Now the leaves are off about half the trees, the lawn a litter of red and gold slowly going brown. Charlie came and mowed, not to cut the grass, but to chop the leaves into mulchy bits for the wind to scatter evenly over the tired yard. I filled brown yardwaste bags with the remains of plants that showed signs of fungus or other disease, and set them out for collection. Then there are all the plants that would be considered healthy except they’re dead. From frost. Tangled pumpkin vines get piled up onto the raised beds from which they escaped. Anything tall and hollow that looks like it could harbor hibernating bees gets left standing. Two of the remaining empty beds get cleared out for tulips.
I put the tulips in the fenced garden to keep the deer from eating them, so I can cut them for bouquets come spring. Narcissus are toxic to deer, so those can go boldly into the front yard, the herb garden, the peony patch – anywhere. Even the most clueless fawn leaves them alone. It’s sort of a wonderful association, isn’t it – narcissus and toxicity. I’m sure there’s an evolutionary explanation for this difference between tulips and narcissus, but how telling that the poisonous flower shares its name with the Narcissus of mythology who fell in love with his own image. Toxic self absorption: the narcissist has a Greek root in common with “narcotic.” Luckily for the deer they have figured this out.
Tulips however, are edible. A Dutch friend tells me that during wartime when they had nothing else to eat, the Dutch sauteed and ate their tulip bulbs, which were delicious (don’t try this now – today the bulbs are treated with fungicides). So I hoe up a trench in the raised garden bed, and plant the tulip bulbs. I’ve said it before, but it’s still true: the end of one season is the start of another.