Archives for posts with tag: decorations

One of the ways I know that spring has arrived is that for the next few weeks, the sun will shine directly through my office windows. With no leaves on the trees to filter it, the bright light makes it difficult to see the screen of my computer but the solar heat on my face feels great.

Another indicator that spring fever has hit is my desire to get out into the garden and start doing something. The draw is getting stronger every day as more snow melts to reveal another task that needs attending to. This was a rough and stormy winter and consequently, the yard is in disarray. Order must be restored! In other words, it is time for spring cleaning.

Most of our work over the next week or two will be in the ornamental gardens. We don’t do a lot of cutting back in the fall—usually, only enough to facilitate leaf removal. In particular, we leave the black-eyed Susans and butterfly bushes in their bare-branched state to provide decoration and keep the garden from looking too empty. It is pretty, especially against the neutral background of winter white (i.e., snow), but as a result, the gardens are filled with dead wood.

To make matters worse, heavy snow came early this year and buried some of the plants we might otherwise have tidied up in the fall. These include the hostas, Siberian and bearded irises, and day lilies. In other years when we have left them, the faded leaves look crumpled and haggard by spring; this year, being crushed by snow for three months has done nothing to improve their appearance.

The first order of business, then, will be to trim everything back to make room for new growth. Clearing away last year’s detritus will also allow the sun’s warmth to activate the bulbs and rhizomes that have been lying dormant since the fall. In fact, small, spiky leaves are already poking up amongst the matted clumps of spent bearded iris leaves and I spy, with my little eye, a crocus peeking out through the cloud of desiccated Russian sage bushes.

I have some reservations about jumping back into it. Yard work is physically demanding and can be overwhelming (it sometimes feels as if the entire world needs tidying up after winter). But I know that it will also be immensely satisfying, a literal cleaning of the slate as we start the new gardening year.

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Perhaps it is because some of the vegetables have lasted longer this year than in the past or maybe it is because my memory is getting worse.  Either way, I’ve been noticing colors in the garden that I do not usually associate with fall.

First, there are the tomatoes.  Yes, some autumn leaves turn red.  But their shades are often muted pinks or magentas or darker shades of red tinged with black.  The tomatoes, though, their roots stubbornly planted in summer, still glow with a radiant red-orange hue; it is as if they are lit from within.  Just looking at them makes me feel warm.

Next to the tomatoes, the peppers and bell peppers add their rich jewel tones of orange and purple.  The mix of colors makes me think of Mexican food, even though I do not usually associate eggplant with that cuisine.  The bright and cheery colors remind me of the festive atmosphere of Mexican restaurants decorated with piñatas and banners of papel picado.

The most surprising color still in the garden is light green:  the basil plants are sending out fresh growth from the base of their stems.  The warm weather must have them fooled.  And unbelievably, there are still a few bright yellow summer squash.

Speaking of which, maybe the leaves are starting to fall sooner than in previous years or perhaps it is because my memory is getting worse (am I repeating myself?).  Either way, those long-lived squash vines are getting buried by fallen and wind-blown leaves.  It is the only downside to a late-season garden.

We took down our Christmas tree today (yesterday was the Twelfth Day of Christmas so it is now safe to do so).  For the last few years, I have been cutting off the branches and using them to fill the window boxes.  It is a convenient way to add seasonal decoration to the house.  It brightens the post-holiday mood and helps smooth the emotional transition to normalcy.

I find that the boughs will last until some time in February which is about the same time that my thoughts are turning to spring and its early manifestations (such as forced forsythia branches; see February 17, 2012).  I would make a reference to last year’s blog post about decorating the window boxes but it would draw attention to the fact that I still haven’t constructed a compost bin.

It is remarkable how quickly we adapted to the presence of the Christmas tree when we put it up four weeks ago and what a hole it leaves now that it is gone.  There is a feeling of loss, of something missing, a void.  But in as short a time, we will adjust to the normal state of the living room.