There are numerous reports of fall’s disappointment this year. Maybe the late oaks, Norway maples, and fruit trees have a surprise still in store, but up to now, due to unseasonable warmth and prolonged wetness, autumn’s typical blaze has been muted.
Yet last week when I looked down from an upper window on a rainy day, I was struck by a surprise offering broader life lessons.
First, when we think of fall foliage, we think of the wonders over our heads. But from my upper window, I was looking at the glory under my feet.
Second, I was looking at our shame: a repository of glory. When we moved into our home two years ago, we inherited a virtual arboretum of thoughtfully selected plants. But the landscape had labor-intensive maintenance requirements. Some necessary labor was neglected, so additional plants sprang up, creating a thicket. As a landscape maintenance professional, much of my property looks as glorious as the feet of the cobbler’s children, and is less suitable for showing our artisan expertise than for demonstrating biological succession. But it is in that untended soil where I discovered fall’s glory this year.
In a 30-by-30 area behind our house, there was the varied glory of the specimen plants. They ranged from the dark, glossy evergreen rhododendrons to the virtually florescent threadleaf Japanese maple. In between was a viburnum morphing into a deep burgundy. Yet there was also the light yellow green of the raspberry canes that have sprawled into every open space. The brilliant red berries also glowed on the uncultivated, climbing nightshade invader. And arching above the “heights” of the thicket were the cherry-colored branching stems of the pokeweed. The pokeweed’s deep crimson berries, though not very edible could be used as a dye to form the scarlet letter U over our garden, because pokeweed multiplies in untended gardens and vacant lots.
The point is that a different vantage point revealed stunning beauty generated by desirable and undesirable plants alike. And weedy volunteers that typically reveal shame instead revealed glory. Having learned this lesson, maybe in the future I will withhold judgment and take a second look.
Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified municipal specialist, Clarks Summit’s municipal arborist and an operator of an organic lawn and landscape maintenance business. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.