As the days get shorter and the sun sinks lower, there is one thought on my mind: Will the pineapple sage bloom? It is October 21…and chilly. Back from a trip, I check the green tips of the plant that has been stretching up over the garden wall after a slow start from last year’s brown stump.
Yes! It’s blooming–aflare of red among the green. At last!
We are four weeks into autumn, but my hopes are spring-like. Which brings me to this: fall is the new spring!
Lantana flashes its pastels this morning, a week or so away from November.
Marigolds are bright as sunshine. For many flowers, this is their time to shine!
But not only flowers!
If you have ever picked green beans in the sweat, heat, and irritation of August, you will appreciate an October crop.
When I picked this bunch, the skies were cool and gray. The beans were sturdy, crisp, and flawless. There were caterpillars on stems here and there, hoping to break forth into lovely transformation yet before frost. And to top it off, a bald eagle flashed his brilliant tail in the sun at low altitude just beyond the garden fence. So much newness that we usually associate with spring, not fall!
About ten days ago, Lisa gave me a dozen packs of seeds and pointed me to a long prepared bed in her garden. For hours, I sowed seeds and marked the rows for vegetables that love a fall planting time.
As I sprinkled the seeds, I remembered the gigantic white cauliflower my father brought into the house on Christmas Day 1983. It was frozen solid, so big he could hardly get his arms around it. The autumn had been “an open one,” as he put it. Not a single frost until the temperature plummeted to zero on that Christmas Day. There were more huge cabbages and broccoli heads in his garden than several families could consume!
The seeds I planted that day for Lisa must have been as happy to grow as that cauliflower. A soft rain tucked them in just as I finished the work, making both Lisa and I positively giddy with delight. I went back five days later, and every single seed had already popped out of the ground.
Yes, the nights are chilly, but the sun is toasty warm, just the way lettuce, radishes, spinach, and kale like it.
They lift their faces the way I might do before an autumn bonfire–my toes and face to the radiant warmth, my back feeling the chill.
For joy of growing, for joy of gathering, truly autumn is the new spring.
Susan Yoder Ackerman is a writer and gardener in Newport News, Virginia. Both her writing and her gardening are enhanced by tending a century-old family farmhouse and eight grandchildren that come and go. You can email Susan at [email protected]