Autumn Days and Anniversaries

It’s the autumn equinox here in the northern hemisphere, or in simpler terms, the first day of fall. It’s also our wedding anniversary.

Today (September 23) sees the 2019 autumn equinox, the moment when the planet’s northern hemisphere swaps with the southern hemisphere to become the one furthest from the sun.

Autumn is a good time to reflect, especially in the garden. While the perennials remain robust year-round, summer annuals are closing up shop.

We had a second year of disappointing tomatoes. Despite my best efforts planting the EarthBoxes with fresh soil and fertilizer, moving them to a new location and ensuring they got full sun, production was blah. My garden mojo took a hit.

end of season tomato Don’t be fooled. It looks juicy, but the sweetness has gone.

This stripey variety took months to set fruit. While they look interesting, I didn’t care for the thicker texture. All in all, one plant produced half a dozen tomatoes. Sigh.

stripes tomatoes A trio of Stripey Tomatoes

This was also my first season without pumpkins. We’ve relied entirely on the squirrels to plant them each year, even if their planting methods are unconventional. By the time I fully noticed, it was too late to plant on my own.

I had brief hope. After amending the mix in a planting box with heavy, sandy soil, a few pumpkin plants appeared. It seemed unlikely that they would amount to much, but while I was traveling in July they took hold. Alas, they didn’t establish in time. Although the plants became vines and proffered a few blooms, there was no time for setting fruit.

spent pumpkin vines Spent pumpkin flowers and vines along with other pruning debris

On a brighter note, I received this gorgeous yellow calla lily in a pot last year. Mike transplanted it for me in the front garden and it’s spreading its proverbial wings.

Yellow Canna lily, a thank you gift from FDC

It’s flowered twice and is now showing off its interesting seed pods as the plant goes dormant.

Calla lily seed pod Calla lily seed pod

Our garden is densely planted now, requiring careful thought when a new plant joins the mix. This calla lives in the shadow of the Magnolia tree, not far from the deck. I love the cheerful display.

Nepeta or catmint Nepeta going to seed

Nepeta, also known as catnip or catmint reseeds every year. It’s an herb, pleasing to cats, and humans alike. It produces a subtle scent in the garden unless of course, you’re a cat.

cat and nepeta Tessa enjoying the nepeta
white cat and nepeta Mouse the cat lounging on the nepeta

 

 

tuxedo cat in nepeta Lindy sleeping near the nepeta

Our cats become quite possessive of the plant near the patio, though Mouse likes to visit the plant in the side yard as well. We all have our favorites.

As for anniversaries, I married this wonderful man 24 years ago today.

Celebrating then and now (Went Brothers Winery, Livermore | Winchester Mystery House fundraiser, San Jose)

It was the first day of autumn that year as we wed on the grounds of Wente Brother’s winery in Livermore. The day went by in a blur, so I’m grateful for the photographs that help solidify the memories. I’m grateful for Mike every day and for our life together.

I’m grateful for you, too, dear reader, for continuing to show up and read my posts.

Rear Window

Have you seen the movie Rear Window, the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic? It’s one of my personal favorites.

While I’m happy to report that nothing too suspicious is going on outside my rear window, I’ve found myself thinking about Jimmy Stewart’s character, a photographer convalescing with a broken foot. Through the view of his rear window, he gradually pieces together a murder.

As my surgery-addled brain clears and my energy slowly returns, I’m feeling the limitations of my restricted mobility.

In the movie, Stewart’s character Jeff starts to suspect the neighbor across the way of killing and then burying his own wife. At one point he tells the detective:

“Those two yellow zinnias at the end, they’re shorter now. Now since when do flowers grow shorter over the course of two weeks? Something’s buried there.”

This got me thinking. There is something suspicious outside my rear window. It looks like a small sinkhole to the front of a newly planted shrub. Like Stewart, I’m unable to investigate on my own. I waited for Mike to check it out. He topped up the recess with a handful of soil, but the next day the sinkhole was back.

It’s quite possible that I’m spending too much time in my head.

In any event, I miss my garden and my mobility.

