I’ve hung around in the garden since I was a kid, planting trees and shrubs with my Dad: Red maples. Clusters of birch. Euonymus. (That’s when I learned the word ‘variegated.’) Perennials with my Gram: Astilbe. Phlox. So. Many. Lilies. When I moved to the North Shore of Boston, I established an 8′ X 30′ cutting garden. And at home in Colorado, it was produce. Peas, beets, greens, and tomatoes, for years.
I could never wrap my head around annuals. Isn’t that…throwing money away? Grow something for a single season–then send it to compost (at best!) come fall? On a tight budget, I could only justify buying plants 1) we could eat or 2) that came back–sometimes even bigger!–year after year. (Unless I grew from seed. Case in point: zinnias. I have almost always grown zinnias.)
Life evolved, and there were other reasons not to grow annuals: We were gone all summer, for one. From 2010-2021, we’d prep our gardens, set the sprinklers, and drive to the lake for the summer. No point in prepping beautiful pots for the porch if no one was home to water (or enjoy) them. Right?
When we moved to Westfield and bought this house, I said We’re not planting anything–yet! I need to see what’s here. Watch and learn, first. (Take the 100-year-old wisteria. Who knew that wisteria climbing hemlocks is not a problem for the hemlocks? In the same breath, the tree whisperer said it is problematic for Cornelian dogwood.) (Which reminds me, I need to take care of that.)
Watching and waiting, waiting and watching what’s here hasn’t been hard. There’s plenty to do…and there will still be plenty to do next spring!…without creating anything new.
But…what about planting some annuals? I thought in June. Just a few pots? The back door would be naked without pots.
So, late June, after most of the shelves were picked over, I hit up a garden shop and a big box store. I planted a half-dozen types of coleus, sweet potato vine, fuchsia, white/pink/red impatiens, begonias, and a few elephant ears (which did nothing…then, everything!). I watered them faithfully, loved them, greeted them like I would pets. (That doesn’t raise an eyebrow. I talk to the backyard birds the same way.)
And, as with the cardinals and titmice and jays, I sorta fell in love with them.
Which is why I postponed this…’til recently:
I’d started letting go in October: no longer pinching the coleus spikes. Watching the spots start on the leaves. Some fell off and I swept them up. I kept watch on the forecast, which baited me along. And then, it was time. I wanted to do it while I could still work in flip-flops, not a hat and gloves.
I began taking out what was done-done, and as I did? I found myself not putting the garden to bed…but more like just changing the sheets!
I could not, would not, dump it all in compost. Some–yes. But much of it? Nope.
I clipped and stacked and grabbed a jar. Then jars. And pots. (Didn’t I have more pots?) I scooped and separated; first, I ever-so-gently…then not-so-gently…tugged.
Anything done-done went to compost; to everything there is a season…? Anything sans roots went in the jar on our table. And anything that could be repotted was repotted and moved inside for winter.
Between the unseasonably warm + sunny day and all the digging in the dirt, as my Gram would say… refreshing dozens of plants, sweeping the porch clean, and finding shelves and corners with just the right light for it all…it had to have been one of my happiest days in our home to date.
And that’s worth every penny!