So begins what I call "The Quiet Season." We took down the holiday decorations today. The neighbors have been taking down their light extravaganza bit by bit. The weather has turned miserably cold. The last flowers in the yard have frozen and withered. The garden has turned quiet, quietly waiting out winter. Given the amount of moaning and whining from me throughout the fall, you might think that this time of year is miserable for me (and not very quiet), but my big secret (even from myself) is that The Quiet Season is a joy.
I'm amazed that I find this season restful instead of miserable. There is little to do in the garden, but that turns out to be blessing. It is a time of planning for the next year, and the feeling that there is a lot of time to do that planning. It is a time of dreaming, of seeing the garden in my mind's eye of what I want for the coming year. I was always better at dreaming than reality. It is also time to appreciate the stillness of the garden. There isn't much in the way of chirping birds, no night time crickets. The apple trees have again held onto their leaves longer than I think is reasonable, but the last leaves will soon fall, and the next few months will be twigs, buds, pruning and hopes for the next year. My pruning is going very slowly this year. One branch this week, another next week, as I make my decisions. It's so hard to prune away so much of this summer's hard-won growth.
The leaves of rose 'Winchester Cathedral' have turned orange-red. I'd never seen that before in my old garden. They've been this way for a few weeks now, acting like they will never fall but last the winter this color. We shall see.
The new growth of peach 'Redhaven' are brilliant red against the intense high-altitude desert sky. Maybe next year I will get more peaches, and the porcupine will leave them alone.
Rose 'Alnwick Castle' has turned entirely burgundy, just like the Mahonia repens that appeared in my north garden.
Every year I vow to remove the 'Knockout' roses that were here when we moved into the house. I've never liked the flower color, and they are wickedly thorny. But they do bloom and bloom despite serious inattention. One visitor to my garden exclaimed his appreciation for the flower color, and I cringed inside. But I can't help but appreciate the strong growth, the lack of disease, the flower production, and the fragrance. When they are in bloom, I always look around for the source of the fragrance, a part of me not wanting to believe they are from the lowly 'Knockout's. So instead of using my pruners to cut them to the ground, I give them a real rose-pruning.
I also vow to take out the thorny hawthorn, with the 2-inch spines always threatening to take out an eye. But in this season, the branches are artful, and pruned up, less of a threat.
The contrast between Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) and aster 'Purple Dome' has been nice through the summer, and remains so in winter, a nice contrast in both form and in color. This combination is a little more appropriate to Albuquerque than the structurally similar combination of 'Karl Foerster' feather reed grass and 'Autum Joy' sedum which is everywhere on the east coast and midwest.
Salvia 'Caradonna' is down to the basal clumps, with viola seedlings coming up around it.
"Betty the Beast" clematis (Clematis 'Betty Corning') has turned entirely brown, with everygreen honeysuckle growing through it. I have high hopes for Betty to strut her stuff next year.
The 'Red Winter' kale remains under the thin layer of snow that we got last night. When spring comes, we will again have more kale than we can eat, and then kale blossom salad.
The spuria irises give me a hint of spring to come, since they form their tufts of new growth in the late fall, and staying that way or growing minutely until spring. I don't know if they appreciate The Quiet Season. I will be watching their every millimeter of growth and wishing for spring, and by then my garden "To Do" list will have grown to seemingly impossible lengths, and then The Dreamer will have to give it over to The Do-er.