It’s really and truly fall, with night time temperatures dipping into the forties and daytime temperatures remaining in the 70s and 80s. Leaves crunch underfoot as I take my daily walk to the mailbox with Shadow in tow. I’ve got the Halloween decorations out and the fall centerpiece my dad made almost 20 years ago. I can’t believe that this October he will be gone 13 years, and my mom gone for 20 years now. Their birthdays are both in October, and the anniversary of my dad’s death is at the end of October. Fall now reminds me of my parents and of times gone by.
I’ve written before about how my dad grew chrysanthemums for the Long Island Chrysanthemum Society, and my sister Ann, too. I was hesitant to plant mums here at Seven Oaks because of the deer. My friend, Mary Alice, once told me a funny story about her mums in her home in Pennsylvania. One bright autumn Saturday she went to the garden center and bought a dozen yellow chrysanthemums. She planted them along one side of her house among the shrubs. After gardening for an hour she went into the house to wash up. About an hour later she made a cup of tea in the kitchen and gazed out the window at the flower bed where she’d planted those bright yellow blossoms. Imagine her surprise and shock when all she saw was green! And now she saw the culprit – deer – daintily chomping off each blossom and flower, leaving her with nothing but green stalks.
Since deer wander into my yard every evening, I thought I shouldn’t plant mums. I think having Shadow helps, though. Her scent is all over the flower garden since she loves to be next to me while I weed or plant. I also leave hair from her grooming sessions near the flower beds, hoping that the scent keeps the critters away.
Last year I planted a small purple mum. This year it is the size of a shrub! I am waiting for the mums I bought at the April Master Gardener sale her in Farmville to bloom. The plants grew huge and healthy, but I lost the labels. The leaves are the type that my dad grew, so I am hoping for some unusual colors or varieties.
This year, we planted yellow, burgundy and purple mums near the front walkway and along the driveway in the flower garden. So far (fingers crossed!) so good – the flowers are still there.
I love to look at the mums. They used to make me sad because I thought about my parents, but now they make me so happy. As time goes by, bad memories fade and only good ones remain. I think Shakespeare was wrong when he said, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” For me, only good memories remain. Maybe, like weeding a garden, I weed out the bad ones.
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.