QOTD: An October Garden

 

In my Autumn garden I was fain
To mourn among my scattered roses;
Alas for that last rosebud which uncloses
To Autumn’s languid sun and rain
When all the world is on the wane!
Which has not felt the sweet constraint of June,
Nor heard the nightingale in tune

Broad-faced asters by my garden walk,
You are but coarse compared with roses:
More choice, more dear that rosebud which uncloses,
Faint-scented, pinched, upon its stalk,
That least and last which cold winds balk;

A rose it is though least and last of all,
A rose to me though at the fall–Christina Rossetti, An October Garden

My granny had a lovely rose garden. I suppose it was only about 12 feet wide (it seems bigger in my memories of it), circular, and two-tiered. The roses were well established and — in the gentle English climate of my childhood — seemed to bloom year-round. The colors were magnificent: the blood-red Ena Harkness; the delicately pink Queen Elizabeth; the deeper blush of the Princess Margaret; lovely white and yellow ones whose names I can’t remember; and the gorgeous pale lemony-to-pink peace rose. Even more enticing were the fragrances: bold, subtle, and — well — rosy.

It was my second favorite part of Granny’s garden, pride of place going to the raspberry and gooseberry patch all the way at the bottom of it. The very young me would disappear down there at crack of dawn and gobble up the ripe berries before the birds had a chance to. Although Granny would always say that it must have been the birds, after all, who’d denuded her fruit bushes.

I never fessed up. But the twinkle in her eye told me she knew.

Granny’s house was sold after she died and has been on the market once (that I know of) since then. The photos of the interior on the listing page were incredibly depressing. And a Google Earth satellite view of the property since shows that the enchanted garden of my memories is gone forever.

Or perhaps not. The experience bred in me a lifelong love of flowers and nature that — I suppose — I’ve been trying to recreate ever since. Gardeningwise, though, I’m a bit of a walking disaster. Still, with the help of a few good friends on both sides of the Atlantic, I’m making progress.

This year’s find was the discovery of David Austin roses in the U.S., whose provenance and delivery I wrote about in this post earlier this year. They’re absolutely beautiful, and I will be working hard to make sure they make it through the winter in one piece. They’ve joined several rather undistinguished (other than their quite nice fragrance) Home Depot roses of bygone years, a couple of Jackson and Perkins numbers from last year, and my impenetrable and spicy-smelling Rosa rugosa hedge (I added a couple of Rosa alba shrubs this year, but they’re not blooming at the moment).

Still, and all, my roses are holding up pretty well this year. Summer was disgustingly hot and humid. (Remember, I’m a Brit. Any time the temperature exceeds about 65ºF, I start to sweat like crazy* and find it impossible to proceed with outdoor exercise of any sort.) My roses don’t much like such conditions either. But we’ve been gifted with a rather pleasant late summer and early fall, and a few of them have revived themselves and taken on a new lease on life.

So I’m not quite as depressed about the whole “October garden” thing as was Christina Rossetti, another treasure of my childhood. To be clear, I like the “broad-faced aster” that she considers coarse in comparison to the roses. (My mother always called then “Michaelmas daisies.”) The hedgerows and ditches are full of them at the moment, as they are with one of the prettiest wildflowers around here, the evening primrose.

But I couldn’t be more pleased about the roses. It makes me happy to be around them now, and I especially delight in the promise of next year, of spring, and that the cycles (including my own) will continue.

Do you have stories about flowers that are special to you? Please share.

*Granny would never have described it that way. Her view was that “Horses sweat. Men perspire. Women merely glow.”

P.S.: My avatar — a very young She — is indeed a photo of me in Granny’s garden, standing by her compost bin, happy as a clam, bucket in hand.

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  1. Lawst N. Thawt Coolidge
    Lawst N. Thawt
    @LawstNThawt

    My grandmother had flowers here and there, I’m almost guessing just about anywhere she could plant them.  A simpler time.  Good memories.

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Multiflora roses. So delicate. So winsome. So dainty. So indescribably evil. Harder to kill than Jason in the Friday the 13th movies. Bush hogs only trim them. Gasoline clears out what feeble competition they might have. I swear rototillers only spread the cursed things.

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    What beauties you’ve shared! I look forward to October when these purple orchids show up in batches on our lanai:

    • #3
  4. She Member
    She
    @She

    Percival (View Comment):

    Multiflora roses. So delicate. So winsome. So dainty. So indescribably evil. Harder to kill than Jason in the Friday the 13th movies. Bush hogs only trim them. Gasoline clears out what feeble competition they might have. I swear rototillers only spread the cursed things.

    Goats.  They lurvvv multiflora roses.  Takes them three years, but they will root them out.  (See what I did there?)

