On Halloween, the sun will rise nearly 117 minutes later and set 140 minutes earlier than it did on Memorial Day. We’ll lose forty-five minutes of daily light during the month of October alone.
Pretty much no one likes this. Perhaps none less so than plants.
These are the days plants begin the process of shutting down for the season, sacrificing their above-ground selves in favor of storing food in roots for the coming unproductive winter months. As daylight lessens, the dominant photosynthesis-creating powerhouse, Chlorophyll, gives way to normally subordinate orange, yellow and red pigments that flourish in its absence. Though present year round, their short-lived dominance in autumn create the much anticipated Fall Foliage displays.
Plant’s raging competition for space and pollinating insects that began early Spring quickly winds down. Killing frosts distinguish fleeting, cold intolerant annuals from hardy perennials. Though their withering leaves should make them left for dead, Hosta, Astilbe and Salvia are merely lying in wait for the thaw of the coming Spring. Evergreen perennials Lavender, Sage and Alyssum stand fully-clothed and alone in the perennial border having outlasted all their contemporaries.
The exuberance of life for which I looked to these flowers daily has faded into dull stalks and brown seed heads pushed around by the autumn wind.
My garden shrubs are also affected by the seasonal change. Hybrid Tea and Knock-Out roses flourish in the cooler temperatures, as do the porcelain-colored berries on the Callicarpa. The orange-red Bittersweet vine come alive in the Fall as well. Lingering Japanese Anemones still flower, continuing to compete with the day-lilies they’ve been rubbing up against all year. Neither one is prepared to give up the battle for dominance.
Clear warm days come less frequently but are perhaps more appreciated. Morning frosts and progressively colder nights claim new tender victims regularly. The begrudged march toward dormancy is well underway and the end of diversity is inevitable.
Still, amidst the losses, new ecosystems are forming. Succulent pears fall to the ground after months ripening on the tree. The spoiling fruit is munched on by squirrels and groundhogs, pierced by insects and attacked by large nasty-looking wasps. Deer come by to graze. Except for the loud cawing of crows, the gathering is silent. Each player in this temporary microcosm learning to interact symbiotically with the other. I enjoy observing the arrival of each and their techniques to gain access to the fruit.
As I watch the interplay, the door to the house is suddenly nosed open. Bolting and barking at full tilt toward the scene is Taz, our protective, playful dog. Body arriving before brain, he doesn’t know which pear poacher to chase first in order to maximize his odds of having fun.
Overrunning the pears entirely and tumbling in the grass, he gets up to find all animals and bugs gone. He gives out a few snorting sneezes then starts what can only be described as a maniacal pursuit of the source of scents left behind. His search forms a trail around the yard, wearing away lawn and pushing aside mulch. It’s funny at first but soon becomes a source for concern. Quickly realizing how normal it is,
I sit back and enjoy this latest entry of my day’s entertainment.