Monday, December 6, 2010


I absolutely love this time of year. Spring is beautiful, all fresh and green and flowers everywhere, but this time - autumn - has a charm all its own. My yard is just beautiful right now. It's a bit shaggy, (OK, it's a LOT shaggy). The grass could use mowing, and leaves are lying everywhere on the lawn, and piling up in billowy drifts in the flowerbeds. Those that remain on the trees (and there are still a LOT) are a beautiful mixture of yellow, gold, red and still quite a lot of green). The crape myrtles quit blooming a few weeks ago, and are almost finished shedding their leaves, but the ones that still cling are a brilliant red. The biggest tree, or trees - it's actually a clump of six trunks - is now completely bare. My prized little Satomi dogwood out front is now in its second year, has grown several inches, and I think is going to make it. Right now it's sporting ruby-red, crinkly leaves and it's lovely. I'm hoping that next spring it will set the gorgeous blooms so typical of a dogwood, and which will result in beautiful red berries for next fall.

The planned-for reblooming iris are putting on their show. That was one idea of mine that actually worked out like I planned. I love iris, and have them growing all over the yard. Their bloom time, of course, is in the spring, and they put on a spectacular display then. Certain ones, though, are classified as "remontant", which means they will bloom again in the fall. I had a half dozen or so of those, scattered around the yard. Having one lone plant blooming here, another there, just isn't very impressive, so my friend Joe and his helper created a new flowerbed, up fairly close to the house, easily seen from my window. We took "pups" from the iris (iris can be both singular and plural) that I knew would rebloom, and planted them in the new bed. I also ordered about a dozen more from my favorite iris supplier. It's paying off - I've had a lovely display of iris out there for the past couple of weeks, and next year they will do even better. The blooms are surviving the colder weather very well, though I suspect a real freeze will get them. No matter, the plants will survive.

There are roses blooming all around the yard. The knockouts along the fences are blooming, and some of the bushes in the rose island are sporting fat buds and lovely full-blown roses. The impatiens on the back fence haven't felt the nip of winter yet, so are still blooming, though the plants look a bit tattered. The periwinkles I put around the pond last spring are nearly two feet tall and blooming madly. Of course, the pansies and snapdragons Joe just planted are blooming, and will continue to do so, even after winter hits. The lantana beside the path is still covered with yellow blooms, to the delight of the last stragglers of the butterflies that have moved through here for the past few weeks. There are mums blooming in random placement, the result of potted gifts after some occasion or maybe an illness - I always plant them after their initial bloom is done - just find a place and stick them in the ground. They will bloom every fall for years! Then, of course, all the nandina bushes (about fifteen in all, scattered around both front and back yards) are wearing great huge clumps of bright red berries, like Christmas ornaments. So pretty!

It smells of autumn out there. Spring graces our noses with the rich scent of new-mown grass, and bursting flower buds. Summer smells of heat and dry grass and someone's barbecue grill, and the promising scent of rain, if you're lucky. Winter freezes one's nose, but the fresh, clean smell of ice or snow or even just cold air somehow makes it through. Fall has its own unique scent, an earthy smell, an aroma of dry, crunchy leaves, and wood smoke from some impatient person's fireplace.

The things one can see from this window at this time of year! The birds are not as plentiful as they are in the summer, when life is good and they hang out around the feeders and seem to especially enjoy the birdbath. They'll be back in hungry numbers when the weather gets very cold, and especially if there's ice and snow, and while the birdbath will be ignored, the feeders and the flat feeding stones will be popular again. However, right now, with flowers and grasses everywhere going to seed, the birds are very independent. They don't need my meager offerings, their Father is feeding them abundantly right now, helping them store up a little fat for the cold that's to come. Once it arrives, and all the natural seeds have been eaten, they will accept my bread, crackers, suet cakes, cereal and store-bought seed, and will consider me to be God's emissary, charged with the responsibility of feeding them temporarily.

This autumnal dip in the bird numbers, however, does not mean that there's nothing to see here. The squirrels make up for the birds, never doubt it! They are out in numbers. They're frantically scurrying around, searching in and beneath the pear tree for an overlooked pear (they won't find any) and shuttling between my neighbor's pecan tree and my flowerbeds, burying a stash. I wouldn't mind, if they'd go back and dig them up later, but the little critters forget where they are, and in the spring I'll have a small forest of pecan trees sprouting in the beds.

They planted some of the peanuts-in-the-shell that I put out for them and the bluejays last spring, and when the peanuts sprouted, I allowed a few of the vines to remain. They flourished, there were peanuts in clusters beneath the ground. I left them too, and now the squirrels have returned and harvested their crop. Surprisingly, they replaced the soil where they dug the peanuts up, and I actually had to dig to be sure they're gone. They are!

The level of activity out there is high. I wish I had half their energy! They work hard, but still find time to play, and carry out their little flirtations. Two females have scouted out my nest boxes, and one, maybe both, have staked their claim. There will be babies in those boxes in the very early spring.

I love this time of year. Spring, I guess, is my favorite, when the yard has been cleaned up and groomed, and new bloomers planted, and all is bright and colorful and tidy. Summer is a struggle, with the heat, but the roses and lantana and a few other things thrive in it. Winter is a time of rest and repose, with only a few things popping up with a bit of color here and there. But Fall, that transition from summer's heat to winter's chill, is such a lovely, carefree time. Weeds have given up, neatness doesn't seem to count anymore, and the yard is just a somewhat untidy place of leaves and random flowers, where kids and dogs can romp, squirrels can dig with impunity, and the gardener can just relax and enjoy the casual beauty of it all.

God is good.

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