AUTUMN LEAVES

The falling leaves drift by the window

The autumn leaves of red and gold

I see your lips, the summer kisses

The sun-burned hands I used to hold

– Johnny Mercer

October 1 and the rains came. Chill is in the air and in the garden it’s time to prepare for winter. In Montecito, winter may only be wet and only a bit chilly – no snow, no freezing rain – but we still need to be ready for what we get.

Have you ever been up to your thighs in water, cleaning out a catch basin? I have, and it’s nothing like swimming in the Montecito YMCA’s heated pool. So, in order to avoid exercising while being soaking wet, clean your catch basins and get your drainpipes checked – roots growing into them can cause malfunctions. How about your gutters and downspouts? Cleaned them out lately? Now is a good time for that task as well, before it rains.

There are some pretty steep hills around Montecito that are still weakened from the last couple of years of record-breaking rain. Staple down some jute and then seed with creeping red fescue. Water and voila, a grassy slope. The water will sheet over the top of the grass and the integrity of the hill will be maintained.

Spring cleaning is for indoors, Fall cleaning is for the outside. Cut back woody perennials and clean away debris and dead wood. Herbaceous perennials are plants that would die back to the ground if our weather were cooler. So, you need to cut them back to the ground to help them along; they will then start over from the roots. Plants that fit in this category would be Mexican sage and penstemon. The sight of these plants remaining uncut isn’t pretty. Cut them to the ground, please. Feed everything for the last time of the year.

Cut your roses back by about one-third and feed them for the last time of the year. Shop for spring bulbs, daffodils, irises, ranunculi, freesias and narcissi. You will find the best selection if you shop now. Plant bulbs in full sun in Montecito and put them in clumps for dramatic effect. October is also the time to divide bulbs, agapanthi (African lilies) and clumping grasses.

Plant plenty of flowers; they are food for the spirit and I can’t have too many of them – fragrant bearded irises, daffodils and heady narcissi. There is a tale that the Narcissus flower was created to entice the Greek goddess of agriculture Demeter’s daughter, Persephone, away from her companions to enable Hades (Greek God of the Dead) to abduct her.

See, flowers are the stuff of legend. Splurge on them while the season’s right.