I should have paid more attention to the Autumnal Equinox, the day when day and night are the same length. For a few months, until the solstice, there will be a little more night than day. I should have posted something on facebook, sent out a tweet, posted pictures on Pinterest of what a typical California native plant garden looks like just now. Sigh. I hardly paid attention. “Real” autumn doesn’t begin for another few weeks here. We need that first drenching storm, that first cold snap that brings a collective sigh: “We did it. We made it through another summer.” The redbuds and ceanothus will bloom in what we call false spring. The Roger’s Red native grape will turn scarlet. The oak trees that haven’t already dropped their leaves as a response to drought will begin de-foliating.
“I’m tired of summer,” and its variations is a popular refrain these days. Yes, we have cooler mornings. Yes, we can tell that the days are shorter than they were in July. But, here it is, another day of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Another week of irrigation restrictions. Another well going dry. (Tulare County holds the record, sadly, in number of private wells that have dried up, putting us on the National and International news scene. But to say more gets into water politics…)
Those of us in the plant world are waiting for good conditions to plant our gardens, replenish what has died from the drought or other causes (there are other causes), finish what has been a long process, starting with a design, of replacing that old-fashioned turf-centric landscape with a more modern, low-water-use garden. I used to go along with the “October is best for planting” crowd. These days I like November. I could change my mind again. October is okay to plant, especially if we get a nice storm first. I have a lot of plants to put in this year. On Oct. 3 we’re going to try to sell off a lot of extra plants at the Farmers Market. I’m practicing being a contractor, so I have several areas of my own yard we’re working on. Let it cool down a little, so we can work comfortably! And rush like mad to get it all done before its too cold, and we’ll want to wait until Spring.
No, Autumn isn’t here yet. But we have signs of promise. The earth turns. Autumn will arrive. My yard is covered with acorns from the huge Blue Oak the insurance company is always wanting us to trim (we barely comply). The CA Fuscia, Gumplant, and Solidago are in full bloom. The CA buckwheat is vividly rust-colored against the roadside where it’s said CalTrans planted it decades ago.
Autumn means the end of hot, dry, brown days and nights. Autumn means snow may soon come in abundance. The thousands of years of snow that has allowed us to live in such water-using extravagance in California. The snow that has made the AG economy of the Central Valley possible. That’s a lot of hope for one equinox to shoulder. Even shared with the winter solstice, that’s a lot. Autumn is both a sigh and a breath held.
Happy Autumn, whatever it means to you. Thanks for reading,