Ticking time bombs

It was a big and busy day yesterday, in more ways than one. We passed another milestone in this year’s garden calendar – the first real killing frost fell finally. And while that marked the official end of the growing season, we were glad for a chilly but sunshiny morning to finish planting — with the assistance of a small group of weather-proof volunteers — a few more ticking time bombs of hope for next year’s growing season. It’s hard to imagine just by looking at this tiny Tulipa clusiana ‘Lady Jane’ bulb, which looks for all the world to me like it has a lit fuse, that come spring it will burst into an exquisitely delicate pink-flamed flower. But that’s the promise so long as the squirrels don’t defuse it first. We also planted 300 wood sorrel (Oxalis adenophylla – I wish I had taken a picture of those hair-coverd fuzzbombs), a few hundred more crocus in the bed just outside the moongate, and 200 tiny winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) nuggets for our earliest visitors’ enjoyment. As much as I don’t just love the down-on-all-fours back break of poking narrow holes between the roots and stems of perennials and roses, I got kind of into it yesterday. There was definitely something cathartic in busting through a just-frozen crust of soil, with the sun warm on my back, and thinking about spring.

And now that the bulbs are all in, it’s time for us to think about winter. We took advantage of our volunteers’ extra hands to put the rest of the frost-nipped North Garden to bed. Gail and I feel a very grateful relief for being able to really focus on the next thing. It would be way too soon in real life to start decorating for Christmas but here at Blithewold, the mansion is almost completely gilded already and will be complete after the garden volunteers hang ornaments on the big tree next week. And here at the greenhouse Gail and I will be spending the next week and a half getting ready for the newest Christmas at Blithewold feature event, Christmas Sparkle. Every Friday night until Christmas the path from the mansion through the Enclosed Garden to the greenhouse will be lit with lanterns. There will be fires in the Enclosed Garden for marshmallow roasting (s’mores!) and hot chocolate in the greenhouse, which will be (as we like to think it always is) a welcoming wintery oasis of green growing things.

Has frost fallen on your garden yet? Are you focused now on the end of this season or are you still planting time bombs for the next?