed correct.
Today was a day to begin cleaning up the fall.
The first order of business was to hack and dig the tropicals and prepare them for winter storage. The sensible voice in my head knew that this was a mercy killing, a necessary evil so that the canna and elephant ears may live to see another summer – at least in my zone 6/7 garden. But the emotional voice inside of me said, “Waaaaaahhhhhhh.”
The most difficult cut is the first one. It’s the start of what will become a day filled with slashing and digging and carting off – a battle where the plants do not have a chance against my onslaught.
Within minutes of cutting the first elephant ear stalk, the fibrous, water-filled stem changed color. I’m neither a botanist nor a horticulturalist, so I do not know what caused this reaction. I am, though, a social worker – and I could not help but think that the plant was bleeding.
And if the blood wasn’t enough to bring on the guilt, take a look at the center of the center stalk. The button of green is an elephant ear leaf that never made it into the garden. Its time ran out; the seasons moved onward without it.
When it was time to turn my attention to the beds of canna, they didn’t fare much better – but by this time, I was ruthless. Deranged. Determined to finish what I set out to do today – there was now no time for guilt or second-guessing.
And then I caught my breath. There, at the base of one of newly dug canna stalks, was a plump bulbous shoot – canna that never made it to the surface.
I wished for a few more months of warmth. I questioned if this was all worth it — maybe I should give up this tropical look for a Long Island garden. I wondered if people living in tropical regions had to do a fall clean-up. If only there had been a few more months of warmth to bring this new shoot along.
The chill in the air reminded me that summer had indeed packed her bags and took off, leaving me with a cold shoulder. The rain of leaves meant that a fall clean-up day was never really a day at all. It’s a constant process that eats up the fall weekends. To help me get through the chores, I’ll tell myself that the crisp air is refreshing, that the colorful foliage is beautiful, that it will be great to wear sweaters and to drink hot chocolate or mulled apple cider.
And then I looked about me. My clothes were stained. My muscles ached. My emotions were drained. And, most importantly, all that remained of my garden was the day’s debris and the memories of the summer of 2012.
Rather than rehash the process, here are a few links – just in case you’d like to adopt something akin to a scorched earth policy in your own garden.