No Thanks to Flaming Autumn

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    Guest Rant by Jane Scorer
    LigulariaI know what is just around the corner… I can guess what I will be reading about, any time soon…the joys of the autumn and winter garden, that’s what. There will be pages about flaming autumn colour, and we will be encouraged to buy certain plants for their spectacular hues. But why? That plant is dying back for winter, so why would I want to watch it do that? Autumn leaves are depressing and should be ignored. They are signs that the long days of summer are behind us, and I really don’t want reminding of that.

    When it is November and the wind is whipping round the house, don’t give me articles about how architectural the dead grasses look. I want to see delphiniums and roses, things that are young and full of promise. Not things that are dead and decaying.

    Berries? Don’t get me started! How many times on tv gardening programmes do we hear about the wonderful colour of berries, and how they enhance the autumn garden. For a start, any I might have last a nanosecond on the shrub before they are devoured by flocks of hungry birds, who then splatter my car with multi-colours, Jackson Pollock style. Take it from me, elderberries are the worst.

    “Winter colour” is yet another myth promoted by people who have little else to write about once the summer is over. “Plant for winter colour,” they say, “to give pleasure in the coldest weather.” Well, I don’t know about you, but come the winter, I’ll be sitting by the fire with my feet up, flipping through a seed catalogue or two. I will not be down in the garden, in my wellies, scouring the beds for berries or the odd flower.

    Also, like most people who work for a living, I leave work in the morning when it is dark, and come home – you’ve guessed it – in the dark. There could be the Hanging Gardens of strawberry leafBabylon out there and I wouldn’t be any the wiser.

    No, save the colour for when we can enjoy it, in the spring and summer, when the evenings are long and light.

    Now then, in the depths of winter, I need to be cheered and lured by the promise of the new season. So, photos of spring blossom will do nicely in October, and by December, I will be overdosing on the flowers of high summer. In the snows of February, I want to be reading blog posts about mowing the lawn on a hot summer morning, or picking tomatoes in the heat of the greenhouse.

    So, just let me dream a little before everything springs into rude, lusty life again in March, and let me forget the harsh reality of the bare winter garden.

    Jane Scorer likes to garden like she eats cake … compulsively, greedily and frequently. When she’s not gardening, she’s writing about it , and you can find her blog at HoeHoeGrow.

    27 COMMENTS

    1. Ahhh…I love a pure, uncomplicated, grumbly Rant. Very nice. Personally, I love a few months of snow, cold days, whipping winds, and heavy winter coats. I don’t think I’d enjoy the Spring so much if I didn’t have the opening act of Winter.

    2. A true rant indeed. I am guessing you must live somewhere in the Arctic circle to be so upset about the forthcoming fall and winter! Here’s the thing about winter and any other unpleasant event…if that event did not occur you would not love and appreciate the good events. It is the yin/yang of the way things work. Can’t have the good without the bad…light without dark…you know how it goes. It would be like having Christmas everyday. After awhile you would hate it. To quote Dr. Wayne Dyer, “Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.” It’s all perspective. 🙂

      • Erm, not quite the Arctic circle !! Uk ! Actually, the thought of Christmas every day is very appealing! I guess I just never want summer to end, and would happily bury my head, ostrich-like, in seed catalogues, throughout the winter!

    3. Okay, Jane, I can relate a bit to the winter doldrums, but autumn? Trees ablaze with color? Pumpkins, dahlias, anemones, asters, that delicious nip in the air…and sorry, but I adore berries, even when they get eaten by the birds. My Viburnum nudum is adored in pink berries right now and it looks freakin’ awesome.

    4. While I do appreciate a colorful autumn show, I can relate to the part about plants that provide “winter interest.” For me, the show ends with the first snowfall. I have been known to stand at the storm door leading to the back yard for hours at a time, with a foot of snow on the ground, attempting to visualize the scene in 6 months time. And no, looking out at any lingering ice encased rose hips do not seem to help improve my mood much.

    5. I suppose if I lived on a sodden, dreary, mouldering peat bog as I assume all Brits do, I’d also obsess about that day in July when the sun breaks through and illuminates the garden for a glorious hour or two. Here in my neck of the woods, the sun has frankly been getting on my nerves at this point in the summer and I find myself cheering on a chance of frost tomorrow night. The whole verdure thing can get to be a bit much when the weeds top out at six feet or more and most of them bear burrs, barbs, an endless variety of Velcro equipped stick-tights really, all destined for the dog’s coat. Bring on the snow.

      • Joe, there was only a glimpse of the sun for a second or two this year, spotted from my sodden, mouldering, dreary peat bog . Several people couldn’t even remember what it was. Good luck with your bear burrs (whatever they are) , barbs and snow.

      • We’re expected to hit 100 today and the next three days. I’d give anything for some cool weather & rain! Yes, the verdure of summer can get tiresome &, IMO, is highly over-rated.

      • Joe wrote: “the sun has frankly been getting on my nerves…. The whole verdure thing can get to be a bit much when the weeds top out at six feet or more ..Bring on the snow.” I’m with you!

    6. I’m the one who said “Amen, sister!”. Don’t get me wrong – I do love autumn; the weather can be superb, I’m an October baby, so I love the foliage, etc. My problem is that I know what’s coming along behind autumn. Six months of being hermetically sealed in the house, slogging through snowstorms or praying the power doesn’t go off during an ice storm. Autumn is fine – but it means that winter isn’t far behind, and that, frankly, sucks.

