The Apostrophe Blog
It’s late. I’m old.
Come soon, you feral cats
among the dahlias.
from “Nocturne” by W.S. Di Piero
There was a frost last week in and around the Northeast Portland neighborhood where we live, a couple of miles up the hill from the Columbia River. But somehow the dahlias survived here in our micro-climate that only got to a low of 33 degrees F. I walked by other gardens where their dahlia leaves are now blackened, their unspent blooms still knobby and unopened on their stems.
But truthfully it is now but a matter of time. The deal, according to the dahlia experts, is to wait until a first hard frost or November 15th before cutting the stalks down and readying the beds for winter. Here in the Pacific Northwest, where we generally have relatively mild winter weather, we have some more wiggle room as to when to do the winter maintenance cleaning up. I will probably let the dahlias here at the house hang on until after Thanksgiving. Once again this year, I am leaving the tubers in the ground and will plan to move and divide them come spring. So that means the end-of-year chores include rolling out sheets of plastic over the beds then spreading a six-inch layer of bark mulch on top to keep the tubers well-insulated until March.
These are the flowers we bought
this morning, the dahlias tossed
on his grave and bells
waiting with their tongues cut out
for this particular silence.
—Carolyn Forché, from “The Memory of Elena”
Yesterday, the autumn rains arrived in full force. I picked what may be the final big bouquet of the season and brought it inside. Still, there are many flowers blooming and many more buds eager to open on their November stalks in our front yard. I leave those for the bees, the hummingbirds, for the tiny goldfinches and chickadees to use as perches as they make their way to the fountain for an afternoon splash. I leave those for the enjoyment of anyone who happens to be walking by on sunny and rain-drenched days.