Between the cooler weather and the regular rain, the garden is looking very different than it did a couple of months ago. I have been stressing about the amount of cleanup that needs to happen this time of year - when 90% of the plants in the garden are perennials, there's an awful lot of chopping down to do. And the regular rain has caused the weeds that were dormant through the hot, dry summer to spring to life again. So everything feels disordered and messy.
I knew this adventure would have lessons to teach me about living with imperfection, but I feel like I'm in the middle of a remedial intensive. I keep remembering sister Kim's words this summer about enjoying all the life cycles of the plants in the garden, without rushing to clean things up at the first sign of decay, and as a result I've set myself some homework: to look hard for the beauty in what feels to me like an increasingly barren, weedy mess. And here is what I've found.
The loss of so many leaves has opened up views and vistas that are more cluttered in the spring and summer. We can see all the way up the steep rise to the back of our property now, which gives me a sense of being snuggled into the back of a hill I didn't have before. And what used to be a solid wall of vegetation on the far side of the pond now gives us peekaboo glimpses of the farm from the verandah. There's something about a long view that draws you in.
The other thing that opens up with the fall of the leaves is the architectural underpinning of the garden. We don't have much of that, given that so many of the plants are perennials. But that means the few garden anchors have even more of a dramatic impact. A few months ago the ornamental cherry that overlooks the pond simply merged with the surrounding vegetation, but now it's impossible not to look at it, it's so beautiful.
And even in the midst of many things dying, there is an occasional surprise. A blowzy, orange oriental poppy has decided, improbably, to bloom. And my favourite hydrangea, even as its leaves start to turn colour, has put forth a last few small, unexpected blossoms.
Am I ready to graduate from this make-up course on seeing the beauty in imperfection? Oh, I expect I've still got some work to do. But I'm feeling more content with the season, and the garden, and the lessons still to be learned.