October 14, 2010

What Remains in the Garden

It was such a beautiful mid fall day yesterday that even the insects were busy in the garden. There are very few blooms left so late in the season, but a monarch butterfly, which I would have thought would be long gone to the south by now, found some asters to feed on. They are a low growing fall aster called Purple Dome, and are the only flowers still blooming in the border.

I was busy in the vegetable garden the past few days, lifting finished plants, tilling, cleaning up edges. I dug the potato crop, which was more prolific than I expected, and stored the 4 varieties of tubers in the cellar. Still adding a decorative note to the garden, even after a couple of frosts, is the pretty pink lavatera, an annual that I grow each year at the end of vegetable rows.

The third plant still in bloom is the spirea Neon Flash, growing in front of my small porch. I cut off its first large blooms and a second flowering of smaller ones is now coming to its end, but is still attractive to honeybees.

Now that we've had some frosts, I can start picking and eating brussels sprouts and kale, whose flavor improves enormously after freezing. What was bland becomes rich and sweet and tender. The plants, tall and dramatic, with the kale looking like a frothy grande dame dressed for the ball, and the brussels sprouts a swirl of leaves around the growing spheres, produce food that make me grateful for the coming cold nights.