October in My Maine Garden
This weekend I got home to Maine for the first time since mid-August, when I returned to Gettysburg for the beginning of the school year. I usually get home for a weekend in late September; but this year, my planned trip was aborted when heavy rain in Gettysburg caused a flash flood, which inundated my car in the parking lot at work and kept me from getting to the airport for my flight north. (Really; I’m not making this up!)
My visit home each year in October is an intensive four-day trip to prepare my property for winter. The two cords of firewood dumped in the driveway must be stacked before I leave on Tuesday. The screenhouse and furniture on the deck, all of which were left somewhat askew by the winds of Hurricane Irene in late August, must be taken down and put away. All the soaker hoses need to be lifted from the flower beds, cleaned, rolled up, and stored in the basement for winter. If I have time, I’ll also take planters and plant supports in; but those can wait until Thanksgiving if need be. Getting reflectors in the ground to mark the edges of the driveway for the snow plow can’t wait; the ground will be frozen by the time I get home again.
I got in too late Friday night to see what was happening in the garden; but I went out with my first mug of tea on Saturday morning to take a good look around. I could see a few plants here and there that had been blown down by Hurricane Irene, but it had done amazingly little damage. I could also see a few places in the garden (but surprisingly few) that had been touched by frost. The morning glories on the fence and the tall Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ growing beside it at the south end of the fence border are both brown and withered.
Many plants that had not been harmed by wind or by frost, however, had been damaged by deer. As usual, once I had departed in August, deer moved into the garden to browse unmolested and fatten up for winter. The blue and yellow border and the new serenity garden, both of which back up to the woods, had been particularly hard hit. In both these flower beds, hostas (a deer favorite) had all their leaves eaten off, leaving just stems sticking up out of the ground. I was expecting the hosta damage; I was not expecting to see most of the leaves eaten from variegated Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’) or from Astrantia. I had hoped to find flowers on the fall blooming Anemone hupehensis ‘Prinz Heinrich,’ but instead I found a plant whose top half, including any flowers or buds, had been eaten. The shrubs in the serenity garden fared better. The boxwood (Buxus sempiverens) ‘Green Mountain’ was untouched, as was the Pieris x ‘Brower’s Beauty.’ These plants are generally not considered attractive to deer. But the “deer-resistant” Viburnum cassanoides did not resist as much as I might have hoped.
Geranium x cantabrigiense and Heuchera plants along the front of this flower bed are thriving, but the Actaea simplex ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ seem to be dead, with just brown sticks and a few withered leaves showing. This doesn’t look like deer damage, but I don’t know what else might have caused the problem. If these plants don’t appear in the spring, I’ll replace them and hope for a better outcome.
I don’t want to leave the impression that all was death and destruction in my garden. There are also many sources of delight in the fall garden. In the fence border, I arrived just in time to see the last flower fading on the fall-blooming daylily (Hemerocallis) ‘Sandra Elizabeth,’ and I was surprised to find one unopened bud still remaining on Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Minaret.’ I also found a few white flowers on the tall Phlox paniculata ‘David.’
In the deck border, Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’ is living up to its name. About halfway in their transition from pale pink to burgundy, these flowers are currently an intense deep pink that glows in the sunlight. This color is echoed by an annual geranium (Pelargonium) blooming in a protected corner of the deck.
Any day now, overnight lows will dip down into the twenties (F), bringing a freeze that will send even the hardiest fall bloomers into dormancy. I am so pleased that I got to spend some time here before that happens, enjoying the last flowers of fall.