By Phyllis Galowitz
The hard frost came early this year and with it the dahlias and cannas turned black, signifying the end of the flowers and vegetables of late summer and fall in my garden. It’s sad, but I’m ready for the change of season. I’ve put the bird feeders out, earlier than I should have, hoping that the frost has sent the bears into hibernation. Nuthatches, chickadees, a titmouse and juncos have returned, as well as red squirrels and chipmunks. Where were they all summer? They hide where I can’t see them when there’s plenty to eat but when the feeders are there, they are happy to come out. I missed seeing them as we sat at the kitchen table.
The sugar maples have shed their fall clothes but the hills are still splendid with golds, coppers, bronzes and scarlet. The burning bush and berries of the barberry are a brilliant red. The Catskills are blazing with color, which, I know, will disappear suddenly, with the next wind-slashed rain. By the time November’s Gazette is in your hands, most of the trees will be bare and the neighbor’s property, at the top of the hill, will be visible again.
The area at the foot of deciduous trees is perfect for planting and naturalizing small bulbs. When the trees are still bare, or just beginning to blossom, when there are few leaves on the trees to deepen the shade, bulbs will form a colorful groundcover. If left undisturbed, they will multiply each year and blend with other woodland plants, such as fern, hellebore, primrose and foamflower. Snowdrops, lily-of-the-valley and grape hyacinth will also colonize large areas once they are established. Dwarf bulbs in the rock garden can prolong the season, since most of them bloom before the perennials and will stop the delicate flowers from becoming muddied during the spring rains. Be careful to select bulbs that are deer resistant if that’s a problem where you are. The first year that I planted our garden here, I dreamed of masses of tulips, only to find that deer love them as much as I do. They never lasted more than a day!
Our indoor garden is growing as the outdoor one becomes bare. Most of the container plants have been moved into the unheated sunroom. Soon they will have to be moved again, to the living area. There isn’t enough room, warmth or light for all of them, so I’ll have to make choices. I hate throwing plants away. Maybe it’s time for a library plant sale. The aloes and sanseviaria (snake plant) are very prolific. It seems they’ve never heard of birth control!