    I have two places where I allow them to grow, because, yes, I find them pleasant too.  But I attack them every year with a hedge trimmer, to make sure they stay where I want them and don’t spread.  Any runners they put out get whacked by the lawn mowers, either those with four wheels or those with four legs.

    • #4
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Multiflora roses. So delicate. So winsome. So dainty. So indescribably evil. Harder to kill than Jason in the Friday the 13th movies. Bush hogs only trim them. Gasoline clears out what feeble competition they might have. I swear rototillers only spread the cursed things.

    Goats. They lurvvv multiflora roses. Takes them three years, but they will root them out. (See what I did there?)

    I have two places where I allow them to grow, because, yes, I find them pleasant too. But I attack them every year with a hedge trimmer, to make sure they stay where I want them and don’t spread. Any runners they put out get whacked by the lawn mowers, either those with four wheels or those with four legs.

    They’ve got to be hungry goats. That stuff grows fast.

    • #5
  6. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    As a little kid, I was babysat by a nice neighbor of ours.  She would take outside to see and smell her lilacs.  Still my favorite flower.

    I’m glad I grew up in a time when that kind of thing was accepted as a phase.

    • #6
  7. She Member
    She
    @She

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    What beauties you’ve shared! I look forward to October when these purple orchids show up in batches on our lanai:

    Those are gorgeous, @susanquinn.  Although I feel compelled to point out that your lanai is beautiful, and plants are in bloom,  even in February.

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    She (View Comment):
    Those are gorgeous, @susanquinn.  Although I feel compelled to point out that your lanai is beautiful, and plants are in bloom,  even in February.

    As I’ve mentioned to you before, She, orchids are for the most part easy to grow. They just need to be able to drain and get fertilzer every six months. I think you were here to see our “waterfalls”; I should put up a photo of them sometime!

    • #8
  9. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    This was one of my mom’s favorite poems: “October’s Bright Blue Weather” by Helen Hunt Jackson: 

    Suns and skies and clouds of June,
    And flowers of June together,
    Ye cannot rival for one hour
    October’s bright blue weather;

    When loud the bumble-bee makes haste,
    Belated, thriftless vagrant,
    And Golden-Rod is dying fast,
    And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

    When Gentians roll their fringes tight
    To save them for the morning,
    And chestnuts fall from satin burrs
    Without a sound of warning;

    When on the ground red apples lie
    In piles like jewels shining,
    And redder still on old stone walls
    Are leaves of woodbine twining;

    When all the lovely wayside things
    Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
    And in the fields, still green and fair,
    Late aftermaths are growing;

    When springs run low, and on the brooks,
    In idle golden freighting,
    Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
    Of woods, for winter waiting;

    When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
    By twos and twos together,
    And count like misers, hour by hour,
    October’s bright blue weather.

    O suns and skies and flowers of June,
    Count all your boasts together,
    Love loveth best of all the year
    October’s bright blue weather.

     

    • #9
  10. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    My grandpa grew roses along a chain link fence on a city lot.  Massive, sublimely fragrant hybrid tea roses.  He watered them by hand, never had to spray them (at least I don’t think he did).  And I do mean massive…they would all grow six or seven feet tall.  Everyone wanted to know his secret.  He never revealed anything.  Years later my dad let it slip that Grandpa also raised racing pigeons in the rafters in the garage.  Years and years of fertilizer.  

    The roses are surely gone now.  The neighborhood has changed to one where you lock your doors as you drive through on the way to someplace else.  However, last I checked the basic, sturdy house that he built himself over 100 years ago still stands.  If I close my eyes, I can smell the roses…and the cigars.

    • #10
  11. She Member
    She
    @She

    MarciN (View Comment):

    This was one of my mom’s favorite poems: “October’s Bright Blue Weather” by Helen Hunt Jackson:

    Suns and skies and clouds of June,
    And flowers of June together,
    Ye cannot rival for one hour
    October’s bright blue weather;

    When loud the bumble-bee makes haste,
    Belated, thriftless vagrant,
    And Golden-Rod is dying fast,
    And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

    When Gentians roll their fringes tight
    To save them for the morning,
    And chestnuts fall from satin burrs
    Without a sound of warning;

    When on the ground red apples lie
    In piles like jewels shining,
    And redder still on old stone walls
    Are leaves of woodbine twining;

    When all the lovely wayside things
    Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
    And in the fields, still green and fair,
    Late aftermaths are growing;

    When springs run low, and on the brooks,
    In idle golden freighting,
    Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
    Of woods, for winter waiting;

    When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
    By twos and twos together,
    And count like misers, hour by hour,
    October’s bright blue weather.

    O suns and skies and flowers of June,
    Count all your boasts together,
    Love loveth best of all the year
    October’s bright blue weather.

    Lovely.  I love the simple images of wild and fruit. 