      • Sigh. I would love to be hermetically sealed in the house all winter. Two more years to retirement. Fall is wonderful – I grew up on Ray Bradbury’s “October Country” and Serling’s “Twilight Zone”. A chill wind, the approaching darkness, sends a delicious chill up a young boy’s spine.

        But winter follows, and now a long commute on a country highway means sliding along a highway buried under a vat expanse of white, often driving into heavy flakes that don’t… quite… parallel the highway. (“Was that a road sign? My lane must be over there.”) Perhaps worse, after getting to work the sun finally comes to visit for a few hours (“Oh, is it suppertime already? Sorry now, I can’t stay, I really must be going.”). I might then realize that it’s 45°F out, hasn’t snowed in a couple of days, and I could work in the garden (pruning, hardscape work, etc.) – but it will be dark before I leave work, let alone by the time I get home.

        I expect to enjoy winter very soon. Hot chocolate, a fireplace, occasional work in the garden, yes. Stark and painful beauty is good, as long as it’s punctuated every year by eight months of life. As I begin my life’s own winter, I feel a certain resonance with the one outside my door.

    7. Lol. I was just thinking it was time to start brainstorming about pieces to write this fall and winter. I will leave anything about seasonal interest or winter color off the list!

    8. Frankly I find this post depressing.

      Oddly, summer is my least favorite season. Too darn hot. Too darn long. Too full of bugs. Too little rain, too much smoke. The only benefit to summer is the produce I bring in from the garden. Give me cool sunshine and temperamental storms and, yes, autumn leaves all year long and I’ll be happy. Some may say this is because I live in California, where, but for a week or two approximately around the holidays, the winters are more like protracted autumns. We can have true winter gardens. Matter of fact, I’ll be planting peas for the next few weekends – peas I’ll be harvesting all the way to May, I hope.

      But I’ve only lived half my life in California. The first half, I lived in a state that gets cold and snow and destructive ice. I still loved it. Yes, I like to see the ‘bones’ of my plants. I like to see texture and shape take over after the riotous colors fade. I like to see lumps of snow, knowing there’s a shrub or other plant under it and wondering what’s going on in that insular world.

      I, too, work in an office. Between the job, the commute, and picking up the kids from two different schools, I don’t see a lot of daylight in the winter. I leave well before dawn & arrive well after dark. I simply don’t see my plants – winter-architectural or green and growing – from Monday to Friday then. But I can enjoy them on weekends and the odd holiday.

      It’s all in the attitude. You’ve got to look for the positive in whatever season you are in.

    9. I think ones feelings about autumn & winter depends on where one lives.

      The summer heat in central Texas (where I live) can be grueling with many weeks of over 100 degree temps. If you have outdoor potted plants, you must water them daily. Frankly, water is a big issue here. It also gets hot starting at 9 am and stays that way in some summers far into the night. The low might be 83 degrees in the morning. We sometimes completely skip autumn and go directly from summer to winter.

      I respect the fact that you aren’t in love with autumn. Everyone’s different.

      I am moving after 27 years to a state that has all four seasons and more water. I’m excited! I’m looking forward to a new gardening experience that will include autumn. Once I’m there, I may feel like you after a few years. We’ll see.

    10. I have to agree. While I like autumn color and I love my “Aster” October Skies in full bloom it’s also a sad time because I know that the outdoor gardening season is rapidly coming to a close and I’ll be stuck inside the house most of the winter.

      I suspect that those of us who live in more northern places with short winter days and lots of cold and snow (which keeps me indoors) agree with you and the people who love “winter interest” live in warmer areas with longer days. My grasses don’t provide any winter interest when they’re completely covered in snow for months on end!

      Is it spring yet?

    11. I think if I lived in England I would also dread the onset of winter, but here in monsoonal, equitoral, steamy, exotic Atlanta we have glorious long autumns that last til Christmas and brief and cheerful cold winters that bring a little snow and ice but the daffodils start in March – so not a big deal.
      I use that period to catch up on my weight-gaining. If I had a longer winter, perhaps I’d become a meat mountain – so best to keep it a short one.
      Jane, I hope you’ve got a flight south booked for February!

    12. Good writing and a lovely rant. Tho personally I don’t know what you’re talking about. Here in the southland, i’m looking forward to a winter of fragrant tea olive and daphne odora and no doubt some early blooms of Japanese camellia. But do keep sending the postcards from the land of frosty winters. 🙂

    13. Love your post. Funny! Not my mindset, but I do tire of those “Winter Gardening” articles that talk about plants that bloom in the winter. When it’s 20 or 30 below zero and snow is 2 feet deep, I don’t think anything will be blooming in my garden. But I’m looking forward to the time inside. It’s supposed to frost here tonight, and I for one am ready. Bring it on! I’ve pesto-ed and jellied and deadheaded enough for one year.

    14. You are the perfect customer for seed and nursery catalogs. Often in the late 1800s the garden catalog would rephrase your sentiment in words like these: “I know you are anxious to see the spring color back in your garden. The catalog you hold in your hands is the first sign of that spring.”

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