Common Ground – October 2020

“O suns and skies and clouds of June,

And flowers of June together,

Ye cannot rival for one hour 

October’s bright blue weather.”

 -Helen Hunt Jackson –

One of the signs of fall here in the valley is the first heavy frost that makes the morning glories no longer glorious. I always save a corner of the vegetable garden for a trio of cedar poles that I plant with  a variety called Split Second Double. They’re a nice splash of colour that lasts all summer.

When I think about it rationally, the first frosts mean that I can start to clean up the tomatoes, cucumbers and other tender vegetables. I really couldn’t look at another tomato or cucumber at this point.

The glads that put on such a good show this year need a few more frosts before being dug and stored for the winter.

I will collect seeds from several annuals including nasturtiums and calendula to plant next spring. Saving and replanting your own seeds is very satisfying. Not to mention economical. Plants that are easy to grow from saved seed are the basis of the cottage garden.

My burst of fall energy has finally arrived. It took a bit longer than usual this year after the extreme heat of July and early August. I’m starting to think about getting a spot ready for garlic planting later this month.

After seeing the bare seed racks this past spring I went a bit crazy with the fall bulbs. A very large Vesey’s box is on the table in the summer kitchen. Fall bulb planting has always been one of my favourite garden jobs. For me  it expresses confidence in the future. I know I will think about everything I’m about to plant now through the winter and into next spring.

I will plant replacements for some of the bulbs excavated by the chipmunks this past summer. They seem to have gotten a lot of the species crocuses and tulips. It might be a hopeless endeavor trying to keep up with their trail of destruction. But I don’t give up easily.

Every fall I’m surprised by the reappearance of several clumps of autumn crocus in the wild garden. I always seem to forget about them since in the spring they’re just big clumps of leaves. But in the fall beautiful purple flowers appear when everything else has finished for the season. Every garden needs to have some element of the unexpected.

I always tell myself that I really don’t need any more plants that need to come inside for the winter. But recently I couldn’t resist a seedling of Nicotiana sylvestris that I was offered. This is the species of flowering tobacco that grows four to six feet high and has sweet smelling flowers that open at twilight. The seedling is already huge and I hope it doesn’t start growing upwards until spring. I have read that they are particularly suited for growing in pots. I guess I will find out.

A rescued amaryllis on the front porch produced four huge red flowers in late summer. This poor plant was rescued from a family member who definitely didn’t inherit the plant care gene. The bulb was covered with silver wax so it couldn’t grow any roots. When I removed the wax and wrapped the bulb in damp paper towels, it started to grow roots on the trip home. I’m always amazed at the resilience of so many plants.

Indian summer seems to be upon us with clear sunny days and cooler nights. These are the best days for working outside or just sitting on the porch with a good book. Not a whole lot of porch sitting happened here in the heat of July.

It’s cool enough now to give the woodpile some attention. And to tackle that long I’m going to do it when it’s cooler list…..

By Jill Williams

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