Autumn is upon us in Missouri. The leaves are starting to change from vibrant green to bold shades of orange, red, and yellow. The temperature has dipped, needing a sweater during the day or a light coat in the evening.
We closed the pool last week. The pool company comes out and does something magical so the pipe won’t freeze. The electric cover is closed, and will be opened next spring when the pool folks return to reverse whatever they did in the fall.
The outdoor plants are struggling as the temperature goes up and down. The first frost will knock them off. Most of my plants will not return next spring. I have many pots of flowers around the pool deck. I do have perennials planted in the ground, and they will return every year bigger and better than before.
I have never really been a plant person. My first attempt of growing outdoors was in the early 70’s. I had moved to my first home and decided there was a lot of room to put in a big garden at the back of our yard. Organic gardening was a new concept to me, although any kind of gardening was a new concept to me. I purchased the book, “The Organic Gardener.” I also had a great book called “The New York Times Book of Vegetable Gardening.” That book was great—it listed each kind of vegetable, how to grow it, what to feed it, when to harvest it. It was my guidebook that year.
We rented a rototiller, and tilled the ground. My cousin who was living on a property that had once been a turkey farm, offered to bring a truckload of composted turkey manure. It was delivered, and we again tilled it into the ground. Then it was time to plant. I started tomatoes by seed indoors. I purchased peat pots and potting soil, and seeds from Burpee. I planted the seeds in the peat pots, set them in pans, and placed them in plastic bags in the sun in the bay window of my dining room. I didn’t remove the plastic bags until the plants had sprouted and had some growth. The moisture from the planting and watering were enough to stay within the plastic. It was like a greenhouse. The plants stayed warm and moist.
What I didn’t know is how many tomatoes to plant, so I planted close to 60 plants, half being nice big eating tomatoes, and the other half Roma tomatoes that are good for cooking. I planted about four rows of corn. My book said I needed several rows so that the corn could pollinate each other. I also planted some cantaloupe and watermelons, but they didn’t survive. Eventually, the “organic” method did not get rid of all the pests eating my crops, so I gave up and sprayed them with something that probably stunted our growth for years!
This “huge” garden became rather overwhelming for me to take care of with having two little ones in the home. I made a deal with my sister, that if she helped me weed, mulch, and harvest, she could have half of the crop. Good thing that happened, we both made lots of tomato sauce, we froze corn for the winter. On top of that, I had an apple tree in the yard. It was rather old, and in fact, it only bore apples for us for one year—that year. We shared the apples from the tree.
It was fun that year having my green thumb. I never had another garden like that. I continued producing children, and I just didn’t have the time or the energy to try my hand at gardening again. Over the years I have tried small gardens and container gardens of tomatoes, green beans, green peppers, but I was quick to realize, I am not a farmer. Growing food eludes me. I plant, water, feed, and share my crops with the critters. It is cheaper for me to buy the vegetables at the store, or if lucky, at a farmer’s vegetable booth.
I have found that I am much better with flowers. I stayed skeptical of any flora because I felt I just couldn’t grow anything. Then people in my life started passing away, and I was accumulating plants. When my mom died, I received a beautiful shefflera plant, and gave it to my dear friend, Susan, because she had windows in the right places, and she knew how to tenderly take care of plants. By the time my dad and my sister passed away, I lived in a house with great windows, and I received plants, and started caring for them. It is funny how I know what plant it is, and from whom I received it.
When I married Dennis he also had a few plants, from his dad’s funeral, and his wife’s funeral. I brought my “funeral” plants when we married, and I named them all so I could keep them straight. So, I had two Andrew (my dad) plants — one a miniature shefflera from friends of mine, and a philodendron from work. I have a Judy (sister) plant—a peace lily plant given to me from my professional association where I was president at that time. So, then Dennis had Joann (wife) which was also a peace lily, but that one had broader leaves than “Judy” so it was easy to tell them apart. Last year my newly acquired sister-in-law’s mom passed away, and they had so many plants, they handed me one to take home—so “Jessie,” also a peace lily joined the family. “WR” (Dennis’s dad) was also a philodendron, and it again, was different than the Andrew one, so it was easy to identify. Along with that we had a giant crown of thorns that bloomed beautiful pink flowers and got enormous every summer. Dennis and Joann had taken a small cutting years ago from a vacation in
Florida, and this plant flourished. When my friend from high school, who owns a plant nursery, saw this plant, he gave me a little bitty crown of thorns—in a year it also more than doubled in size.
All these named and unnamed plants live in our screen porch or on our deck in the spring, summer, and early autumn, before the frost. I knew that this year would be our last with them all. We are going to be in Arizona from January to May. The plants are too numerous and too big to transport them back and forth. Last week was time to give them away.
We loaded a small trailer and headed to St. Louis to deliver plants to several people who offered to take them. They also know that these plants were very meaningful to me. When I watered and fed, WR, Andrew, Judy, and Joann, I felt like I was honoring and remembering them. I have never met WR or Joann, but they were important in my husband and my step-son’s lives, so they are important to me. I was a bit teary eyed as I handed these plants over, but I know they are in good hands.
I thought we were done, and then I saw Dennis cut a piece of the large crown of thorns. He plans to put it in a small pot. Hopefully, it will take root, and we will try to plant it outdoors at our Arizona home.
After we delivered them all, Dennis turned to me and said, “We are now truly empty nesters—we have no children, no animals, and no plants to any longer care for. We are now ready to move forward. Hopefully, our home will sell soon, and we can close that chapter as we are opening a new one.