Early Fall

saturated (6)The beginning of the fall season is a beginning to treasure.  All of the hard work growing from the spring through the summer of  comes to fruition. Literally. The tomatoes ripen. The farmers market is bursting with racks of brussel sprouts, giant rosettes of cabbage, and fresh and fragrant onions. Home vegetable gardens yields such that there is plenty for  neighbors and friends. The spring planted perennials have put on a lot of weight. The trees planted in the spring seem to have weathered the transplant shock, and look happier – more settled and comfortable. The memory of insults dealt to the landscape and garden from the hard winter past fade. No need now to remember them.   The beginning of fall can be the last chapter of a very good short story, or the last quarter mile of a long and exhausting run. Or both. There is a good amount of time before the fall sinks and sets in, to enjoy the fruits.

saturated (11)Fall is a favorite season for Rob.  He endures the heat of the summer.  Every plant gets watered as it should.  He good naturedly tolerates the glare.  Once the season begins to shift to fall, he is energized.  He is back and forth across every square inch of the shop, making changes appropriate to the season. Materials he has ordered for the fall season at the shop months ago arrive every day. Much to my delight, he tracks back and forth across a 100 mile radius from the shop, selecting pumpkins and gourds for his fall collection.

saturated (8)There are those gardeners who collect day lilies, or hostas.  Or perhaps they focus on wild flowers, or native plants.  Some love all manner of hardy ornamental grasses.  Some nurture their collection of African violets, or Japanese maples.  There are the rosarians, who keep the interest in great garden roses alive. When I had five acres of land, I lined out peonies in rows, like crops. The alpine plants, the lilies, the dahlias-every plant has a coterie of aficionados. The fans of gourds and the pumpkins are many. Illinois is the nation’s largest producer of pumpkins-over 12,000 acres of crop land are devoted to growing them. Though dwarfed by the Illinois production, Michigan is still the second largest producer of pumpkins and gourds. Though many carve the traditional orange pumpkin for Halloween, or use the pulp for pies, there are those who appreciate the sculptural shapes and colors.

saturated (12)About that color. My favorite part of the fall is how the low light saturates the color of everything it touches.  In summer, the sun high in the sky interrogates everything it touches. Sunny summer days are bright, and shadowless. The slanted and softer fall light brings saturated color back into the landscape. I suspect that Rob’s enchantment with the pumpkins and gourds is as much about color as the forms, textures and shapes. Fall color is term every gardener is familiar with. The leaves turning means a landscape ablaze in yellow, orange, red and purple.  An overcast summer day in a garden means any color will more intense. Never is any color in the garden more intensely representing than in the fall. The light from the sun highlights every plant from the side.  The fall garden appears as though it were on fire.

saturated (14)Every pumpkin or gourd that Rob chooses for his collection at the store has a story about color, texture, and shape behind it.  He will not buy any fall fruit that cannot stand up on its own.  He treasures the stem every bit as much as the fruit. He is as great with subtle fall color as he is with those those colors that blaze away. He probably has other criteria I am not aware of. Rob curates his collection. Every pumpkin and gourd could stand alone, and look great.  A grouping is a pleasure to be enjoyed throughout the fall.

saturated (19)The low fall light reveals texture in a spectacular way. This week was my first look at peanut pumpkins.

saturated (13)Equally astonishing is Rob’s collection of long stemmed pumpkins. He knows a grower who has been hybridizing pumpkins for 55 years. A long stem was a trait he sought. This was a friendship that has taken years to establish. Rob will visit him multiple times in late September.

saturated (22) I am so enjoying this warm late September sun.

aaaat the shop

pastel pumpkinspastel pumpkins


saturated (10)red, white, and wood

saturated (18)a saturated experience of orange

saturated (16)contrast

saturated (2)so orange, and so green.

saturated (3)red and white

pumpkins and gourdspumpkins and gourds

saturated (15)fall light

saturated (7)Last, but certainly not least, those big stems that come with pumpkins attached.

