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Possumhaw: Tucking it all in


Shannon Bardwell



Nighttime temperatures dropped into the 30s and the first day of frost is precariously close. As much as I love fall and hate to see the plants leave the porch, it's time they make their annual move to the greenhouse. Backing up the Gator, I loaded the Boston Ferns, the airplane plants (rooted from Nick Hairston's mother's plant and now propagated into a dozen more), a pepper plant with three lemon-size green peppers, the cactus from Sylvia, the bromeliad from "Sister," as well as the parsley, rosemary, salvia, chives, ornamental sweet potatoes and the palms, the blue daze, the peace plants and the bougainvillea. Inside they go. Inside the greenhouse the tomato plants are already massive, reaching to the tippy top of the vaulted ceiling. They look like Jack's beanstalk. Sam wishes they would grow more tomatoes and less stalk. I could prune them but it hurts to cut them. The incessant whitefly problem seems to be under control with Triple Action Plus II containing pyrethrins. It is distressing using chemicals but otherwise the plant will be sucked dry. Karen and Vinny Harris had the same whitefly problem. Karen said, "They were so thick you could suck them right up your nose." The Harrises have since devised new methods to dissuade the whiteflies and hope to have ripe tomatoes in February. At the house I grabbed Momma's shovel, the one with the broken handle duct-taped together. The shovel is sentimental. Well, I'm sentimental about the shovel; the shovel isn't sentimental at all. I dug up three blooming begonias, also from Nick. I like saying "be-gon-ia." It's a beautiful sounding word that rolls off your tongue, like "lobelia." Sam says it sounds like a childhood disease. The begonias went into the raised beds inside the greenhouse. I dug up the Mexican heather. After two or three years of moving it from place to place, I finally found a spot that it loved and thrived in. This summer it grew about 10 times its original size. I planted it next to the begonias. I almost forgot the amaryllis. All the plants are bedded down for the winter, waiting until spring when they all go out again. The hummingbird feeders ... we haven't had any hummers in a few weeks. At the suggestion of Dianne Patterson, bird, butterfly and plant enthusiast, I took down all but one feeder. I will leave it up in case a straggler shows up. Dianne said that a light bulb will keep the nectar from freezing. I hung the feeder near an outside light. If the straggler shows up I'm to notify the hummer society and they will tag the bird, most probably a western hummingbird, Dianne said. The wood is cut and stacked, the water facets wrapped, a light bulb warms the well house, closets house sweaters and woolens, blankets are pulled out, boots sit by the door. The plants, the homestead, the cat and Sam and I are all tucked in.


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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