A few weeks after all of the visitors left my summer garden, construction began. The house and deck got a new coat of stain, a job delayed from the spring because of wet weather. Then the garden walls came tumbling down. When we moved here, terraces led down the hill supported by thick wooden ties. I was happy to have level spaces to plant but over the years, the wood rotted away, leaving only rusty metal spikes and crumbling wood on the hillside, as you can see in this
photo. It was too dangerous to even step in the beds! Fortunately, by June the plants had filled out and covered the bad bits during my garden tours this summer, but I was ready to have my vision of curving stacked stone walls put into place.
It broke my heart to dig up the hillside in early September so that work could begin – this was a favorite spot for birds and insect pollinators and the Rudbeckia were in full bloom. My friend and colleague Bill Lucki of Natural Garden Design agreed to tear out the rotting wood ties and replace them with stacked stone walls, so I set to work moving plants to make way for the construction project.
Ten days after construction began, the walls were complete and ready for re-planting; Bill and Ron did a fabulous job!
Other parts of the garden continued to bloom and thrive during this process, and as I began to replant the hillside, it started to settle in and look as if it was always there.
Rose of Sharon ‘Diane’
Zinnia and feverfew
Hillside in October
While the weather holds, I continue to plant and dream of next year’s bloom among the handsome stone walls.
“To dream a garden and then to plant it is an act of independence and even defiance to the greater world.” ― Stanley Crawford
Oh, it’s a long long while from May to December,
But the days grow short when you reach September. ~lyrics by Maxwell Anderson, fromSeptember Song
Sweet Autumn Clematis
Those long summer evenings are gone, borne away on the boom and crack of violent thunderstorms. Perhaps a few more warm nights remain, filled with the summer songs of cicadas and frogs, but the weather is quickly changing to the cool short days of fall. It has been an odd summer – weather spinning from torrential rains and steamy days to the occasional stretch of dry sunny weather. Now the garden is filled with the sunny blooms of goldenrod and black-eyed susan; the last crop of cherry tomatoes glisten in shiny red cascades, and a giant cloud of fragrant white stars covers the sweet autumn clematis climbing up the fence and into the trees. All the creatures are busy filling their larders against the coming winter, from spiders bundling up yellow jackets caught in their webs to squirrels and chipmunks gathering acorns under the oak trees. The hummingbirds and most of the butterflies have headed south and flying V’s of geese are starting to follow them. Next week, the autumn solstice returns and summer will be truly gone.
Subtle and dark, lovely and stark, in gentle tones of gray and brown and white, for a night and a day, then all turns gray . . . from the song “Winter” by Lynn Emberg Purse
In the study of the physics of sound, I have always found it interesting that humans don’t perceive many different subtleties of volume but an almost infinitesimal perception of the subtleties in pitch (frequency) and tone color (timbre.)
And so it is in the garden. It is that “in between” season, after the loud fireworks of autumn and before the stark black and white of winter. The garden is quiet these days, with mostly the wind and the occasional bird call for a soundtrack as I wander through. But with the closest attention, there is subtle beauty that will linger until the snows come.