Each must be the last

Bloom-again azaleas don’t flower as profusely in the spring, but the payoff comes
in summer and fall when they return with more to show. Farewell flowers, October, 2018

“Each golden day was cherished to the full, for one had the feeling that each must be the last. Tomorrow it would be winter.” Elizabeth Enright

A great many of us have experienced an unusually warm autumn so far, though it seems the cold weather is creeping in. Eager for cooler temperatures, having had our fill of too-warm afternoons and turbulent weather, we feel a wistful longing for golden fall days that strike the perfect balance between summer and winter.

The three-season azaleas are blooming one last time before winter.

In Virginia, our trees are barely beginning to turn, and I’m hoping we will have at least a few weeks to enjoy foliage before the leaves fall. But I’ve enjoyed the lingering blooms of this warm October. At our York home the remnants of summer colors are overlapping with the beginning of the camellia flowers.

An early camellia bloom joins in the fall festival. Can you tell I like pink?

The crape myrtles are starting to fade, but the flowers are hanging on.

Same goes for the Walker’s Cat Mint, a hardy plant if ever there was one.

Early this year, in a rare burst of optimism, I decided to plant a blackberry bush in our back yard near the deck. The young K-Mart clerk who talked me into buying the inexpensive plant assured me that it would not be hard to grow. Her enthusiasm when describing her own blackberry plants was contagious, and I decided to take a chance, though I was already preparing for disappointment by telling myself that my own little blackberry bush was unlikely to do very well with only the sporadic care I would be able to give it.

But the K-Mart clerk was right; the plant did beautifully. I’ve even been able to eat a few berries from it. Here is one that I picked most recently, big and ripe and delicious as only a home-grown fruit can be. Now I will try to nurture the plant (which has grown almost as tall as I am) through the coming winter.

Believe me, it was YUMMY!

Are there traces of summer still lingering in the region you call home? Or, if you live south of the equator, has spring broken through the chill yet? Seasons bless us with the repeated reminder that life is fragile and subject to change. With the cycles of nature, our eyes are opened anew to the sobering truth that we almost never know when we are experiencing the last of anything precious– or at least a temporary parting from what we’ve grown to take for granted. Whatever this day brings you, cherish it to the full. For better or worse, it will soon be gone.


  1. Carolyn

    The flowers that are still alive are pretty, but after last night I’m sure they will not make it. We had a frost and a 34 temp. I’m ready for a change but not the real cold westher . Right now it is to cool for the porch. I need to bunble up and have lots of hot tea. Take care sweet friend and you will hear from me soon. Hugs and love to you and Matt.

    • Hello my friend, how nice to visit with you over tea this morning. Yes, it’s certainly chilly here too. I hope we don’t go straight to really cold weather. I moved several plants inside last night, and probably should have moved all of them. Hope you have a wonderful week coming up! Matt and I are sending our love and hugs right back to you. ❤

  2. Ann

    My tea olives are blooming but nothing else.

    • Ann, I need to go check on my straggly tea olive (at the very back of our York lot, near the creek). Jeff and I planted two of them over a decade ago. One eventually died but the other is hanging on. Wish I could send you some of my azaleas and camellias, and you could send me some of your tea olives! 🙂

  3. Sheila

    Good Monday afternoon, Julia and Matt. 🍁 Gone too soon applies to so many changes that we encounter. Summer seemed long but was hoping it would make way for a long Fall but not sure that will happen. Your post makes me think of Walter 🐥 and remembering his often “too loud and too early squawking” would now be welcomed as sweet musical notes! Thank you for sharing my fondness! 💛 Hugs, Sheila

    • Sheila, I too am unsure whether we’ll have that golden autumn I so need and appreciate. Yesterday was a hopeful sign here — sunny and cool but not cold. I can imagine how you must miss Walter. Gone too soon indeed. Thanks for being here and sharing life’s ups and downs with us!

  4. Dorothy

    Hullo Julia. Long time since I wrote. After a long dry winter and the garden looking depressing we had rain a week or so ago and suddenly the garden came alive. NSW was declared in drought a month or so ago and some areas still are. Farmers were desperate as they had to hand feed stock and many cattle and sheep didn’t survive. The farms were just dust bowls.Some areas received very good falls but follow up rain is needed. I love the three season azaleas, but haven’t seen them here. Some of my azaleas didn’t flower whilst others did. Same with camellias, although sasanquas flowered well. Today I’m going to pick the first rose blooms. The garden is a real joy as you know. My younger daughter is in Germany where the weather is getting colder whilst my son is in India and the opposite. In December both these families are coming to stay across Christmas. It will be the first time I get to cuddle the newest addition to our family, Aria Rose, born in July in Stuttgart, a sister for Dexter who turned 6 in July. I hope you and Matt get to spend Christmas with your family.
    Always read your blog, thank you for being so inspiring. Love to you and Matt from “down under”.

