Thursday, November 3, 2011

Late Arrivals

or The Last Hurrah

When the hummingbirds leave around the first of October, the party goes kind of flat.  Your favorite guests have gone—not that you don't care for the others, too, of course.  But the goldfinches, housefinches, sparrows, and mourning doves are the mixed nuts of the party, while the hummingbirds are the champagne.  You can count on them to add zest and a touch of magic to anything they do.  And with their explosive tempers, you never know when sparks will fly, or when a high-speed chase will ensue.  You wouldn't enjoy the party nearly as much without the other birds, but when the hummingbirds leave, they take a lot of the fizz with them.

When the sandhill cranes return near the end of the month, then, they are doubly welcome.  You hear their creaky purr sounding long before you see them, and when you first catch sight of them gliding down the Rio Grande valley,  the sun glinting off their silvery, upturned wings against an azure sky... Oh, they do know how to make an entrance.  Late arrivals though they are, they breathe new, dramatic life back into the party.  They bring a new character to it, too, a touch of elegance and dignity.

The cranes arrive about when the first of the fall-blooming crocuses opens.  In the garden, 'Wild Thing' autumn sage (Salvia greggii) may still be partying hard—if anything, blooming even more raucously than usual—but everything else is getting sleepy and quiet.  The agastache is winding down, the gaura looking tired, the West Texas grass sage ready to call it a day.  When the crocuses suddenly appear from nowhere, you welcome them with delight.  They bring a bright presence with them as they sound the last hurrah of the growing season.

Over by the patio, 'Wild Thing' is getting to the "wearing a lampshade and dancing on the table" stage—although really, it arrived in that condition and has kept up the rumpus ever since.  When the crocuses call you away from the action, inviting you over to their corner for some intense conversation, you're happy to go.  You appreciate 'Wild Thing,' you really do.  Its high-spirited loudness gives it a special place in your heart.  It's been blooming enthusiastically since April and is just as ready to spread a good time around now.  It will even still be cheerful tomorrow morning, with no (apparent) regrets. 

The crocuses, though—they'll be gone before you know it.  (Actually, last year one crocus or another bloomed through to December.  But each particular crocus is only around for a short while.)  For all their glowing color, they are fragile, ephemeral.  They remind you to make the most of every shining moment, and to enjoy their company while you can.

But don't get despondent about the passing of autumn or the fleeting nature of time or anything.

'Wild Thing' will still be partying hard tomorrow.


  1. I've never seen crocus pollen up close. The light, the detail... wow, as usual. (Do you get bored with compliments on your photography? I hope not. Because I don't get bored with the beauty. Carry on, please.)

    I will think of your lampshade-wearing, table-dancing, hard-partying sage with a smile.

  2. You make the humble crocus become a celebrity! Unbelievable photography.

  3. I think the association between my constant birdfeeder circus of English sparrows and "mixed nuts" will be lasting now!

    I always enjoy the lovely way you write about your garden and its inhabitants... you've recreated the smells, sights, sounds of your space in words and pictures here - I feel as though I know what it's like within those walls.

  4. How wonderful to have these flowers stick around and have garden visitors later in the season. We are about done. The warm days and cold nights are still stirring a few blooms, but the birds have flown and the daily visitors remain. The Word for Wednesday meme at Garden Walk, Garden Talk was ephemeral. You should link is still open. They would love this post. BTW my fall crocuses are still hanging in there little by little...

  5. Stacy - Sorry to sound mercenary after such a lovely post ... but maybe you could put Wild Thing to good use and sell Microcosm Sage Satchets ... just in time for Christmas.

  6. I have always loved crocus - but yours is a prima donna taking a bow. To well deserved applause!!!

  7. I love those sweet little crocus. But they are so short-lived, I much prefer the partying kind of plant that sticks around way past closing time! Have to say - your crocus photos are stunning!

  8. I've run out of superlatives when it comes to your photos of a crocus. It is exquisite, Stacy.
    The birds in your part of the world sound very exotic and are different to here but the migration behaviour is mirrored. Cranes flying in must be a wonderful sight.

  9. Your crocuses look lovely, as does your salvia. Now wishing I had planted some for fall. Alas.

  10. Obviously, my lampshade wearing, tabletop Can-Can has been talked about. My Dear Mum-in-Law hauled herself up tipsily onto a table at her 60th, ripped off her blouse and twirled it round her head, shouting "I'm going to grow old disgracefully!" Mortified the following morning, of course. Beautiful shots, Stacy. That top macro shot especially.

  11. Kathy, I wouldn't say bored, no. :) I'm just so glad you enjoy the photos, though I think the crocuses really deserve the credit. The fall ones are so striking—several inches taller than the spring-blooming ones, too, so they really catch the sunlight beautifully.

    Elaine and Karen, thank you!

    Zoe, the birdfeeder flocks are so Keystone Kops-y! I wouldn't be surprised to see a dozen of them getting out of a clown car some day. It's such a pleasure to be able to share the garden—I'm really happy that you enjoy it. Thank you.

    Donna, your crocuses have put on quite a long show for you by now—good for them! The autumn sage keeps blooming until nighttime temperatures drop below 20° or so, which in good years doesn't happen until about Christmas. Now that I live here I'm always wishing color and cheerfulness on friends in the northeast—some of the S. greggii cultivars (including 'Wild Thing'!) do fine in wetter climates, and they should be hardy where you are... Just a thought... Thanks for the suggestion about GWGT's Word for Wednesday meme. If I can get my brain organized, I'll head over there. I always enjoy the posts Donna's words set in motion.

    b-a-g, I could market Wild Thing sachets in all honesty as a cure for Seasonal Affective Disorder, that's for sure. The flowers aren't fragrant, but with some creeping germander leaves and in a transparent fabric so the color shines through...hmm. If you see a shameless advertising campaign begin on these pages soon, you'll know why.

  12. Diana, these fall-bloomers are wonderfully deep-colored and about twice the size of spring crocuses—they really are prima donnas! On behalf of this particular crocus (which is still busy playing to the crowd) I thank you.

    Holley, I had a sudden, eye-watering vision of 'Wild Thing' hanging out with your 'Knockout' roses. Yow. That's the kind of party the cops get called to.

    Janet, the cranes are some of my favorites. They over-winter by the thousands about 75 miles south of here along the Rio Grande, and there's a nature preserve in town that's a stop-over spot for them, so they go past in dribs and drabs for a good month or so. I've been surprised in some of your last posts to see how many different birds over-winter where you are—your latitude is so far north that I assumed they'd all be heading away. Your gannets look pretty exotic from here!

    GirlSprout, last year I rushed out to High Country Gardens and took (well, bought, of course) their last few crocuses from a grab bag bin in November and planted them around now-ish, and they bloomed in December. Maybe still worth a try?

    Dave, I wouldn't want to wake up with that particular memory myself, but I'm totally cheering your mum-in-law on from here. What a great attitude! And I knew Wild Thing couldn't have learned that dance on its own. Will you please stop leading these poor plants down the primrose path?

  13. Stacy, Those crocus photos, especially the top one, are amazing. They made my heart sing. -Jean