After our splendid summer, we gardeners might have expected a red and gold September and a crisp, sunny October, perfect weather for planting tulip and daffodil bulbs and putting our gardens to bed for the winter.

Instead, the Garden Goddess did a fast tap dance through Indian summer and then switched up her steps, with freezing nights, cold-blooded sunlight, a surprise snowfall and bitter winds — all this before Halloween. So before I headed out for a recent day’s gardening, I checked the sky, considered the chill factor, and decided to wear flannel-lined jeans, which hadn’t seen daylight in several years, a turtleneck, flannel shirt and fleece vest.

Alone in the garden, I felt a familiar satisfaction when I noticed streaks of dirt on the knees of my jeans. I think of grubby gardening pants and worn-through fingertips on work gloves as merit badges for gardeners. I knelt at the curving edge of the flower bed, fluffing up soil in the shallow troughs that I’d already dug for the bulbs. Then I hit a boulder, a large, dark mound lying in the middle of a nearby bed. I nudged the big rock, and a fluffy tail appeared from one end, as Benjamin BadKitten left the trough and plopped onto my lap.

I petted my chief garden staffer and praised him for his uncharacteristic appearance at the office — on time, even. He settled himself at my side and began his ritual warm-up exercise: sending ESP messages to the birds perched overhead at the feeders in the apple tree. I disrupted his concentration, though, when I reminded him that we had several hours of work ahead before he could clock off for his tuna break. He stalked away and didn’t show up for the rest of the day.

The tulips and daffodils I’d ordered months ago for fall delivery apparently had taken the scenic route to Idaho. I recognized the irony in the delay, because this was the first fall planting season in nine years when I was actually ready to roll. All I needed were the bulbs. Until I planted them, I couldn’t scatter poppy seeds on top, barely cover them with a sprinkle of soil, and then leave them to happily under our winter snow. This planting method virtually promises a meadow of poppies blooming in paintbox colors next summer, and I believe it will be a brilliant success. The Garden Goddess loves poppies, and she is never one for pulling pranks, is she?

The day gradually grew colder, and the breeze I’d barely noticed earlier had become a rowdy wind. As the light dimmed, my muscles and joints started whining about retiring to a warm room with a mug of hot tea. But I hung tough, because all I needed was one more hour to finish prepping the area where most of the bulb beds lay. When I finally went inside, my fingers were numb, and I found rough, red patches on my cheeks. I realized too late that I should have followed my chief garden staffer into the house hours ago. At least BBK was smart enough to come out of the cold before his tail chapped.


Sydney Craft Rozen hopes the tulip and daffodil bulbs arrive before her garden soil turns into an ice block. Email her at scraftroze@aol.com

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