The Pumpkin Patch

in-the-patch.jpgThe pictures from Rob’s trip to the pumpkin patch are eloquent in their description of the change of the season.  The pumpkins and squash are brilliant in their mature coloration.  The fruits of the harvest are juicy and robust.

in-the-patch.jpgAt the same time that the pumpkins are coming into their glory, the vines that nourished them are fading and blackening from cold.  At the time of the harvest, the vines have completed their life span.

Rob says this annual trip to cut pumpkins is one of his favorite moments in the gardening year.  As usual, he chooses materials for the shop that reflect his point of view about what is beautiful.  There’s not much more to say, other than the fact that his photographs tell a story I never tire of hearing.

pumpkin-patch.jpgpumpkins in the patch

pumpkin-patch.jpgmature pumpkins

white-squash.jpgwhite squash

vine.jpgpumpkin vines

orange-and-brown.jpgthe farm

single-pumpkin.jpgpumpkin and stem

patch-2.jpgthe harvest

patch-4.jpggreen squash

the-harvest.jpgpumpkin patch

home-patch.jpghand picked for Detroit Garden Works



Earthbound Farms

Rob took 5 days off last week to take a little holiday in California.  Every holiday for him is at least partly a busman’s holiday. A busman’s holiday?  This refers to people who do much the same sort of thing on their vacation that they do at work.  The reference speaks particularly to a bus driver who takes a driving holiday-as opposed to a stay put on the beach holiday, or a cruise holiday, or a skiing holiday.  Rob on vacation-he is gardening.  He does a great job of putting his eye to the gardening news, no matter where he is.  

So I get a look via his photographs of the fruit stand owned and operated by Earthbound Farms.  The same day I am writing about how a long twisted stem is an element that could make a pumpkin spooky, he is checking out the fall harvest of California grown pumpkins and gourds that have long beautifully twisted stems.  He tells me given his visit to California,  that fall pumpkins are beautifully defined by what is preserved of their vines and stems.       

Via Wikipedia, I learn that Earthbound Farms is the largest grower of organic produce in the United States.  150 farmers cultivate some 30,000 acres of land.  The well known writer Michael Pollan refers to Earthbound Farms as ” a company that arguably represents industrial scale organic gardening at its best.”  No wonder Rob was interested in their side of the road fruit stand.  He saw varieties of pumpkins with which he was unfamiliar.   

He was very keen about the arrangement of the stand.  Pumpkins of different varieties were heaped high by variety on the ground.  As much as I love an ordinary pumpkin representing orange in October, I am interested in all of those other less common varieties.  Like any other gardener, I willing to experience variation.  Whether I am looking at plants or produce, I like the opportunity to know a name or origin.  The best of all-a plant, an idea, a design, an arrangement, a move, and a story that goes with.    

I have seen the pumpkin Jarradale before-I just never knew its name.  The story of this pumpkin variety I need to absorb.  I will confess that I am surprised that Rob found pumpkins for sale in California.  This surprise represents an illiteracy of a regional sort.  How could fall pumpkins ripen in such a climate?  I know-what an ignorant idea.  I must have believed that the fall harvest is specific to the midwest.  OK, I need to attend a fall 101 course in the fruits of the harvest.  My photo visit to Earthbound Farms courtesy of Rob-eye opening. 

I loved the crate and iron chairs with grass cushions-what an inspired gesture. 

The left long stems on these pie pumpkins were perfect to hook over a wire spanning the length of the fascia board of the fruit stand building.  The same pumpkins line the railing.  The display would have encouraged me to take everything home that I could. 

I find it very interesting that every farm, nursery, or stand at market I frequent features gourds distinctively all their own.  Each grower decides what seed to buy; every result is different.  This is one of the simple pleasures of being a gardener. The element of surprise, mixed with a big dose of individuality.  The need to imagine, choose, grow, and shop-and work like crazy, yes.  This describes farmers and gardeners alike.   

Should you garden near me,  the fruit stand of Earthbound Farms is not available for a quick visit.  No harm here-we have plenty of local growers who do a great job.  I make it my business to patronize them, as I want them to be successful.  The efforts of our farming community are never so clear than they are at this time of year.  Whether you live in Michigan, California, New York, or Louisiana-it is harvest time.  My advice?  Load up, locally, whatever you can.