    • Hi Dorothy, I am always delighted to hear from you! It’s refreshing to hear of your springtime “down under” and whenever the seasons change, I remind myself that you and Pauline and several others are enjoying the opposite weather as we have here. I’m sad to learn of the farmers’ troubles. It’s hard enough to watch a struggling plant die, but I imagine it would be worse, emotionally and financially, with sheep and cattle. We take so much for granted when we wear our warm woolen clothing and enjoy our milk and cheese (and hamburgers, for those who eat them). I think farming would be a very difficult life but I am thankful for those who continue their small family farms.

      I had never heard of sasanquas but after reading your comment, I looked them up online and I believe that must be what over half of my camellia plants are, including those that line the back fence. They are hardy indeed and do flower profusely. I have to prune them a good bit. The larger ones are at least ten feet tall and I love the glossy leaves. How wonderful that you have roses blooming now. Mine are fading fast but still putting forth enough blooms to make me want to hold off on the pruning for a few more weeks.

      With a daughter in Germany and a son in India, you have quite the global family. Now all you need is a relative in the USA! I volunteer! 😀 I am very excited for you that your children and grandchildren are coming for Christmas. What a perfect gift to be able to hold your newborn granddaughter! Drew has told me that they plan to spend Christmas with us this year, so we are looking forward to that. Thanks so much for being with us here. I hope that this finds you enjoying glorious springtime weather!

  5. Good morning, Julia!
    I somehow missed this summer. I don’t remember when it started, but I’m pretty sure it was gone by Monday, when I left the house in my jean jacket and realized that I wanted a scarf, hat, and mittens! It wasn’t the first time this season, but this coldness seemed more confident and unlikely to be dissuaded by the rising sun and bustle of the day.
    So, onward to another season! A season to cozy up to my electric fireplace and read … perhaps to read of other seasons!

    • Susan, I agree that this summer went missing someplace. Cozying up to the electric fireplace sounds like just the ticket. But weren’t you going to Mallorca? or somewhere in Asia? I felt sure that you had sent me a message about a recent adventure– to southeast Asia?– that came up at the last minute, but when I went hunting for it, the message about it seemed to have disappeared…did I dream it? If not, please re-send it! Meanwhile, whether you’re in Minnesota or off across the globe somewhere, I wish you lovely autumn days with at least a few scarf-hat-and-mitten-free afternoons.

      • Dear Julia, yes, I saw amazing new things this year, which more than compensates for the splendors that I more regularly enjoy each season. I will certainly send some photos!

        • Susan, I’m glad you had a great time! I’m assuming you have made it home safely. Please fill me in when you have time.

  6. Hi Julia, I’m so glad you’re little plant is bearing fruit. There is nothing quite like it. I had a disappointing garden year. The tomatoes barely produced and the cantaloupe suffered from late-nite snackers. I have a few, albeit small, pumpkins, but that’s been it. The natives are doing well though, and they continue to attract the hummingbirds. They were covered in bees this summer too.

    • Alys, I’m so sorry that your garden year was less than optimal, but I’m sure your work has been bearing fruit in other ways. Don’t you just love it when the birds and bees enjoy your home environment? They make such lovely visitors, busy and focused and inspiring. I think of you as an October gal and I know this is a time of year when you bloom. ❤

      • That’s lovely of you to say, Julia. It is my time of year in so many ways, not the least of which is to have the weather finally cooling down. My volunteer work is keeping me quite busy, but we’ve still down some small decorating and attended a Halloween party over the weekend. Now it’s on to the election (we’re a polling place again) and then the Lifted Spirits open house two days later. xo

        • Alys, at the college where Jeff and I met, there was a beloved vice-president whose motto used to be “BUSY AND HAPPY!” (which he always said in his big booming voice). He was especially fond of trotting that exhortation out during final exam week. Over the years when things got too hectic for our liking, Jeff and I would often repeat that phrase to each other, complete with imitation booming voice and all. That phrase came to my mind when I read your comment. Bless you for blessing others with your industry and inspiration! ❤

  7. Well now, you do like pink, ha! Me too! I’m in total awe of those Azalea’s! Another lovely plant that doesn’t grow here.
    By October 22nd, our tree’s are totally naked. We had the coldest September on record and it snowed 3 times. The weather stations here called it Snowtember. It was banana’s. Since then, the weathers been up and down. Who know’s what to expect these days. Tomorrow, it’s forecast to be 9 C or 48 F. A very unusual but nice November day for us. I’ll be at work but it’s still nice not to drive on snowy roads yet. xK

    • K, during all the years we lived out west or even in the Pacific, the one thing I never quit missing was the azaleas. There is nothing quite like them. Until we moved back I used to wonder whether I had imagined how lovely they were, but when we got to Virginia, that first spring I knew that my memories were actually not as grand as the reality. Having said that, I miss the Bougainvillea of California, the way it would grow wild and bloom profusely everywhere, and the way the roses and gardenias and begonias would bloom almost year round and never freeze, and our neighbor’s fruit trees, and having fresh lemons to go out and pick anytime we wanted. So it’s all a trade-off, I guess. WOW, naked trees so soon and snow in September! BRRR!! They are predicting “winter mix” here tomorrow morning but luckily I don’t have to get out in it. Hope you can manage to avoid driving in the snow for awhile longer.

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