Lessons from the Autumn Garden

Well, the deed is done. Summer is truly over. I removed the dead and dying morning glory vines from the fencing today.

It made me a little sad, and a lot philosophical. A few of the vines had somehow missed being killed by the idiot construction workers and by the hard frosts we had this week. There they were, valiantly trying to hang in there. Since neither weather nor morons had done them in, I had to do it myself. I kept trying to tell myself it was more euthanasia than it was murder. The half a dozen unopened buds that would never get their day in the sun may have had a different opinion, though.

Literally hundreds of seeds rained down as I pulled the vines from the fence, and I anticipate feeling guilty again next year when I have to weed the second generation out like so much vermin. Yes, I realize I’m anthropomorphizing to the extreme here. But I babied those vines, and they gave me a huge amount of enjoyment this summer. They deserve better than burial in the trash bin, which was the best I could do with them.

When I was done removing the vines, I went back and picked up as much of the detritus as I could easy get. I was greatly annoyed by the fact that the workmen, in putting my fence back together, nailed the sides together without bothering to move the stems out of the way. Dozens of vines where crushed when the two corners were reunited. Try as I did, the remains of some of those crushed in the line of duty could not be removed, and will probably still be there next spring, reminding me of last year’s blooms.

When I looked down, I saw one spent flower on the new bricks. Flower, seedpod and seed. It seemed poetic, somehow, but I’ll let the reader muse on what, if any, meaning there is in it. It reminded me of a picture I took in September, when the vines were full of blooms every morning.

I hauled the bags out to the dumpster. It was the vegetable equivalent of a burial at sea for a pet goldfish. I returned, and uprooted the dead zinnias and verbena and yellow and red flower-ball things that I never did learn the name of. I located both of my dragonfly stepping stones which had been buried by dirt from the construction and by fallen leaves. I left the miniature roses, which may or may not survive the winter, the two coleus that the workmen had uprooted from the walled-in area and which have miraculously survived both that and frosts, and the cabbagey things that my younger sister told me to be sure and leave because they’d bloom into whatever they’re going to be next spring. It looks stark now, but tidy.

Then I looked to the fresh gravel around the front of the fence, picking up leaves and bits of vine that my efforts had left behind. I discovered that the garden had it’s own ideas about when to quit. There, in the gravel, were perhaps a dozen morning glory seedlings pushing their way up through the loose rocks. I didn’t have the heart to weed them out. I’d destroyed too much of the garden with my own two hands as it was. These guys have no chance whatsoever, but they’re plucky enough to try anyhow. I’ll leave them alone, and hope for a late Indian summer for them.

I’m not sure I learned too much from today’s endeavors, but I was reminded of a few things.

-There were a few buds left on the vines and I could have left the vines go another week, watching them continue to die a slow and miserable death. It might have given those last few flowers a chance. But if there’s anything more depressing than losing the garden when a few buds remain, it’s looking at it when there’s no hope left for another bloom. I look at my life the same way. If I die with all my hopes fulfilled and all my intentions completed, then I’ll have lived too long. There can’t be much joy in living with nothing other than memories. I want to be like my garden, doing things right up until the end, which means leaving a few things undone.

-It’s more important to make an impact on someone’s life than anything else in life. I’ve had other gardens before, far more grand than this. I’ve spent more time in the garden than I was able to this summer. I’ve put more money into a garden, and had more compliments on my gardens. But THIS garden was a part of me the way no other garden before has ever been. It was a little patch of color that gave me joy on days when I needed that joy. I followed the progress of individual plants more intimately than I ever have before. It brought me butterflies when I couldn’t chase them for myself. It brought me smells that returned lost memories of childhood mornings wet with dewy grass. The garden was both parent and child to me; we looked after each other. I should be so lucky to ever make that kind of impression on another person.

-A thing is never lost, so long as there are the seedlings of remembrance. I have my pictures. I have diary entries. And I have a handful of seedlings that don’t know when to cry “Uncle”.

-A gift certificate is never a replacement for a real gift. I’m glad my sisters parted from their gift-certificate ways for just one birthday.

Similar Posts


  1. It is a very sad thing indeed. I read when your sisters planted the garden. I remember how much the morning glories meant to you. I am sorry for your loss.

  2. I enjoyed your garden as I didn’t plant anything this year, not ONE flower.

    Even so, I do know how hard it is to pull dying plants up. It just doesn’t seem right.

    As I raked leaves this morning, I see my primroses are coming back up.

    I have to agree, your sisters did good.

  3. Wisdom and lessons can be found in the most unlikely of places. It’s good you’re so open to receive them.

    I have found such things just sweeping the floor. You never know when those things will come across.

  4. Wish I could put them in again next year, Anonymous, but it’s all gravel and sand where the dirt used to be. Unless it grows in a pot, it isn’t going to be growing in the enclosed garden next year. This will have been the only year for morning glories I fear. Even the intrepid little seedlings trying to sprout now have a limited future. If the frost doesn’t get them, starvation will.

  5. I know how you feel removing the vines. I have been putting off pruning my roses back. They are still blooming and the colors are so vibrant. Friday we are going to have a hard freeze, so I suspect it’s my turn this weekend.

  6. I think so, too, palimpsest. There are so many lessons for us in nature.

    Next year, maybe you could try a little compost pile as a resting place for floral friends. Then, in a very real way, they could keep on being in, and gracing, your garden.


    *dribbles, and then passes a BASKETBALL, to Strangebrew ;)*

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *