October in my garden feels wildly out of sync. Fragrant white ginger, a late summer mainstay, is flowering for the first time right under the bright red Christmas camellia, which – as its name implies – is two months too early. It’s a pretty combination, but it shouldn’t be there.
Nearby, narcissus have jumped the calendar by two seasons, delivering their spring blooms in mid-autumn instead of March. Japanese maples, usually in full fall splendor by now, show just a hint of red and orange. Meanwhile, most of my roses have already started shutting down, ready for a deep December sleep.
In the spirit of the season, I’ll blame it on Halloween; my garden must be bewitched.
Same thing with the vegetable garden. Dead-looking tomato vines have come back to life, pushing out new flowers and little green fruit. Do those tiny toms have enough warm days to ripen before Christmas? Probably not. But for now, they’re buying time for their zombie mother plants before they get pulled.
My biggest fall surprise? October yielded a bounty of beautiful peppers. Padrón, jalapeño, Anaheim and cayenne plants all produced a second harvest, long after their peak in August. Some of these pepper plants look strong enough to survive the winter and perhaps get a jump start on spring. After all, peppers are perennials – in the subtropics. (In Sacramento, they’re treated as annuals because they can’t withstand freezing overnight temperatures.)
Gardeners are used to the occasional oddity. Spikes in temperature can fool bulbs. Warm weather keeps leaves green longer. Who doesn’t cherish late-season tomatoes?
But all these observations together do trigger some concerns. Is this a one-season anomaly or a sign of long-term adjustments? Should I get used to summer ginger on Halloween?
For now, I’m keeping track, making little notations on calendars about what bloomed when as well as how much was harvested from fruit trees or the vegetable patch. It helps form a bigger picture of what’s happening in my garden.
Some things have “off” years or bear alternate crops. For example, my pomegranate produced more than a hundred last fall. This year, not one. Coming off a huge 2015 crop, the persimmon tree looks spotty instead of overwhelming.
Warm fall weather has other impacts, too. Definitely on the tart side this year, my Granny Smith apples ripened too early and had to be picked before they got any autumn chill, which helps sweeten the fruit. I wonder if my oranges will get their “kiss of cold.” (It makes for much better juice.)
After so much drought, I’m thankful for October’s rain. I can see how it’s recharged the landscape and kept things green – including those Japanese maples.
Instead of shutting down on schedule, nature seems to be making the most of these prolonged warm days by pushing out new growth and flowers. It’s like an extra splash of summer.
I might as well enjoy it by spending more time outdoors. That’s how a bewitched garden keeps you under its spell.