One of the most haunting moments in the movie, Patton, is the ending. George C. Scott walks across an empty moor, after dinner with one of his generals who has now surpassed him in rank, alone into the distance.
We hear in the gravel of his famous rasp, “And a slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”
I hear that line quiet but deliberate, behind the buzz of cicadas, among the piping of cardinals and chickadees, against a distant dog’s bark, ahead of the tones of windchimes, and amid the rustling of leaves in the breeze. We are walking through the garden in September.
The garden at this time of year wears its golden crown and its laurel, the culmination of its season of glory. It bears new life in replacements and late bloomers. But its days are shorter and its color, like that of the tested warrior, is fading away. All glory is fleeting.
This slave’s interest in garden toil lessens as the summer grows high, and devolves into total avoidance during the month of August. Dry conditions and lack of attention can sometimes have unintended results. My window boxes are now fried. Fortunately, my dirt denizens are hanging in there. Not too much longer, my pretties! Their color is awash with musky tone; they’re not quite spent. It is easy to see what once was; the garden’s beauty is now found with an ending as its frame.
Bees are busier than ever, squirrels and chipmunks are actively stashing their hoards for the colder days ahead. They are the culprits who’ve carried rogue scouts afar. Ornamental gourd vines are wending their way through my shrubbery, and volunteer tomatoes like these show up in and amongst my flowers.
I like these accidental combinations, like this one of spent spirea and spiky leaves. It’s as if it’s an answer to what my Dad always promised: “Now we wait and see what God gives us.” God has given us a change of palette in the September garden, reminding us that all glory is fleeting.
Back in springtime, the garden was full of fresh recruits, pink of face and clear pastel. Mid-campaign gave rise to patriotic reds and royal purples. Now we are marching resolutely, just as Patton’s soldiers and ancient warriors alike did to battle, toward Autumn and beyond. The colors show this by taking on gradations and ombres. They mute summer’s clarion call, moving to memory.
I’ve decided zinnias will be my workhorses, my cavalry. They’re so reliable. They’re forever coming to my rescue. Like the daylilies I love so much, they soldier on in hardy, but now faded, raiment. The battalions I mustered early in the year have filled in nicely. Their height and depth undulate to fill their spacing in static movement. Even as they wane, they are glorious.
I love how these have mimicked the dusty, ashy tone of the sedum behind them. The colors give out a sense of the past. The sedum arrives to shelter its forebears who have stood their ground. All glory is fleeting.
My favored Eastern redbud has seed pods dangling from the branches that were etched in purple florets in the spring. Its leaves are enormous now by comparison. This yearling has been tested, no longer the barren stick it was when purchased last year. It proudly stands sentinel over a rose with one more bloom, and spent monarda.
Pete’s got guerilla pumpkins hiding under leaves the size of elephant’s ears. The vines have marched and taken over the vegetable garden’s back fence, too. I remember that Hannibal the Conqueror rode at the head of his legions on an elephant. We’ll be harvesting soon, ourselves, and Pete can finally declare victory over the critters who feast inside his fence. I’m already thinking about pie.
Daisy likes to sniff the breezes and bask in the sunlight. The little path through the dancing hosta blooms is just her size. Cool nights must be signaling to her as well to get the most out of these waning summer days. She’s old now and can’t see much, but, as Pete reminded me, that doesn’t stop her from wandering about and surveying her realm with her remaining senses. All glory is fleeting.
I am intrigued, and my eyes are soothed, by textures and layers of green in the foliage from the herbs as they crowd the other plantings. These sage plants provide a blue-ish respite from the more yellow and orange tones. They’ve grown into the daylilies and spirea. Their flavor and aroma was better when they were younger. All glory is fleeting.
I’m thinking of brisk nights and sweatshirts when we enjoy the first Autumn bonfire in the firepit Pete made. He made the chairs and tables, too. Laughter and a baby’s cry carry along the breeze from blocks away. It is dusk. The night comes earlier now to the song of insects. I’ll hold a steaming mug and gaze into the dancing flames until they turn to embers.
We toil against and conquer each season’s tribulations. Too dry, too wet, too rich, too poor. We place plants like infantrymen, massing them in formation. They protect our flanks and shield our foundations. We scout for and do battle with intruders and threats of all kinds, seen and unseen. We build our fires at day’s end, and if we’re lucky, we live to work and fight again.
But still comes the whisper at the end of our season, in the reds and golds of our sunset, in our dusky twilight, in the onset of our evening:
All glory is, indeed, fleeting.
Photos: Peter Wuebker
- I’d Say Yowza Is About Right (passingthru.com)
- Our June Garden in Close-Up (passingthru.com)
- In The Garden: A Design Sprouted From Aged Ruins (nytimes.com)
- More from Linmar Gardens (passingthru.com)
- Thoughts from Hours Spent with Daylilies (passingthru.com)
- one year ago, good morning, from my garden (bipolarsoupkitchen-stephany.blogspot.com)