• T.M. O’Shaughnessy

Winding down

PHOTO BY T.M. O'SHAUGHNESSY

Even the bees seem extra busy as the weather cools and gardens begin to wind down for the winter.

Well, it’s time to wind down the garden for another year as sad as that is to say. Gardeners everywhere are getting ready for the big fall cleanup, even dilettante ones like me.

Wanting to have it both ways as a balcony gardener, I bought some favourite perennials in May to enjoy all summer. Things like dianthus, bergamot and winter savoury – and six pots of lavender, not to mention a whole lavender tree. I even went so far as to cultivate a rose bush – a thing of beauty called Impatience.

But Labour Day weekend marked the end of my grace period and it was almost already too late to transplant them from my garden eyrie up on the 10th floor of my apartment building into my sister’s ground garden in time for winter. Every September it’s the same. You can almost hear the sigh of relief of each perennial as they enter my sister’s yard, a veritable Garden of Eden as compared to the wind-blasted perch of my balcony where the sun is too hot, the wind too harsh and the pots never deep enough.

The weather even cooperated with the transplant, offering cool enough temperatures to make sure I didn’t choose the lazy option of doing it all next weekend. It also provided unexpected sun rather than torrents of rain. So all the orphan perennials were planted in a manner that not only saved the gardener from getting soaked, there was even a gentle rain at dusk to ease their way into their new home.

My balcony garden is now a pretty barren place.

PHOTO BY T.M. O'SHAUGHNESSY

Purple and green basil, thyme, rosemary and mint are the last of my herbs for this summer, ready to be transformed into infused oil with my crop of fresh chilies.

As well as disappearing my perennials I also harvested the last of the herbs and nothing is left except a pot of sweet marjoram which I love for itself alone, and not what it can do for my salads. Thank goodness the blue aster is still going great guns, luring crazy bees up to the 10th floor to get drunk on their yellow pollen-friendly eyes. And a deep pot of burgeoning love-in-a-mist annuals that I planted from seed midsummer looks like it might be set to flower in a week or two. The race to the first frost is on, but I think they’ll make it.

Although we can hope, it certainly doesn’t feel like any second summer is coming this fall. With the Farmers’ Almanac ringing in our ears about how cold and snowy this winter will be – not to mention that snowfall in Alberta this week – we must now cut to the chase. For me it’s time to turn to end-of-summer delights such as browsing the spring bulb catalogue and readying my amaryllis bulb to be tricked into thinking its winter already – so that it can be tricked into blooming a second time by Christmas. Its leaves have been growing on the balcony all summer, but now I’ll place the bulb in the fridge for about 10 weeks so it can be convinced to bloom big in December.

These are fewer and fewer garden pleasures open to us now, but coddling a magnificent amaryllis goes some way to cushioning the blow.

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