San Jose summers are too hot for daytime gardening. Mid autumn is where the action is. I long to be out there raking leaves, pruning branches, and tidying the garden for the winter ahead. I love the way the crisp air reddens my cheeks and reminds me that I’m one with the elements. The bouquet of autumn decay centers my soul.

This is the time of year when my garden gloves wear out. Even the toughest gloves are no match for wet earth and rough leaves. Once the fingertips have worn through, it’s time to put them to rest, thanking them for a job well done.

As the garden rests, part of me comes alive. I spent the first six years of my life in Ontario, Canada, a home with four distinct seasons. I think those changing seasons are part of my early imprinting. Autumn in San Jose connects me to my early sense of home.

As I heal from surgery and sit this season out, here’s the view from my rear window.

hydrangea cranberry

This blushing pink Hydrangea darkens to a beautiful cranberry before dying back for the winter. I’m looking down on it from our living room window

split view

Splitting the view: indoor shelves display assorted succulents; outdoors, Abutilon grows along the fence with dollops of ground cover and a peek-a-boo Hydrangea

ultra violet decal

These window decals “contain a unique component that reflects ultraviolet light, which is brilliantly visible to birds, to alert them of glass without obscuring your view.”

pair of hummingbirds at feeder

Ana’s hummingbird has a drink at the feeder while a competitor swoops in for a turn

alysum, geranium, begonia and flax

Foreground: Alyssum, Pink Geranium and Begonia. Background: New Zealand Flax

Falling for Halloween

Monday is August 31st.

Guess what that means?

Halloween is only two months away! October 31st heralds the arrival of wee trick-or-treaters and the heady, intoxicating fall air.

I’m ready.

If you’ve been hanging out with me for a while you’ll know that autumn is my favorite time of year. I love growing and decorating with pumpkins, planning or attending costume parties, helping my son “spookify” the front yard and tossing treats into wee little bags on Halloween night.  The changing of the seasons is more of a slow burn in California. The days shorten and the stale summer air finally gives way to the smog-free version I long for. By the calendar, autumn arrives in late September, but it’s not till mid-October that we start to notice the difference.

In the garden, the signs are everywhere.

Lone Pumpkin Turns Orange

The pantyhose trick is keeping teeth-gnashers at bay while nature takes care of the rest.

Pumpkin protected by pantyhose

Pumpkin protected by pantyhose

Did you know that pumpkins turn orange for the same reason leaves do? As the days grow shorter, “the green pigment, necessary for photosynthesis, degrades and the carotenoids are revealed, causing the pumpkin to change color to shades of orange, red and yellow.”¹

Pretty cool, eh?

Pumpkin Shell Survives Composting

It’s true! A few small, late season pumpkins avoided last season’s squash bug onslaught. They were too hard to carve, so I lined them up on the paved wall instead. They remained a point of interest for many months, subject to occasional rearranging by the neighborhood day care kids. It was months before the snails showed up. Then one by one they started to rot. I tossed this one in the compost bin assuming it would also turn to mush.

hollow pumpkin shell

Small pumpkin shell survives the compost pile

When I upended the compost for my sheet mulching project, out rolled the shell. I’ve dusted it off, checked for invading bugs, and brought it indoors. The decorating possibilities are endless and simply looking at it makes me smile.

A (Not so Itsy) Spider Weaves a Wondrous Web

Nothing says Halloween better than a scary-looking spider web.

garden spider web

I’m glad I found this web with my camera and not my face

spider web side view

Spider web in profile

Am I right?

You can buy fake ones at the local Halloween store, or you might get lucky and have one custom-built in the garden.

My hat is off to the photographers of the world that capture beautiful shots of spiders in webs. I could focus on the spider or the web but never both. There is a good chance I’ve offended her, since she took down her web by early afternoon when I wasn’t looking.

Beware.

Halloween is coming soon. I. Can’t. Wait!

¹Source: Children’s Museum Indianapolis

Freaky Friday: The Garden’s Dark Underbelly

It’s not all Sweet Alyssum and roses.  Every garden has a dark side. I’m sure it’s no accident that the spooky celebrations of Halloween coincide with the decay of fall.

Use your imagination and come with me as we travel the more sinister side of the garden.

bat wings

“Bat Wings”…or decaying leaf?

