Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Bright Blue Weather

Heading home from the mailbox at the top of the lane.
This shapely tree is appealing in any season. My best guess of its identity is 'hackberry.'

October has not featured endless blue skies; there have been sunless days of intermittent showers, brisk whirling winds that have sent leaves spinning from the trees that border the ravines. 
I've been lured out whenever the sun is shining to potter about pruning perennials that are busily going to seed in my rough garden strips. In other years I've left standing through the winter such plants as I've thought might provide winter seeds for birds. I'm not sure if birds even fancy the bristling heads of coneflowers or the fluff of the Michaelmas daisies.  I do know that left to themselves these plants have colonized in rampaging groups that threaten to dominate the scene, so--off with their heads. 

The dreaded Asian beetles arrived in the thousands earlier in the week [or have they been here since last winter waiting to hatch out and invade?]
Working in the  overgrown west garden on this hot [80 F.] afternoon wasn't a good plan.
The beetles pinged against my clothing, blundered behind my glasses, landed in my hair. The slightest contact with one while attempting to brush them away leaves an acrid odor on the skin. They can also manage to bite/sting. I made a concession to the heat in taking off my outer shirt to continue working in a short-sleeved T. Mistake number two! I was quickly plastered with tiny seeds which clung to my warm skin, sifted down the neck of my T-shirt. 
I made myself continue working for an hour, swatting away beetles and shaking off seed fuzz. 
My vision for several 'wild' gardens has not gone quite to plan. The plants are there, mostly raised from seed: foxgloves, Michaelmas daisies in several colors, blue prairie flax, coneflowers, blackberry lilies, monarda, an edging of low growing pinks. Rampaging through it all are weeds--invasive polygonum, tough-stemmed grasses, dandelions, dock--spreading mats of something which stays evergreen and whose proper name I've forgotten. 

I haven't a hope of controlling the whole untidy plot. I can fuss a bit over the roses which have survived a bad influx of Japanese beetles and sawflies. I can enjoy the clematis that clamber up the sturdy trellis. I can hope that the white-flowered butterfly bush makes it through a second winter.
I can poke about as I find the energy, cut my losses, admire what survives.

 Our neighbor claims the narrow strip of land that runs along the lane; our big meadow lies beyond to the right, sloping down toward our house and barn.

Blue skies have been patterned with sprawling contrails and feathery cirrus clouds that shift and reform.

A closeup of one of the hackberry trees. There are several along the east boundary fence.

Sumac growing in the tangle of under-story trees at the western edge of the property. 
Rhus glabra--smooth sumac. In my native New England staghorn sumac is more common, having branches covered in a furry 'velvet' not unlike that on the emerging antlers of a buck deer.

The very prickly landscape rose that threatens to take over a corner of the front wall garden. No matter how drastically I prune, it quickly thrusts out another tangle of thorny trailing branches.

Nigella endlessly repopulates in a corner of the raised bed near the front steps. Seedlings pop up by the hundreds, some appearing in the grass beyond the bed. Blue isn't one of 'my' colors in clothing or home furnishings, yet blue flowers are special whether cultivated or wildlings.

Aster, 'Raydon's Favorite' a late bloomer.

The pond near the head of the lane, made murky by the neighbor's cattle.

I think  the poem below was a favorite of my mother, perhaps included in the orange-bound anthology of poetry and prose which was likely one of her high school text books. 
She may have quoted bits of the poem, but the only phrase to stay with me through the years is 'October's bright blue weather.'

  Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)
      October's Bright Blue Weather

    O suns and skies and clouds of June,
        And flowers of June together,
    Ye cannot rival for one hour
        October's bright blue weather;

    When loud the bumble-bee makes haste,
        Belated, thriftless vagrant,
    And Golden-Rod is dying fast,
        And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

    When Gentians roll their fringes tight
        To save them for the morning,
    And chestnuts fall from satin burrs
        Without a sound of warning;

    When on the ground red apples lie
        In piles like jewels shining,
    And redder still on old stone walls
        Are leaves of woodbine twining;

    When all the lovely wayside things
        Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
    And in the fields, still green and fair,
        Late aftermaths are growing;

    When springs run low, and on the brooks,
        In idle golden freighting,
    Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
        Of woods, for winter waiting;

    When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
        By twos and twos together,
    And count like misers, hour by hour,
        October's bright blue weather.

    O suns and skies and flowers of June,
        Count all your boasts together,
    Love loveth best of all the year
        October's bright blue weather.



  1. I can ‘t recall a year when the sumac has been so beautiful as this. Nor the goldenrod either. In about a week, our weather guy says we will have freezing temps so the loveliest days of autumn are quickly coming to a close. I am never ready.

  2. Beautiful October has been the inspiration of so many poems. I think my favourite one starts off Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Now who was the poet? I should know it but as usual when I try to remember I can't.
    Those Asian Beetles sound so repulsive. I'm thankful I don't have any of those.
    I think this was the first year that I've had Nigella appear and self-sow. A welcome gift from some bird.
    Granny M

  3. I can only look at my garden through the windows right now. No energy to do more. It sounds like the weeds are fighting for High Command in some corners with you (I can sympathise). My clearing of the moss between the cobbles only allowed other permicious weeds to get established. :( Sorry about those wretched Asian beetles - they sound most unpleasant.

    I have only heard the first couple of stanzas of that poem - how true it is though. We must make the most of such beautiful sunny autumn days.

    The Nigella (Love-in-a-mist) is persistent in just one corner here. Nothing else I have planted seems that inclined to colonize yet but I have saved some of the pink Echinacea seeds and will sow some in the spring.

  4. The poem is wonderful with its old-fashioned sweetness. Pretty scenes of the Hawthorns and vivid green field bordered by the colorful trees with your cozy homestead tucked away among them. Gardening can be a frustrating endeavor trying to deal with the weeds and the insects, but always gives us unexpected surprises. I do love blue flowers, and the pods of the nigella are especially nice, too. We've had our first frost and now the tender annuals are gone, but I have pansies and chrysanthemums still blooming in pots. We have 'stink-bugs' trying to get into the house, but not as bad as last year. They are harmless, but not something pleasant when entertaining guests as they suddenly appear flying across the room!