By  Mel BellarThumbnail Mel Bellar (1)

I love the fall and find myself filled with appreciation and gratitude this time of the year. I enjoy the change in the air, the light and the show that nature gives us here in the Catskills and, yes, it is a thrill to start the process of slowing down and getting a rest from the frenzy of my busy season! It’s a time when I really try to enjoy the creations of nature and our neighbors.

While I have not “smelled any roses” lately, I have been appreciating the surprisingly sweet smell of the various hydrangeas around my garden. You might not think of hydrangeas as a fragrant plant but the Pink Diamond hydrangea next to my front steps has been sweetening up the welcome home experience for the last couple of weeks. Yesterday’s project involved cutting back limelight hydrangeas to clear a path. I surprised my wife BY MAKING a massive bouquet and was once again intrigued at the pleasing aroma wafting from the vase.

Some of my friends accuse me of being a garden snob and I suppose in some ways I am (occupational hazard). I confess to being very hard on myself and have trouble looking past flaws or untidiness in my own garden. I am also quite a perfectionist when it comes to gardens that I design and install, and when I am not engaged to maintain “these children” find it cringe-worthy to have to see them ill kempt. But in general I do not view others’ gardens with a critical eye! I see them with an appreciation for any love or effort shown. If someone loves their garden and takes the time to beautify their surroundings, I love it too.

A simple drive through Andes on my way to the post office can fill me with joy and appreciation for the work of others and for mother nature’s ceaseless show. I check out Don & Anita’s (love watching the topiaries and new growth on the daylilies), the hydrangeas at Roshan’s, the new row of Green Giant arborvitae at Brigitte and Joe’s (please don’t let the deer eat them!), the burning bush starting to turn and everything else in front of the Andes Hotel, the grass and sea holly at Paisley’s, the amazing annual display at Kabinett & Kammer (thanks Sean), the beautiful simplicity and immaculate care at Frank and Nina Moore’s (the two houses just past the old Cantina restaurant), Rima’s cute cottage garden, the triangle at the corner and on and on. I love the rock garden behind George Ballantine’s former home, now that of Kathe Reale, and the new chartreuse fence. I actually really appreciate the landscaping around the new clinic although I want to go weed and clean up the garden along the swale (OK, I do notice these things). And yes, I can’t help but notice and feel a little pleased with the entrance to the Andes Rail Trail which looks like we treated it to a ton of Miracle Gro. NOT THE CASE! We did, however, use a healthy dose of the very potent compost from the Walton transfer station.

And who among us is immune to the immense joy experienced when taking in nature’s display in these amazing fields and hills of the region. Although I am not usually a fan, this year I am even enjoying the goldenrod, especially when it is adorned with masses of the light purple aster with the taller darker ones mixed in. The red of the turning sumac and the beginnings of the maples turning never fail to grab my attention. I even got a little taste of a swirl of leaves blowing across the road which is one of the most poignant images of fall for me. I particularly enjoy the seed heads on the grasses (both wild and ornamental) blowing in the fall breezes.

And we can’t ignore the antics of the animal kingdom all around us. There are at least 2 large turkey families wandering the hills and fields of Crescent Hill, bringing me endless amusement. (What unassuming creatures they are!) They always seem to be near or in the road when I pass, necessitating a flurry of scurry to get out of the way. And what a bumper crop year of chipmunks and rabbits we had around here. Every time I drive the .7 of a mile from 28 to my house it seems that at least 5 rabbits are waiting to frantically dash across the road in front of my vehicle. Then, of course, how can one not appreciate the dear deer, knowing that one of them is going to be served to me as venison nuggets over on Bussey Hollow.

Hope you take a little time to slow down yourself. Enjoy the change of season and while you are at it…Don’t forget to buy some bulbs and put them in this fall. You will thank me in the spring. ~

Mel Bellar is the owner of Zone4 Landscapes and a passionate Andes gardener.