Saturday, October 26, 2013

Frost Warnings

The first frost warning was posted last Saturday--with a projected 34 F as the overnight temperature.
We have learned the hard way that the presence of Big Creek winding along the road below the house often leads to temps a few degrees colder than experienced at the gardens of a friend who lives about 3 miles away and removed from the vicinity of the creek.
The day had been blustery and dark.
G. and M. arriving an hour before dusk on their nightly walk volunteered to assist in bringing in the houseplants which have summered on the front porch.
Begonias still in flower were crowded onto an old table in the basement beneath a hanging florescent strip.
Geraniums and a Christmas cactus lined the floor awaiting another table, another light.
The huge heavy pots containing the Angel Wing and Beefsteak begonias are ranged in the tiny front hallway.
The rosemarys and the potted lavenders remain on the porch, which looks bare and forlorn, bereft of the colorful flowers.
What I am to do with 17 small lavenders is a conundrum. I think every seed in the packet must have germinated!

It was well after 7 when I arose on Sunday morning; the sun was shimmering through the trees that border the creek. The grass shone with wet, but didn't appear frosty.
M. marched up the drive moments later, getting his walk in at the beginning of the day and informed me that there was white frost on the grassy strips still shaded by the trees.
When I ventured outside I found that the zinnias--so bold and coarsely handsome, had succumbed to the light frost and now were grey and limp.
Roses still bloomed and a few bees moved sluggishly over the Michaelmas daisies.

Sunday was an example of October's 'bright blue weather'.
The air was crisp, but the sun had warmth.

The pink cosmos still shone in their tumbled row, a bit frayed about the edges.

The hardy Knock-Out roses by the garage were unfazed by a chilly night.

All week the weather was fitful--often with dark and ominous clouds filling the horizon in one direction while the sun cast long shadows in another.
It seemed warmer outdoors than inside the house and I prowled, restless, anxious to record what must surely be almost the last blooms of summer.

A vulture glides through a billow of grey cloud.

I brought in the last of the green peppers.
We picked the center heads of broccoli two weeks ago, but there were delectable side shoots 
ready for harvest.
I went out with a large bowl to gather seed heads from the ravaged zinnias and used a smaller one to collect still more of the cosmos seeds.
Noticing that the catnip had made a flourishing come-back after the rather spindly stalks formed [and cut down] in the wet summer weeks, I cut bundles of it and spread them on baking sheets to dry in the oven.

Coming into the kitchen from my outdoor labors I was met with the heady scent of catnip gusting from the oven vents. Cats hovered in the kitchen in various stages of glassy eyed intoxication. 
I fought them out of the way while I stripped the crisped leaves from the stalks and rubbed them through a sieve.  I tossed the dried stems onto the mat outside the kitchen door where Nellie and Charlie promptly wallowed in ecstasy. 

Each evening brought chilly temperatures and winds that whisked fallen leaves about the dooryard.
I draped old tablecloths on the two cherry tomato plants which have been living in the carport, kept an old quilted spread over the one producing tomato plant in the upper garden.
I made up a fire and sat beside it in the evening, reading or stitching.

Thursday was cold, scarcely 50 degrees F. The wind bit meanly through my jeans, whipped hair loose from my braid, huffed its cold breath down my neck.

I walked again along the edges of the garden, camera in hand, with a sense of 'last time for this season.'
Fuzzy seed heads of clematis decorate the trellis.

Feverfew, new this year, makes a brave show with its chartreuse leaves and small white daisy flowers.

Salvia and achillea compete for room in a corner of the top perennial strip.

Still a few blooms on the phlox.

Blanc Double de Coubert--one of the most fragrant, now unmolested by the Japanese beetles that destroyed earlier bloom.

Wise Portia--a bit leggy, un-pruned since the summer rains.

I found my stout garden fork and up-earthed some of the achillea which in one season has crowded along the front steps.  I carried it down to the lower perennial strip and set it in where the ill-fated dianthus 
failed to flourish.
Edward offers his assistance--while hoping  to make use of the crumbled and over-turned soil.

I left the bedraggled gardens to the inevitable ravages of the cold wind.
Inside I built up the fire, stood gratefully under a hot shower.
I found clean clothes--layers of snuggly pullovers, a pair of wooly socks.
I got out my favorite mug and set the teakettle to heat.

It was necessary to dispute Teasel's claim to my rocking chair.
M. coming in a few minutes later chuckled to find me tucked up by the fire with cats sprawled on the hearth rug, curled on the sofa, close to the warmth.
'You'd think it was winter!' he exclaimed.
When the frost comes, can winter be far behind?


