It’s finally raining. Cool, soft rain has been falling for several hours now with more on the way. It is such a relief, because I’ve been pulling hoses and carrying full buckets of water nearly every day for the past several weeks to keep the pots and certain parts of the gardens watered. It has been hot and muggy, which has encouraged all of the flowers and elephant ears to push out new flowers and growth and stay beautiful longer than usual; so long as they can stay hydrated. Otherwise, we have drooping stems and crispy leaves.
I’ve been doing July chores in October. And even as we admire the lushness, my thoughts have already turned to changing out plants for the winter, planting bulbs and cutting back.
I dug out the first Caladiums and Callas this week, laying the bulbs in a cardboard flat to dry. I replaced the Caladiums with soft pink snapdragons to bloom on into the winter and again in earliest spring. Trays of ferns and herbs are marshalled, ready to begin new lives in pots as soon as I lift out the summer tenants.
And here into the second week of October I’m still waiting to find that particular variety of Panola that blends pink and burgundy and softest yellow in each ruffled blossom. My planting visions are filled with this warm palette of color to brighten winter pots.
Climate confusion affects us all. Butterflies linger a bit longer. Trees remain green well into ‘autumn.’ It is still too warm to plant most of the winter ornamentals that usually fill nurseries and garden centers in October. Gardening trains us in patience and flexibility. And appreciation for even the smallest bit of beauty.
A few years ago, I spotted a most unusual flower in a bulb catalog. It was pink and tropical looking on a plant like a small Hedychium. The bulb was a turmeric. Now, good grocery stores sell turmeric rhizomes near their fresh ginger. And so, I bought a few, planted them, and waited to see what would happen. And magic happened. The flowers were beautiful.
But turmeric is tropical, and so that winter I made sure the rhizomes were in pots that came into the garage for the winter. But of course, I didn’t label them. And I honestly didn’t give them another thought until I spotted the leaves emerging in the middle of a pot of Begonias. And again this year those tall leaves emerged, and I’ve been watching for weeks to see whether there would be flowers.
And finally, the turmeric bloomed. The gift wrapped up in the challenges of climate confusion has been time for these slow, late bloomers to have their opportunity to shine.
Everything is better now in October, with two or three moonflowers opening each night. Fresh plump geraniums bloom on aging plants and a single, perfect turmeric flower holds court over a profusion of fresh elephant ear leaves.
With patience, all things are possible. As a very young teacher I was inspired by an opening convocation speaker who took as her theme, “If you can conceive it, and wholeheartedly believe it, then you can eventually achieve it.”
I was a novice then and sometimes overwhelmed by my 150 or so adolescent students and their families. But I wrote that quotation down somewhere and referred to it often. And it gave me the confidence to teach them, and to challenge my students to believe in themselves and their own dreams. And I saw the truth in those words materialize time and again.
And that is the same advice I would share with any aspiring gardener. Dream up a vision of what is possible in your garden space. Devise a plan, and work steadily towards bringing your vision into reality. With patience and steady effort, you can achieve your original vision or something even better. Just dare to have those dreams, and faithfully carry the water while you wait for the rain, which will surely come.