Fairy Homes and Gaillardia Hopes

November 21, 2010

Thought I’d just take a stroll around yesterday and observe. Suffering from a cold, I wasn’t feeling up to putting away the windchimes or rolling up the hammock.

The hostas look like wilted lettuce left too long in the vegetable drawer, soggy and slimey. The lily of the valley leaves splay on the ground and their orange balls bounce above the mess. The speedwell is dry, like cinnamon sticks in the garden.

For a moment, I think that something has pulled apart a Damn Rabbit, as there is grey fuzz under my office window. I tense, looking for blood, and then realize this is the dirt out of my Dustbuster that I dumped the night before.

I feel sheepish.

The bellflower has done some seriously creeping on the berm this year; yes, it’s turning red, but in many places, it is still green and fresh. It seems to have covered a fairly large area this summer and it gives me another thing to look forward to next year. The garlic chives dry into castanets, their shiny seeds clattering in the wind, falling to the earth, to spread more garlic chive joy next year. Right now, the drying petals are delicate and transparent, amber colored and intricate.

And some of the flora are still growing. The alyssum is beautiful right now, healthy and sweet in the colder air. The sedum seems to be very confused, as there are fresh new petals emerging at ground level, underneath the yellowing stems and drying blooms. I tell them it’s not time, that they need to go back, but the oh-so-warm-for-November air has them at sixes and sevens and they can’t be stopped. The lamb’s ear is still sage green and fresh, the catmint actually reblooming.

I love catmint. It is the workhorse of the garden. One of the first up, one of the first to bloom, always coming back even after severe haircuts, staying at the party until the very last minute in autumn, trying so hard to hold onto summer fragrance, summer bloom – summer.

The prairie dropseed looks like fireworks, golden bursts on a deep green sky. More and more milkweed pods split each day – our friends the milkweed bugs have hosted their last orgy. The satin sheets and scented candles are stored away now until next year and they will drowse in hibernation, memories of those Bacchanal days drifting through their dreams, giving them impetus to survive until the spring.

The feathers on these seeds are just that – like feathers. They are soft as silk, like Griffey’s fur when he is cleaned and combed, like a stroke of a Damn Rabbit. I rub one between my fingers and it comes loose and floats away, the sun winking on the white feathers, flashes of silver and gold.

Some of the coneflower heads have been chewed open, exposing a teeny tiny hole in the raised seed head. What a great place to build a house! I can imagine a miniscule fairy, sprinkling twinkling dust along the outside, giving the pod a rehab before the move-in. What a cozy place, the fairy thinks. Just the right size door to pull my wings in after but keep the wind, rain and snow out. The round room inside is a perfect place to put up my feet, or roll into a ball, thinks this most indolent fairy. And what good fortune! Several of these space all together! I can use one as a bedroom, one as a store room for seeds to eat through the winter – I’ll be as snug as a bug in a rug.

While these fancies take me over, I notice the gaillardia seed heads are in the same phase – drying and falling apart.

I have promised myself I’m only observing. I don’t want to aggravate this cold.

I grab a bucket and start cutting heads – nearly dry, really dry and everything inbetween. There are dozens and dozens, more than I thought on initial glance. They fall into the bucket with small dull thuds. I gather quite a bunch, then head to the front, to the bed with the Siberian iris and the new butterfly bush. I stand back and look at the bed, at the empty spots between the iris, next to the peonies and around the butterfly bush. I see in my mind’s eye the contrast of the white peonies with the purple iris, then as that fades, the purple chaos of the butterfly bush complemented by the unbridled havoc of the gaillardia. Oh, how sweet!

I indicate eight spots where a gaillardia should emerge and then begin digging. I hit no bulbs in the first hole and throw in a handful of seed heads. The same goes with the other seven holes, a first in autumn planting.

This is just a hope and a garden prayer. I’ve done this with coneflowers and reaped fantastic results, but I don’t know if the same will be true of gaillardia. I’m hoping that since it’s a prairie plant, since the seed heads dry, droop and decay, it will be the same. I’m hoping that the squirrels don’t dig them up, that mice don’t find them, that they don’t freeze beyond hope of germination in the ground this winter. I’m hoping that they sprout in the spring, that they grow and that they bloom.

I’m hoping.

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