Thursday, September 30, 2010

Autumn Mums

Mums the word/haiku

Autumn mums the word
Lips of color set to part
Psalmists to the sky

It’s fall, so I buy some hardy autumn flowering mums. Who hasn’t? I get one rather large one, which fills a spot near the front steps where previous annuals have failed to prosper, and three much smaller ones. When I line the short ones up on the porch steps, their size seems just right. They look like happy little dots at the end of parallel clauses.
But a strange warm, wet wind hasn’t got the word and keeps blowing them off the porch steps. Today my short squat potted mums look like little boys who keep getting knocked over on the playground.
Eventually I give up and move them up to the top of the porch where the wind can’t get at them, the blowhard still manages to knock them off their feet. Eventually I line them up close behind a low wooden-box planter, as if seeking protection from the big kid.
New stuff. Shorter days. The season’s September song. Once again the end days of months are liminal moments this year, and this month has gone out with two unseasonably warm days. More outdoor time for summer’s lovers.
It wasn’t the weather, or at least not the recent weather, but autumn’s bloomers have brightened up the place considerably. The back garden’s perennial mums have started to open, the first big white flower heads on my overgrown Montauk daisy opened earlier this week, and now the toad lilies – probably the last of the fall perennials – have offered up their intricate, oddly spotted flowers, bringing new life to “quiet’ corners.
I helped things along by a planting a few more of next year’s perennials now, two discounted members of family called “pink guara,” which I have just learned is a native of Texas, spreads widely, has spikes 2 to 4 feet high, and delicate dancing pink blooms. I am almost ready to hire an orchestra.
I wasn’t aware of the Texas connection when I bought them, but the shop owner did advise me to “mulch” them over winter. Since I mulch everything, I take this to mean mulch especially well. I will buy little fur coats made of squirrel hair and organic leavings and button them up tight.
It’s an odd thought that plants which did well in spring and pooped out completely in the summer, are willing to take a chance at flowering again now. We have second rounds of roses, a few blue clematis climbing the front porch, a range of fuzzy pink spirea clusters, a few small foxgloves, and one perky pink pincushion flower.
Petunias, as I have learned other years, come back and bloom now if you manage to keep them alive through the heat.
Some annuals take all summer to get good, and some others I acquired late in the season when we needed an infusion of late-season color and the specimens looked like they were strong enough to survive a late-season transplant are adding color. In some cases they didn’t survive the transplant.
And asters. You don’t think about planting them in the spring. When they are doing nothing but green, and some produce tall leggy spikes regardless of pruning, you think you must have enough of them. But when they start showing deep purple in September (or, this year, in August), you wish you had planted more.
Flowers tend to get planted in their flowering time by short-sighted gardeners like me.
But instant gratification has its claims as well – just ones, I would say. After all, it’s always now.