Skip to content

Goodbye, Garden?

October 25, 2017


Goodbye, Garden?


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



When my Leader Dog Willow and I went for a walk this evening, the temperature was 45 degrees; unlike other recent days, there were no high winds.  For tomorrow morning, Milwaukee has a frost advisory from one to eight o’clock.  Does this forecast mean I must say, “Goodbye, Garden”?  Oh, I hope not!


Each year, I do try to keep my container garden in good shape until the second week of November.  Once or twice, I still had beautiful geraniums on Thanksgiving–thanks to the unusual design of my front porch which faces east and south.  Despite the frosty predictions, my wish is to still have some thriving plants when my company arrives from three states, the week before Thanksgiving.  How I do hope that Mother Nature will cooperate with my garden goal!


To help Mother Nature, I managed to place in the cubby hole of my front porch one container of rosemary, three containers of geraniums, and one container of lavender (which I have had since early May).  On the tiny back deck of my townhouse, I placed my three containers of Gerbera daisies and two containers of geraniums.  Although the pink Gerbera has two fading blooms, the peach-colored Gerbera has two of the biggest and most beautiful blooms of the gardening season.  On the sidewalk and beneath the overhang, I arranged the two “basil trees” in a more protected corner.  Unfortunately, the expansive spearmint plant has to stay in a more exposed area; however, late tonight, I will try to cover this fragrant plant, whose leaves and branches have turned (I am told) an attractive autumn red.  To help hold down the covering over the spearmint, I will use my “Garden Peacock,” which is a cheery and colorful container that “grew” a silk rose when I had to transplant into another larger container the Gerbera which the Peacock first held.


Unlike last summer’s container garden, this year’s garden has had no mystery nor magic.  This year’s garden only brought Willow and me much joy, relaxation, exercise,  and peace.  Even though Willow is not with the “Messy Gardener” when I am planting, transplanting, nor watering–Willow is at my side when I tend my container garden in other ways.  Somehow, she learned to patiently move from one container to the next and always seems interested in her extra work as “assistant gardener.”


While I keep my fingers crossed and Willow keeps her paws crossed for no damaging frost tomorrow morning, you may want to read the following memoir that I revised and to which I added an update (after originally posting the essay on my blog on November 16, 2016).  Despite the blooms on this year’s yellow mum plant having faded with the heavy rains of weekend before last, you can read about my special mum plant of last year in the piece below.  Earlier this week, the following memoir, as well as two of my poems (one of which was noted as “honorable mention” in the poetry contest), were published in the fall/winter issue of the online literary magazine Magnets and Ladders which you can access for free at:


The Mystery and Magic of the Yellow Mum Plant


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Are you ready for a Thanksgiving mystery?  Are you ready for a little autumnal magic?  Like so many people who want to stretch the season of outdoor flowers, I, toward the end of each of the past several or more summers, have purchased chrysanthemum plants to add some cheery notes to this time of year when days are growing shorter.  I am partial to the yellow mums; and this year, I carried home from Metro Market the most beautiful mum plant that I have ever nourished.  As Goldilocks might describe the plant, it was not too large nor too small:  it was just right.  Unlike some mum plants of the past and my two basil plants of this season, my perfect yellow mum plant withstood all of the strong winds and never fell over.


This hearty chrysanthemum touched my heart in another way:  my Leader Dog Willow and I walked home with this plant purchase on August 24, 2016–the second-month anniversary of the day Willow, my little Black Labrador Retriever, came home to Milwaukee with me from Leader Dog School (Rochester, Michigan).  These beautiful yellow mums were our celebration plant.  During the next several weeks, Willow and I checked out the cheery budding blossoms each day as we passed the plant on our front porch while we began and/or ended a walk.


Then, two months later, on October 28, Friday of Halloween weekend, the perfect yellow mum disappeared!  On Saturday, the 29th of October, when I went to reach for the cheery and bright yellow blossoms, I felt only the extra plastic saucer (really a plastic bowl) in which the container had rested for eight weeks.  To my knowledge, there had been no wind during the previous night; nevertheless, I examined all areas of my porch, as well as the stairs and sidewalk area–just in case a gust of wind had somehow caught my favorite plant of the season and rolled it away.  No luck!  On one small table, my purple sage plant was sitting there alone while on the other side of the bench were the two varieties of pink geraniums and one of the basil trees; but the anniversary chrysanthemum plant was missing.


Since the disappearance occurred on Halloween weekend, I did hope that someone was enjoying the gorgeous plant and had not destroyed it.  Our unusually warm weather of autumn of 2016 had kept the blossoms in perfect shape for someone to admire.


Still missing the plant after more than a week, I mentioned the plant’s disappearance to one of the maintenance workers at my large apartment complex.  Although J.P. maintains the grounds of the complex, he said that he had not seen the mum, but would let me know if he did.


