Off Season

My garden is covered with snow right now. Snow in Denver in October is not unusual, however the low temperatures this week did set a record. So not only is it “off season” for gardening, our seasons are a bit “off” since fall and winter mix together in Colorado, as do winter and spring.

snow cover

Of course, for a gardener, there is no off season, since the time not actively gardening is spent evaluating the past season and planning for the next season.

My main project for October (before the snow fell) was cleaning up some of the wildness in my front yard – I had let perennials reseed for several years in an overly rambunctious cottage-garden look.

before fall cleanup

There were salvia everywhere – which is a nice perennial, but gets floppy by mid-season and spreads new plants almost invasively. Particularly stubborn was the cranesbill – a perennial geranium variety that spreads broadly and is well suited to limited water with a long carrot-like root. It had branched all over one section of the garden, overtaking flax, day lilies, penstemon, coneflower and more.  I decided I was done with both salvia and cranesbill.

Among the perennials were many weeds and tree seedlings from my Siberian Elm that cascades seeds every year like it is regenerating after an apocalypse!

While I was digging up roots and trying to restore order, I was already thinking of spring. Should I try some different perennials, or should I just add a few more coneflowers and penstemon and resist my urge to over-plant? Or should I fill in with some annuals?

fall cleanup

Fall can be a good time to plant perennials, but I held off on the decision – maybe because it is more fun to think about it all winter! And because I want to make sure I have all the weeds and unwanted roots taken care of before I plant anything new. I can do another deep weeding of whatever sprouts in the spring before I commit to new ideas.

The “off season” activities of evaluating and planning are the least visible part of gardening, but perhaps the most important. The same is true for my work, relationships, and even my soul. There are times of visible growth and beauty, but the depth of thought and care in the off seasons can lead to the fruitfulness and flourishing.

And because in Denver, seasons are truly “off” – I am hoping that once the snow melts I will have a chance to do one last fall gardening activity – planting bulbs. One year I planted daffodils on Thanksgiving Day after putting the turkey in the oven!

bulb bag

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