Sunday, October 7, 2012

fall in saint paul

the maples of saratoga avenue, near our home
There are some things that pay no attention to the economy, the squandering of resources, the political dysfunction of the nation, even the changing climate.

I pay attention to those things, but nature doesn't so much.  The fall colors this year, in spite of the deepening drought, are gorgeous.  The conventional wisdom was that they were supposed to be dull due to the dry weather, which has set in in during the last half of the summer.

Autumn in Minnesota rarely disappoints.  It's one benefit of living in a place with harsh winters-- as the trees and grasses wind down in preparation, they almost always give us a good show on their way out.

sedum and ornamental grasses in the front yard

The autumn colors seem to come a little bit later each year, but they still show up.

Even as a kid- when I didn't have a past to be nostalgic about- autumn made me nostalgic.  For what, I'm not sure.

It still does, and I'm not sure for what.  There's really not much in the past that I'd really want to revisit.

I love this time of year anyway.  I suppose it helps that I was born in September.

roses-with bodacious hips
The stone steps and patio Gita and I built this summer are softened a bit by the fallen leaves.  She wants to rake them right away.  I kind of like leaving them.

my new stone steps- my handiwork, plus the leaves from our yard's maple and hackberry
Sumac is one of the most underrated plants in the upper Midwest.  Supposedly you can make lemonade from the blossoms.  I've tried it, and it didn't work for me, but that may have been because I didn't know what I was doing.

The Middle Eastern grocery stores here carry whole sumac blossoms, dried.  It's funny to see something that's so common, and so unappreciated here sold as a delicacy at an exotic grocery store. 

Of course, a lot of people don't like sumac because they say it's messy, and because it tends to take over an entire area once it's established.

Well, yes.  But look at the fall color.

view down the alley- with blazing sumac
Virginia creeper too, or woodbine if you prefer to call it that.  Parthenocissus quinquefolia is the real name, if you're a plant snob.   Invasive as hell, but, really, it's a native.  At least to the Midwest.

It makes some people itch when they touch it, and I might be falling in that category too.  I've had an unexplained rash on my hands and arms this year after weeding the yard, and I've been pulling a lot of this, since it tends to be almost everywhere now.

But, good fall color makes up for it.  Almost.

virginia creeper- creeping over the woodpile

And magnolia- the northern hardy version, is a fairly good color-provider.  It's not one that many people think of as having good fall color, but ours turns a nice shade of yellow before fading to brown.

Nice to think that even the plants that prefer to live in the south like to show off some fall color when they relocate to the upper Midwest.  Ya got to keep up with the neighbors, dontcha know?

leonard messel magnolia- fall color

I like to talk about food-producing plants here, sometimes to the exclusion of all the others. 

But beauty is food too- for the soul.  

Even in a time when having access to clean, nutritious food is more difficult, and more important than ever, there has to be room for things that are beautiful.  Otherwise, why continue eating?

Yes, there are many reasons-- I have two of them, aged 4 and 5- but beautiful things are the sugar and cream in the coffee of my life.  And this time of year is exceptionally sweet and creamy.


  1. I actually caught your link on Kunstler's blog. I'm a fellow urban farmer and blog writer and have subscribed to a number of garden blogs myself, which is a source of hope for me in these dim times. I'm actually based in the Seattle area where the fall colors are particularly spectacular this year in the midst of a 2-1/2 month drought. We normally have cold, wet winters and springs and dry summers lasting into September. Now that it's October, this endless streak of sunshine is actually getting old. The air quality has suffered, our state has had numerous wild fires, and I'm rather tired of irrigating. Never the less, we are still several inches ahead of the game for annual rainfall due to a torrential wet June.

    Being self-sufficient in an urban environment has its own challenges, although Seattle is pretty progressive, encouraging folks to produce edibles in their own yards, parking strips, etc. I take a humor bent to the experiences of growing veg, dealing with urban wild life and the domestic type as well. Tend to stay away from the political other than the occasional rant about bureaucracies. If you're interested, it's

    Look forward to receiving your future posts.

  2. Hi DCLacy,

    Thanks for the comment! I hope you keep stopping by.

    I've noticed there's a lot of urban farmers in the Pacific Northwest and in the Upper Midwest. Maybe that just where I tend to look, but our regions seem to be hot spots for this sort of thing. I'll definitely take a look at the blog.

    I tend to avoid talking about politics as well, but right now, it's hard to avoid. Probably better not to, but it sure is fun.

  3. I love the sumac too, we have a lot of them in our area. I have seen women harvesting the blossoms in our local parks.

    I think being a food-gardener does make you appreciate the seasons more, and I savor fall and enjoy winter a lot more than I used to. This year we are looking forward to the leaves and snow with our new stonework too!

  4. S- I agree. I think gardening in general causes you to pay attention to weather patterns and all sorts of relationships in nature that you otherwise may never have noticed.

    BTW- Have you posted photos of your stonework anywhere? I'd love to see them.

    1. There are a few in-progress pics on my blog from April/May, but I realized I haven't done very much of an update, I'll have to take some fall photos! We are working a new section this fall, but we are waiting on more stone to come in.