A few days later, on November 10, despite some wind, I decided that I had to clear my porch of most of the dry autumn leaves.  As usual, my plan was to sweep all the leaves off the porch, down the stairs, down the sidewalk, and off to the west lawn.  When the four stairs were heavily covered with crispy leaves, I detected with my broom a large object on the lower stair.  “What in the world is this?” I wondered as I probed the base of the object which I had unknowingly covered with leaves.  I knew that the object had not been there when Willow and I had recently come up the stairs.  Examining the object more thoroughly, I most happily realized that this leaf-covered object was my perfect yellow mum plant!


After I cleared away the leaves from this special plant, I was filled with gratitude to welcome home this still cheery yellow mum which, despite its absence of two weeks, was nearly in as good shape as when it disappeared.  Although we had no rain around that time, the plant really did not need water.  Someone had taken good care of my chrysanthemum.


I placed the container of the mum plant back on its little table; then, I moved the mum and purple sage into the cubbyhole area of my porch for safe keeping.  Eventually, I watered the mysterious mum which continued to thrive in those most unusually warm November days of 2016.


On the following Friday morning, I called the office of my apartment complex and asked the manager if J. P. had found my mum plant.  The answer was:  “I wish I could take credit for finding your mum plant, but I did not find it.”  Of course, I did not think that anyone who knew me had found the plant and returned it because no one I know would have placed the plant on the stair where I could have tripped over the plant’s container.  For a couple more weeks, Willow and I continued to enjoy the magical wonder of this perfect mum which was so dear to us–even though its mystery remains.


Through the thoughtfulness of my sister and two friends–my house guests, Willow, and I still enjoy this yellow mum plant.  During a September visit, my sister, who lives in Colorado, took a photo of Willow posed perfectly in front of the yellow mum plant; then, Mary shared the photo with others via e-mail.  Last January, when my friends Sue and John came into the city from their farm (about one hour from my home), they brought a special gift for me–a beautifully framed photo print of Willow with the mums looking as if they are a crown upon her head.  The special gift is displayed, beside my rocking chair, upon the end table as a memory piece of this true story.


During the November month of thanks, I am especially thankful for the return of my yellow “anniversary” mum and am thankful for my entire container garden which has brought me so much relaxation, peace, and happiness.  Also, as I think of my treasured dad–who had a cerebral hemorrhage on November 16,  1997 (twenty years ago), and who then lived only two additional weeks–I remember  and am ever thankful for his bountiful and beautiful gardens from which my family and I grew strength and nourishment, as well as respect and love of the land and gardening.  Still today, I appreciate and am thankful for my family’s tradition of good gardening through the generations.  From my grandparents’ gardens and grape arbors to my dad’s gardens, from my meager container gardens to my nephew’s bountiful garden this year–a good gardening tradition thrives without any mystery–with just the magic and wonder of nourishing plants and flowers.


Happy Halloween to all of our WORDWALK readers!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


October 25, 2017, Wednesday  (only two months until Christmas!)



From → Uncategorized

  1. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice–so enjoyed this post! All of us who love growing flowers and vegetables hate to see the season end. And it was fun to read again the “Mystery of the Mum” true story.–Sue

    • Sue–Thanks for your supportive comment.  Via e-mail today, I have enjoyed a fair amount of garden talk and some garden tips. All is well for one more day.  I am thinking I should acquire an evergreen in a container or plant some artificial poinsettias in about a month.

      Take care–Alice and Willow

  2. mfanyo permalink

    Dear Alice,
    How nice that your flower and herb gardens give you and Willow so much joy! Since I am one of your November guests, I will be thankful to see your lovely summer flowers still in bloom for my visit.
    Happy Halloween to you and Willow!
    Love, Mary

    • Mary–If the flowers are still in bloom when you arrive, have your camera ready so that I can have proof of their long-lasting nature.  In my post last night, I forgot to mention that these particular geraniums have had some of the largest blooms that have ever grown in my garden.

      Enjoy Halloween with your little students!  Alice and Willow

  3. Fran Rayce permalink

    Hi Alice,
    For sure it is a sad day when the frost ends the growing season. Fortunately I brought my rosemary and bay laurel in last night before they were threatened.
    You are clearly a better container gardener than I as my geraniums looked pretty miserable in early September and were quickly replaced with pansies. It’s so nice to share and hear gardening news.
    Love, Fran

    • Hi, Fran–So nice to hear from you!  Yes, this blog post certainly brought forth the happy gardeners.  I know, from my sister, that you had a beautiful flower garden this summer.  Your mentioning of your rosemary reminds me that almost everyone I knew in my early Blanford days had a bucket in which an abundance of rosemary grew; the bucket was about fourteen inches in diameter.

      Thanks for commenting and take care–Alice

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: