Most of my gardening lately has been getting ready for winter.
The biggest thing has been taking in the houseplants that have been vacationing on the decks, the patio and out in the yard all summer. We're not talking four African violets and a geranium herewe're talking 200 plants, nearly half of whom are six-footers: elephant ears, giant begonias, several kinds of ficus, a crinum lily, scheffleras, dracaenas, oleanders, plumbagos. I could go on ( so I will ): medium sized plantswandering Jews, peace lilies, ginger plants, arrowheads, geraniums, etc. And small plants are often orphans I've found in dire straits in the alley or been given by friends. ( My favorite is a vibrant red/pink desert rose that I found on top of a garbage can. )
All the plants have to be situated indoors, which means a compromise of artistically placed items and a place where they have sufficient light. I amend the light on the north side of my house with six grow lights and hope that the plants on the south side can make it until the ivy falls off the outside windows. ( This is why I don't need curtains in summer. ) All the plants have to be trayed too except the giant chartreuse dracaena which I keep in the ( otherwise unused ) downstairs bathtub. Finding all the trays and figuring out whether they have minute cracks is so much fun. Many of the bigger plants also need to have river rocks placed in them to cover the dirt so my four indoor panthers don't "ad-lib" in them. The cats, by the way, appear to love prowling thru this indoor jungle. ( FYI a new book, The Lion in Your Living Room, is about the physical and cultural evolution of the house cat asserts that the one major difference between your cat and, say, a tiger is size. Here's a couplet I wrote re this phenomenon: "Your cat loves you whether you're a saint or a sinner / But if you were mouse-sized you'd be dinner!" )
Then there are tropical bulb plants in pots in the yard that must be put to bed: cannas, four o'clocks, dahlias, amaryllis and callas. They have to be given a severe haircut ( all their greenery ), have some dirt knocked off and placed in bins in a cool but not freezing basement. This is not to mention ( well, that's a fib ) the pieces that have fallen off Christmas cactus, dracaenas and baby spider plants all placed in water to rootwhich they've done. Give them away? Donate them to the local grade school? Plant them up and add 'em to the collection? Aha! Give them as Xmas gifts!
And then we go out to plant the new outdoor bulbs and plants: altruist daffodils ( red cup, copper flare ), cammasias, species tulips ( all colors ), and an irresistible bag of various purple tulips. And we might sprinkle some seeds around even tho' I'm highly suspicious of bought-in-store seed packetslast year hoping to establish Jonny-jump-ups, a favorite of my mother I put 10 packets around the yard. Result? Nothing. I believe many stores keep unsold seeds from year to year until they die.
You can plant till the ground freezes ( if it ever does ) and so, go out and hit those bulb, fall-planted perennials, etc. sales at the big box stores ( and then go and tell your stories at garden club meetings! )
Here's your recipe for this month: Quick Pickled CukesIngredients: 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 2 tbs sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp chopped dill, 1 English cuke sliced about 1/4 inch thick. Directions: Mix all the ingredients and coat cukes slices. Ready to eat after 20 minutes.
Tidbits: A ) Put petroleum jelly on places that rust on metal deck chairs for winter, B ) cornmeal kills ants by turning them into gluttonsthey eat it but they can't digest it, C ) Plant a ( tropical ) geranium stem inserted into a raw potato and plant the whole thing, D ) You can use fireplace ashes in the garden but not on rhodies, azaleas or other acid-loving plants, E ) Pouring cola on concrete rust stains makes them go away.