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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

End of the season

This article appears today as part of the Troy-Bilt gardening newsletter.

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Fall colorsI know it may seem a bit off to be writing about the end of the gardening season at this late date, but here in California we are just seeing our first real taste of Fall. Many of you have probably already buttoned up your gardens for the season, while we were just receiving the first of our Winter rains on Halloween. Still, garden cleanup is a must here, just as it is in your gardens. I sometimes wish, though, that I had the hard deadlines that killing frosts and falling snow provides.

Instead, I deal with mature trees that drop their leaves over a 3 month period, sometimes setting new buds before the last leaf falls. How are you supposed to decide when to sweep up all those leaves when there are so many more to fall? Cleaning the leaves off the roof several times a season complicates the equation. At least I don't have to deal with putting my roses and shrubs to bed for the season. Besides a heavy pruning sometime in January, the roses tend to take care of themselves, although the process can leave me looking a bit like the loser in a late night cat fight.

Like all things, gardening in California has it weird moments. While I am struggling to clean up the Fall leaf drop, bulbs are already pushing up through the litter. They start their season as soon as we get the first substantial rain and continue well into the New Year. In my garden it starts with Paperwhites, progresses through drifts of Snowbells and ends with showy daffodils. While the previous owner planted most of the others, I try to add more daffodils each year. They do seem to like it here and the drifts of yellow against the purples of the lantana and lavender is a good combination. Fall is planting time here in Los Angeles for everything. It is the one time where you can (usually) depend on enough rain to allow transplants to get a good start. I have a few beds that I want to refurbish. Now I only need to carve out the time to get it down.

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Being surrounded by gardens rather the typical Los Angeles lawn, allows me to experience one important part of the season...the smell. There is a a particular odor...equal parts wood smoke, composting leaves, damp earth and soggy trees...that always makes me stop and say, "Hmmm, feels like Fall." People say we don't have seasons here in California, but we really do. You just have to look more closely to see them. Fall and Spring pass in an instant, while Summer and Winter can linger long past their time. The surrounding hillsides are a good guide. With our Winter rains come verdant, grass-covered hillsides dotted with green California Live Oak trees. In Summer, the same hills turn golden, the oak trees providing dark-green punctuation to the landscape. Still, for me it is the smell that marks the changing seasons.

Like elsewhere, I am enjoying working in the cooler days. Temperatures in the 90s don't make for pleasant gardening, wherever the location. Now I feel like I can put in a few productive hours before the heat drives me into my garden chair with a cool drink. It also means that I must do the California equivalent of "making hay while the sun shines" and try to get as much done as I can.

Having spent my childhood living in rural Ohio, I can understand the longing for Spring that accompanies the dark Winter days. For gardeners this is felt even more keenly. If you are stuck in the depths of snow and slush, hopefully you can take a little solace in my gardening adventures and live vicariously through my daffodils until the ground thaws and you can once again return to you favorite spot...the garden.

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