Around here, leaf-drop happens in November, often along with wind and rain. Southeast winds blow as rainstorms arrive and stiff westerlies as they leave. Northeast winds bring cold air from the British Columbia interior. All these winds mean the leaves from the several trees (maples, ailanthus, and birch) that surround my garden are distributed throughout the neighbourhood. But there are always enough of them to swell the compost pile.
This fall was relatively windless, so the leaves fell close to home. The compost pile is overflowing, with the surplus piled up on the side of the driveway for pickup by the municipality.
Last Tuesday, the winds arrived. First from the southeast, and then the west. Result: a mess. Yet another major raking session was needed. I topped up both compost pile and the pile to be collected. While raking, I noticed leaves from parts unknown, i.e., from trees in other parts of the neighbourhood.
On the other hand, autumn leaves can be quite photogenic.
Meteorological winter is here! It certainly feels like it today, with the temperature hovering around the freezing point.
It’s been a rainy, windy fall so far here on Vancouver Island. We’ve had none of the crisp, sunny autumn days that are some of the year’s best. In fact, it feels like we skipped from summer (hot and dry) to winter (rainy and windy).
The garden is a mess. I haven’t managed to do any edge-trimming or much end-of-season cleanup. I’m not obsessive about raking up every leaf any more, since I’ve heard that fallen leaves are a valuable resource for bugs and birds. (Let’s hope the bugs aren’t the kind that cause problems for gardeners.)
But there are always a few things worth looking at…
I see it’s raining again, so back to the work in progress!
I’ve had this post in my drafts file since fall (aka “autumn”) but just had to write posts about other things first. Books, more books, and book cover images. After all that stuff, it’s about time for a garden-related post. So here it is.
I like the look of a tidy, tended garden. Leaves raked, edges crisp, dead stems and stalks cut down to bristly little stubs. It has that “been there, done that” look at the end of a growing season. Now it’s resting, waiting for spring, when sprouts will sprout, buds will bloom, and the gardener will bustle about dispensing magic dust and fresh compost.
I also like raking leaves, piling them up and loading them into a wheelbarrow for a short trip to the compost heap, where they’ll eventually become compost. In spring, I load compost into the wheelbarrow for a short trip back to the perennial beds where the leaves landed after falling off their trees.
Does anyone detect a wee bit of absurdity in that last paragraph? Raking up leaves, carting them several yards/metres and several months later — when they’ve decomposed — lugging them back to the very same spot.
Maybe it’s better to let them rot in place. That’s good enough for Mother Nature, after all. You don’t see her busting her butt with wheelbarrows. (But then, she has all the winds of heaven at her service.)
This past autumn, I thought I would try something different. I raked leaves off paths and pavements, but let most of them lie where they landed on beds and lawn areas. I didn’t leave as many on grass as in the perennial beds, and I made sure there were no thick, smothering leaf mats anywhere.
The idea is that earthworms will drag those leaves underground and… do whatever they do with them. Eat them, I guess, and poop out the remains in the form of worm castings, churning up the dirt in the process.
I’ve also resisted the urge to cut down all the withered perennial stalks, even after they’ve lost their charm and just look dead. I’ve read that they provide cover and feeding opportunities for birds. Supposedly, bugs deposit eggs in the dead plant material, and whatever hatches out is appreciated by foraging birds. I certainly see them hopping around and scratching among the dead leaves, so maybe there’s something to that. (Of course, the big attractions at my place are feeders full of seeds and suet.)
I’ll let this scene persist until we’re back to double-digit temperatures (in degrees C, of course), whereupon I will cut down the dead so the living may flourish.
Another plus to this approach is that it’s less work. I just hope I’m not creating a perfect environment for plant-eating larvae and fungi that will cause damage next spring and summer. I don’t think those organisms understand the concept of karma.
I’ve just been looking over some of my old posts tagged “fall.” Many of the same scenes that struck me as photo-worthy just a few weeks ago also did a few years ago. It’s easy to forget, because every year some combinations of colour and light seem to be the best ever. So there’s no harm in revisiting them.
The featured image at the top of the post shows “plumbago” ( Ceratostigma plumbaginoides ) foliage turning red, with a few fading blue flowers, and silvery grey Santolina foliage.
I’m pretty tolerant of our urban deer. Even though I thought I had their preferred plants figured out, I was surprised to find most of the yellow chrysanthemums eaten. And even geranium (Pelargonium) flowers, despite their earthy smell.
When something in the garden catches my eye, I grab the camera and run out to capture it before it’s gone. Light effects, like this one, are especially fleeting.
Then I race around snapping whatever else looks good. Like this foliage combination.
And just so this isn’t all “same old,” a surprise visitor this fall was this single Amanita mushroom, lurking behind the bench near the pond, at the foot of the weeping birch.
In the last few days we’ve transitioned from hot and dry to cool and wet. Rain at last — 15 mm (.6 inch). It might not seem like much, but it has transformed the landscape from parched and rattling to soft and almost green.
However welcome, rain and cool weather can cause tomatoes on the vine to split before they ripen, which usually means they rot before ripening. So I went out and picked any that were turning orange. They can ripen inside while the rest take their chances outside.
Tomatoes ripening inside
Elsewhere in the garden, the change to fall is underway.
When I am happy with something, and it’s working well, I don’t change it. I had the same theme for this blog since 2010 — the Light theme. I liked its elegant simplicity but eventually wanted more flexibility in the way my content is displayed. The number of themes offered by WordPress was overwhelming, so it took me a while to find one that suits me. Strangely enough, it’s called Suits.
I plan to post more short stories in the next few months, so watch that space!
In the meantime, here is a seasonably suitable scene from the garden.