  1. Just like us, the cats need time to get used to the change. Then they park themselves in front of the fire and stay. It's cold here, too and I'm just back from feeding some strays that I hardly ever see. I just worry about them. It's so nice to see that some of your flowers are hanging on a little longer. Deb

  2. Db; I am always torn between pity and exasperation over stray cats--pity for their starving neglected selves and thinking that each one of them had the potential to be a loved pet; exasperation at the people who abandon them--and annoyance when I have to deal with a tom who sprays my porch or bullies my barn cats. No fix except to feed the few that come into our territory.
    I'm telling myself its not winter yet and need to get used to the chill!

  3. No frost here yet, which is unusual for so late in the year. I rather hope that we have a frost soon so I can get on with clearing up the garden for winter. We do have gales and storms forecast for tomorrow though.

    1. John; Each year I dread the killing frost, but like you--once it happens then I'm anxious to tidy up. There will be warm afternoons yet for working outside, but the urgency of 'saving' plants is gone.

  4. Lovely,lovely post, thanks. I can't pick out anything special because I enjoyed all of it. I was with you beside the fire though.

    1. Briony; I'm telling myself I need to 'toughen up' and acclimate to the colder temps--but the fire feels so good on a blustery day--books and some hand sewing at my elbow--and of course, the cats!

  5. You have a wonderful way with words. I feel like I am right there with you going through your day and routines.

    Lovely and peaceful, and I can feel the chilly weather, even though down here it is still hot and humid.

    Have a wonderful Sunday and a great week ~ FlowerLady

    1. Lorraine; When KY is most hot and humid [July and August] I often think, 'At least I'm not in Florida!' Each time we've been there I marvel at the change in landscape and climate as we approach the border. Gardening through the months we think of as 'winter' would be a novelty!

  6. ooh how I wish I could have a snuggle with Teasel, she looks so soft and cuddly!
    It was interesting to read about your plants and flowers, it is sunny and a balmy 14' C here - I was peeling off while I was dog walking!

    1. Kath; Snuggling Teasel is very much on her terms--when she wants to be picked up and cuddled she is very insistent. When she wants to be set down, its 'right now!'
      It has warmed up again here after a wild and wooly Saturday--always happens after frost spoils the garden.

  7. Like Kath, it is still unseasonably warm here. We have - as John mentioned - dire warnings about the approaching storm with hurricane-force winds which is due to arrive after dark tonight, with risks of flooding and fallen trees, damage to buildings etc.

    It all looks so calm and peaceful in your garden, and a hint of frost seems bearable, especially if you are prepared. It's lovely to still see some colour in your plot as well - I have a few annuals still putting on a show, and some lovely Fuschias are still in bloom. I must tuck their pots away under the porch tonight and hope that saves them from the gales.

    It sounded so cosy in your house, Teasel on your rocking chair, a hot drink and the fire lit. We shall do similar later.

    1. Jennie; The storms of late autumn are often so fierce--where ever one lives--it seems that the transition from summer to winter is not meant to be gentle.
      I'm interested that fuschias can be grown so widely in Britain--they are strictly a tender 'hanging basket' plant or house plant where I've lived.
      Today is much warmer--with most of my flowers now a memory!

  8. Your cats and the horse Pebbles are beauties, and it sounds like you did well with bringing plants inside and protecting the tomatoes too. I live in California in an area that does not get hard freezes, but I recall them from growing up in Wisconsin.

    1. Terra; I'm always a bit sad in th days following a killing frost, knowing the flowers are gone, but truly its part of the endless circle of seasons.
      We were in San Diego once in March--so strange to see blooms during what for us has always been the tail-end of winter!

  9. I'm enjoying catching up with blog posts this morning with a cup of hot coffee. After reading this lovely picture of winter approaching, I decided I needed to put on a warmer robe! It's 46 degrees here in Iowa this morning. I brought my large ferns in from the porch (overpowering the kitchen by the glass doors) and still blooming geraniums in this past week. As well as my wicker bench which is now positioned in front of the fireplace in the living room! A little crowded for now but there will be lots of snow this winter on that porch! ;-)

  10. Diane; I brought my heavier winter robe from the back of the closet last week. It does always seem crowded in the days after bringing in the plants, and they always droop a bit at the change in atmosphere. Then in late spring there is the pleasure of moving out to the porch again.
    You will undoubtedly be seeing more snow than we will in KY--the mild winters here are the exchange that makes the heat and humidity of July and August endurable.