Autumn is finally here!

Woody says: hold dear every leaf and earth worm! pic: R.T.

By Edith Morgan

The grass was still all green and healthy looking, and the hydrangeas were everywhere in full bloom. My four tomato plants were still putting out flowers, as though they planned to deliver into the end of fall. And the temperatures, though varying, were pretty balmy for October. The big maple tree in front of our house was shedding a few dry leaves but nothing had yet turned gold and crimson. It looked for a while as if we were not going to have our usual technicolor season.

And then, almost overnight, it all began … Suddenly, the colors appeared: gold, orange and crimsons everywhere. Rapidly changing … But a couple of very warm days and some rain slowed the process down, so we can enjoy it all for a few extra days.

Tower Hill Botanical took in their vulnerable plants some weeks ago: they have the greatest display of coleus – all colors, all sizes, with marvelously variegated leaves. But they are annuals and also very sensitive to cold, so Tower Hill does not wait for the first frost to come and decimate them.

I take more chances with mine. They still adorn my front porch steps. Even when the first frost is predicted, I leave them outside because with our tree canopy and our location at the bottom of one of the hills at Green Hill Park protecting us, we usually are spared the early frosts that hit the higher elevations in Worcester.

But maybe we are entering a period where it will be even more difficult to predict the weather: I do not remember past days in October when the temperature hit 84 degrees! And this may be the first summer when we did not water our garden: the rain seemed to always come just in time. But the wild variations for which New England weather is known, are still happening.

The squirrels are busily gathering and burying the many seeds, nuts and acorns that seem to be very abundant this year. And the millet and bread crumbs laced with peanut butter disappear from around our porch almost as if by magic.

Only the absence of earth worms that I used to see in abundance after every rainfall, wriggling in the gutter leaves, seem to be absent this year. I worry about them, just as I do about the disappearance of the bees. Are they harbingers of greater troubles ahead? And I have not seen one “woolly bear” caterpillar for a long time! As children we used to believe that you could predict how severe the winter would be by how large the black section of their body was, between the brown front and rear … I think I will have to consult the Farmer’s Almanac and see what they are predicting.

Meanwhile, let us enjoy every marvelous leaf and blue sky, as long as we can!