Spider in the gravel…look closely.

Rats Gone Bad

hollowed orange

Hallowed orange or hollow orange? You decide.

Tree RAt

Tree Rat or Field Mouse? Helping himself to an orange.

Not What They Seem

choking vine

The Choking Vine? Snaking and staking the trellis.

mottled leaf

Urban Decay

shrunken head

Shrunken Head?

stink bug

I’m a Stink bug. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Cavernous Lair

Something Wicked This way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes: Black Widow Haven

Halloween Countdown

Cat on Pumpkin

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Lindy-Lu!

Garden Sunshine: September Winding Down

A special thank you to all my gentle readers for your comments and advice. The birdhouse gourd vine will stay through the winter. I”ll keep you posted on how things go. Late this week I noticed one of the gourds had doubled in size. Woo-hoo! What would a gardening gal do without this community?

Speaking of community, many thanks to gardensunshine for including me in her list of Beautiful Bloggers. I appreciate your kind words  I’ve been following her five-part series as she transforms her “shed” from drab to fab. Honestly, it’s more rustic house if you ask me and I’m positively envious of all that space. The shed even has a bit of history:

 It is believed to be one of the oldest buildings in our county. From what we can tell it was used as a house or bunker for the men working in the clay pit making clay bricks around 1890 and earlier. It is a really neat crooked building and as we found out when we power washed it full of water, it leans heavily to the left.

Historic Garden Shed

Garden Sunshine’s Historic Garden Shed (before)

Pop on over to read her five-part series, and to see the beautiful transformation in words and pictures. It was lovingly restored.

Back at gardening nirvana, we’re in for an early fall heat wave, with temps floating in the low nineties. I’m glad I got the winter garden in when I did. It’s a happy garden too, if that’s possible. The worm bin is a bustling place, thriving on kitchen scraps and leaves.The composter is “cooking” away, making organic mulch for next summer’s garden. I covered the seeds with wire and mesh, to ensure tiny critters give them a chance to grow.  Lindy thought it was a new litter box, so I had to put that to rest as well.

October is almost here. I’m so excited.

Autumunal Equinox: Love for all Seasons

Wedding day

Fall leaves, summer flowers, happy bride and groom

Summer officially turned to fall today (September 22nd). The autumnal equinox marks the time of year when day and night are of equal length. It’s also a personal milestone. I married the love of my life on the first day of autumn 17 years ago. Autumn landed on September 23rd that year, but no matter.  Symbolically, the days feel like one and the same.

We both share a love of the outdoors, so exchanging vows on the grounds of the elegant Wente Brothers Winery was perfect. When I walked down the “aisle,” it was actually a grassy courtyard.  We held hands and declared our love beneath a flower-laden arch. I still have a small pressed flower from my tossed bouquet.

After one night in San Francisco we honeymooned along the Mendocino coast. We hiked local beaches, rode the Skunk Train amid redwoods and toured a botanical garden hugging the coast.

Nature is a great equalizer. Seasons change, life ebbs and flows. The majesty of the earth brings a uniting force to bear.  As the autumnal equinox ushers in shorter days and longer nights, I’m grateful for the love in my life; grateful for my love in all seasons.

Mendocino Coast

Home along the Mendocino Coast

wild hens Mendocino

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

Mendocino

Mr. Wonderful in Magnificent Mendocino

California Autumn

I’m originally from Canada, so it took me awhile to appreciate the subtleties of a California autumn. Our boys wore shorts on Halloween night and I walked home from a party earlier that week in a sleeveless costume. In Ontario our Mom insisted on coats, even though we grumbled at the injustice of our “spoiled” ensembles.

We planted a carefully placed Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) as a reminder of this lovely season. It gradually produces ocher, amber and other golden shades, before the wind sweeps the leaves to the grass below. Our lone tree sits on our suburban lot, but it reminds me of my early roots. In my imagination our tree resides in a New England forest, surrounded by others dropping leaves on the earthen floor. Our Pistache is easily viewed from my kitchen sink and my home office, a wistful reminder of another time.

I do love spring, with the warming sun and wonderful rebirth, but in my heart of hearts, its autumn that firmly takes hold.

Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis)