When the garden begins to shut down and take on its melancholy tones this time of year, I often think of my grandmother.
I don’t know why, exactly, but one of the things I often remember is her empathy for fading flowers.
Roses, in particular, that are just a bit past their prime and barely hanging on. ‘Oh, don’t prune that one quite yet – it’s still so pretty’ she’d say as I’d help her clean up in the garden.
Or, if I’d begin to tidy up an older bouquet of flowers in the house, she wouldn’t want me to throw out any flowers that still had a hint of life to them.
As I look back on this sentiment coming from a woman in her 80’s, the poignancy of her feelings weren’t lost on me.
I just returned from visiting my parents this past week to help out as my mother had to undergo heart surgery (all is well, thank heavens).
My father and I had plenty of time walking through their cold and frosty garden together, contemplating life and watching the winter season unfurl before us.
I was particularly fascinated by the sheer quantity of leaves that have accumulated everywhere.
Black oaks abound here (17 in their garden to be exact), along with dogwoods, crepe myrtles, and pine.
He reminded me that in addition to leaving flowers to finish out their days in the garden, my grandmother also used to dread the day when the leaves needed to be raked up.
She much preferred seeing them remain just ‘one more day’ in the garden.
After photographing the endless amounts of leaves, my dad and I spent HOURS over the next two days raking and raking and raking until I thought my arms would fall off.
While I thoroughly enjoyed working in the garden, I won’t deny this was a back-breaking chore.
We filled my dad’s trailer with mounds of leaves while barely making a dent.
I’m beginning to see why my grandmother wanted to leave them in the garden just one more day.
The temperatures dipped down into the low 20’s every morning, and I would bundle up to wander outside with my camera.
I just love how the traces of frost highlight the shape and texture of the last remaining flowers and leaves.
I think my own gardening style tends to mirror that of my grandmother’s.
I, too, always wait until the last possible moment to cut down the last remaining stalwarts in my garden.
Of course, if I wait too long they’ll become obliterated once the first strong winds and rain hit – but that usually doesn’t happen for a few more weeks.
Here are some of my favorites this time of year, adding subtle textural and structural interest.
In addition to the dried grasses and feathery clematis seed heads, one of my favorite early winter beauties are dried chive flowers.
The dried flowers are surprisingly sturdy once picked and bundled together will last for months tucked alongside my old tool collection.
So for now, I take my time in saying a temporary goodbye to the perennials in my garden, savoring the last fleeting moments before their long winter nap.
Reading about the special time you spent with your dad raking leaves really rang true for me. I tagged along with my dad as a child in Florida, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico when he was gardening and I learned a lot from him about plants. Those were special times that I miss greatly. Thank you for sharing your special time with your readers. Your photographs and gardens are amazing! I hope your parents are doing well. Here’s to dreaming about Spring 2017!
I always love to read your meditations on the garden. I was told this year that after a certain date in the Fall, I should not clip any more roses because it is best to leave them on the plant to strengthen the plant. But yesterday I cut four yellow and two pink roses that now grace the bathroom counter for a day or two. I just can’t give up marveling that they continue to bloom even with the cold. And I am remembering how my Dad always brought in a beautiful rose or two from the garden for my Mom to enjoy even as winter set in. Thank you Rebecca for sharing this tender time with your Dad.
Hi Sylvia, I’m so glad you enjoyed my post. Thank you for sharing your memories with us – it’s so nice to think of your father bringing roses in for your mother. And good for you for bringing roses into your own home this time of year! I believe it’s so important to surround ourselves with little bits of beauty whenever possible. Happy Holidays to you and your family!
How very beautiful! I was walking there right with you. And perhaps your grandmother waited so long to prune for little seeds the birds would snag. But I’m so with you on leaving the leaves for a
bit. . .What a wonderful time to spend with your dad.
Thank you, Linda. My grandmother adored the birds that visited her garden (both she and my grandfather had several bird feeders and wouldn’t even take a vacation for fear of leaving their birds unattended!) so you’re right in thinking she probably left the seed heads for them. Hope all is well in your part of the world! xo
Spending time with family is what we do if we are lucky. Wanting to spend time with family is a true gift and our family doesn’t take that lightly. Rebecca, you have made me quite aware that it’s my passions that our grandchildren might remember… I have work to do! Thanks, my friend.
Hi Sheila, knowing you as I do, I have no doubt your grandchildren will have an overflowing memory bank thanks to you. I can’t imagine having a grandmother as cool as you! xoxo
I used to view this time of year in a similar, somewhat melancholy way, but, this is the time of year when California native plants begin to come alive and one doesn’t have to look far to see fat buds ready to pop and begin to live in January! Also, this is the time of year when the soil begins its cycle too – life is there and very active ( and ‘Yay’ for leaves!) but on a different level. Perhaps thinking in those terms helps with the feeling of loss in our gardens until Spring. It certainly does remind us how precious time is and that beauty is all around us when we move with nature. Your photos are inspiring!
Thank you for sharing these.
You’re so right, Ronnie – aren’t our native plants amazing right now? The toyon and cotoneaster are bursting with berries for the birds, the Bush Poppy (Dendromecon rigida) is lighting up the garden with bright yellow flowers and manzanita’s flower buds are indeed beginning to grow. Thank you for reminding all of us of the beauty and life that’s happening right before our eyes (we just need to look a little harder sometimes) Happy Holidays!
This is a very poignant post. I find myself very weepy as December dawns and life’s losses stir to the forefront. Thank you for the trip through these beautiful gardens.
Hello Barbara, I appreciate you stopping by and wish you and your family a happy holiday season filled with warm memories and hope for the year to come. Here’s to a new year with new gardens to visit and new plants to try!
I too had a grandmother, actually two, who loved to garden. I owe them a debt of gratitude for having passed their passion onto me. Your nostalgic words and photos connected me to my own childhood memories. Thank you, Rebecca.
You’re very welcome, Sharon, and how wonderful that you had two grandmothers who gardened! I bet you’re an incredible gardener. 🙂
Looking at your photos and reading your touching post is a reminder to us all of the beauty that exists through every season of life- both in flowers and vegetation as well as in people. Amazing how the simplest moments in one’s life survive as wonderful memories through decades in time.
I’m happy you enjoyed my post, Laura. You’re so right when you say the simplest moments in life can have such lasting effects. Happy Holidays!
What a lovely post Rebecca. Thank you. 🙂
You’re most welcome, Nancy!