Putting the garden to bed is the major activity of the late-autumn garden calendar. Or was. At one time it was the most demanding, the most scrupulous and sensuous of moments. Think parti-colored leaves raked into great conical Egyptian piles of most fragrant odors, set to fire under blest November skies. All the clipping-down and raking, tidying the great strewn wig of growth to coherent plots, borders, edges neat of weeds, the party definitely over, the table swept, chairs just so, readied for another event but one far in the future.
Out here, the month of October offers two gifts, the one dubious, the other problematic. Around the 23rd of the month we may expect the first killing frost, the black one, 32 degrees and lower, for several hours, enough for crystals of ice to form and rupture the tender cells of stalk and leafage, to melt the morning following, bringing an unattractive dose of the stricken and dead. On days that follow, if the weather be benignly warm (70, please), we may enter the true, the only, the marvelous time of Indian summer.