Anna Naeser: Anna’s Garden |

Anna Naeser: Anna’s Garden

Anna Naeser
Aspen CO, Colorado

This is a bittersweet season in my garden: The annuals, both in their food and ornamental manifestations, are at their zenith but the nights are getting cooler; the border is lush and colorful but the days are getting shorter; the harvest is in full swing, but I can smell winter coming.

Last year at this time, my autumn blooming bulbs, like Colchicum and saffron crocus were in full bloom and Light Hill was doing its color thing, mimicking an ancient Turkish carpet. The colchicum buds are just now emerging naked from the earth (and Light Hill is still mostly the color of summer), yet the perennial asters which usually bloom with them started weeks ago while the “Gold Plate” yarrow and lavender-blue Russian sage they typically replace show no sign of fading yet ” all three are splendid. The tender summer-blooming bulb Galtonia, which raised cool greenish-white spikes above purple asters last summer, overwintered unexpectedly and bloomed early, in July.

The white flowers of the silver lace vine festooning the house are still holding their own against the smaller panicles of our common native clematis (Clematis ligusticifolia), my last vine to bloom. Just this week I gave the vigorous clematis stems a final summer haircut to keep them clear of the driveway surface. The hops are ripening on their spring-blooming vines and the pears hang heavy on the trees. No bears raiding the fruit trees so far, thank goodness, and their beloved and necessary berries are bountiful up the mountain this year. The ones in the lowest, hottest places are already shriveling and drying while those at higher elevations are just coloring up.

The containers on my second-floor deck have surprised me again, as usual. I feared that my seed strain of signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia) had disappeared until they came up in late spring, as thickly as fur, in a pot that had overwintered outdoors. I dug out some clumps of spindly seedlings with a spoon, separated them, and distributed them around the edges of all the containers, including the tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. I left the rest to grow together into one big symmetrical mound of small blossoms in a warm, joyful orangey-yellow, daubed with a more reddish hue toward the center. The color is more uniform than previously. The single marigold seedlings filled out, the lacy foliage almost smothered by glowing flowers, to billow around the vegetables and over the mouths of the pots. When playful grandkids chasing cats, cats hunting moths or tail-wagging dogs break them off, they become instant bouquets. Just add water and a vase.

The “Black Beauty” eggplants and “Black Hungarian” peppers above their marigold skirts are so laden with polished purple fruit that they are listing, their root balls in light potting soil not heavy enough to offset the weight of the fruit. The eggplants in particular are beautiful in every aspect, even before displaying fruit so deeply purple as to seem almost black, from their sturdy burgundy stems to their lavender blossoms; a massive whitefly infestation left the large, tinted foliage peppered with tan, papery dead spots, but otherwise undamaged. Every time I so much as touched a leaf, a cloud of nervous whiteflies flew up to escape me, the dangerous predator. Purple eggplants and signet marigolds are so ornamental ” together or apart ” it beats me why neither is more widely grown. The marigolds will flourish until winter but all the heat-loving vegetables stopped setting fruit after the first cool night this week; once the already ripened fruit is picked, there will be no more.

I chart the constant changes in my garden avidly and happily, from the first sign of green to the last dropped leaf, yet somehow I am still taken aback when the changes accelerate. I’m getting tired and ready to put my tools away, call it a year and rest. At the same time, I feel that the summer has been too short, that I need much more time before my spirits have gathered enough “fuel” from the garden to last me the winter.

This morning, three sky blue morning glories twining up the spruces on the deck outside my window opened three perfect cream-throated funnels to my gaze. The slightest frost will kill them. Mixed feelings, bittersweet, to savor …

Anna gardens in Basalt with her husband, Gerry. She welcomes your comments at

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