    I’ve had “October’s bright blue weather” several times in the last couple of weeks.  It’s what my sister and I refer to as “A PEI day!” meaning low humidity, bearable temperature, a bit of breeze, and a cloudless sky.  Mr. She used to refer to it as “a Colorado day!” because that was his frame of reference.

    • #11
  12. She Member
    She
    @She

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):

    My grandpa grew roses along a chain link fence on a city lot. Massive, sublimely fragrant hybrid tea roses. He watered them by hand, never had to spray them (at least I don’t think he did). And I do mean massive…they would all grow six or seven feet tall. Everyone wanted to know his secret. He never revealed anything. Years later my dad let it slip that Grandpa also raised racing pigeons in the rafters in the garage. Years and years of fertilizer.

    LOL.  I will give Chinggis the rooster his marching orders in the morning….

    The roses are surely gone now. The neighborhood has changed to one where you lock your doors as you drive through on the way to someplace else. However, last I checked the basic, sturdy house that he built himself over 100 years ago still stands. If I close my eyes, I can smell the roses…and the cigars.

    Yes, and that’s what he’d have wanted, and that’s what it’s all about.

    Thanks for a lovely comment.

     

    • #12
  13. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    She (View Comment):
    I’ve had “October’s bright blue weather” several times in the last couple of weeks.

    It’s been true on Cape Cod too. Spectacular. :-)

    • #13
  14. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    What a lovely story, and so good of you to post it! Thank you!

    • #14
  15. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    From my mother’s garden, a David Austin rose, Jude the Obscure:

    Jude the Obscure Roses

    My mother took this picture and proudly shared it with her children.

    • #15
  16. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    From my mother’s garden, a David Austin rose, Jude the Obscure:

    Jude the Obscure Roses

    My mother took this picture and proudly shared it with her children.

    Fantastic photo. Washington’s Museum of Women in the Arts had a show of photographers almost a quarter century ago, and for all I know they’ve kept up the tradition. A photo like this would deserve inclusion. 

    • #16
  17. She Member
    She
    @She

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    From my mother’s garden, a David Austin rose, Jude the Obscure:

    Jude the Obscure Roses

    My mother took this picture and proudly shared it with her children.

    Absolutely stunning.  I can almost smell them from here.  Thanks so much for posting his.  Inspiration!  Excelsior!

    EDIT: This is a much better photo than the one on the David Austin webpage itself.

    • #17
  18. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    I am mumbling the opening poem to the tune of Yellow Submarine.  It doesn’t fit, but I make it work.

    • #18
  19. She Member
    She
    @She

    BDB (View Comment):

    I am mumbling the opening poem to the tune of Yellow Submarine. It doesn’t fit, but I make it work.

    LOL.  If you’re in a musical frame of mind and veering canary, you’d do better to take almost any poem by Emily Dickinson and set it to the tune of “Yellow Rose of Texas.”

    As in:

    I taste a liquor never brewed –
    From Tankards scooped in Pearl –
    Not all the Frankfort Berries
    Yield such an Alcohol!

    Or even:

    Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
    Success in Circuit lies
    Too bright for our infirm Delight
    The Truth’s superb surprise
    As Lightning to the Children eased
    With explanation kind
    The Truth must dazzle gradually
    Or every man be blind —

    See how easy?

    • #19
  20. Gwen Brown Lincoln
    Gwen Brown
    @Gwen Brown

    She (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    From my mother’s garden, a David Austin rose, Jude the Obscure:

    Jude the Obscure Roses

    My mother took this picture and proudly shared it with her children.

    Absolutely stunning. I can almost smell them from here. Thanks so much for posting his. Inspiration! Excelsior!

    EDIT: This is a much better photo than the one on the David Austin webpage itself.

    Jude the Obscure is a marvelous rose. Vigorous, healthy, and a strong, wonderful smell. This is growing in a large half barrel, so you can bury your face in the blossoms by just leaning in, no bending over necessary.

    • #20
  21. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    An October dahlia (my son wanted to try out his new iPhone). 

    • #21
  22. She Member
    She
    @She

    Gwen Brown (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    From my mother’s garden, a David Austin rose, Jude the Obscure:

    Jude the Obscure Roses

    My mother took this picture and proudly shared it with her children.

    Absolutely stunning. I can almost smell them from here. Thanks so much for posting his. Inspiration! Excelsior!

    EDIT: This is a much better photo than the one on the David Austin webpage itself.

    Jude the Obscure is a marvelous rose. Vigorous, healthy, and a strong, wonderful smell. This is growing in a large half barrel, so you can bury your face in the blossoms by just leaning in, no bending over necessary.

    Mom??  Is that you?  Thanks so much for weighing in.  I am in awe of Clifford’s gardening posts.

    • #22
  23. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    As they say in Mexico, arroz is arroz.  

    • #23
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