I suppose it sounds a bit trite to ask “can you believe it’s August?” But really? It’s at this point that I start to get a little wistful and reminiscent, looking back over the season from its March beginnings until now. I can’t even find the corydalis anymore. Daffodil foliage has mostly faded. The seedheads of my Monarda bradburiana stand tall and proud, but I’d rather them be covered in those lavender flowers that I saw before I left for the Ozarks.
But it’s really just the eve of my second favorite season. Autumn, by many accounts in garden literature, is the forgotten season. Folks busy themselves raking leaves, shuffling kids to school activities, and catching up on those must-do cleaning chores before the depths of winter set in. My Midwest garden reminds me of all this, a calendar of sorts throughout the year. Have you ever thought of the garden as a living calendar, a timepiece for the progress of the seasons? In Iowa, I suppose I’m fortunate to experience four seasons (occasionally a fifth one too, called hell), though in mid-January I’m probably not as optimistic-sounding. But gardening in a temperate climate affords gardeners this primal experience of seasonality that many take for granted or never experience at all.
In each of these seasons, the garden possesses a unique feeling. Spring looks, feels, and smells different in the garden than summer, fall or winter, and vice versa. It’s my opinion that this living timetable motivates our gardening endeavors, like today when I’d rather sit indoors looking at the window-high Henry Eilers coneflower (Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’) then actually go outside in the heat and stick my nose in its bevy of flowers. In the cooler days of fall, I race around pulling back falling leaves for a last look at my autumn crocus (Colchicum spp.) or to clear a new spot for more daffodils. On days of thawing in winter, I putter around the garden in snow boots hunting for glimpses of ephemeral life surely waiting to spring forth at the onset of warmer weather and longer days. Aren’t these the moments that add up to gardening, the verb of our passion and the acts that beautify our spaces?
The garden also shows us when to take on tasks like pruning, deadheading, and dividing. We chalk-up these to-do lists to past experiences gleaned from seasons before. Spring is the time to divide late summer-flowering perennials. Early summer is the time to cut-back shrubs that bloom on old wood. Summer brings deadheading. Fall brings planting. With winter comes planning.
In my calendar garden grows not only a chart of the seasons, but a constant reminder of my own progress outdoors. Tell me about your calendar garden and celebrate the beauty of the seasons!