As the Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio chanted in the poem I pastori (The shepherds), it is now time to go. At least, it’s time to prepare oneself for the approaching autumn. Weather is rapidly changing, and yesterday’s summer storm brought a significant and sudden alteration in the warm temperature of these September days. Though I’m glad that the Saharan heat has finally but an August memory, this reminds me of the fact that soon – too soon – we’ll be forced to shut ourselves up at home, turn the heating on and wait for winter to pass quickly. Meals outdoors are occasional; lunches only are allowed under the porch, because in the morning and in the evening it’s already too chilly to stay in the garden. The cushions of the sofa and the deckchairs are still holding out in their place, but I know that before long they’re doomed to be removed to the garage, waiting for next spring to come. And that, to me, officially sanctions the end of the good season. This and flower bulbs.
Hanging around garden centers and supermarkets, you start noticing the presence of spring flower bulbs: narcissuses, hyacinths, tulips, crocuses, alliums. It’s time to plant them, though you can wait till December, and it’s time for me to decide which ones to plant this year. My husband hates this period and he hates me. Every year I change my mind about flower bulbs because I love to vary the beautification of my garden: though tulips are omnipresent, all other flowers come and go. And this means a lot of work both for me and Mario: emptying pots, cleaning pots, choosing pots, buying new soil, buying new bulbs, planting new bulbs. What upsets my husband is the misery of the reward, as he calls it. Such a demanding work for few days of bloom – and you have to wait till spring!! How to explain that a garden is not a real garden unless it has flower bulbs in bloom? Let’s only hope that the daffodils we planted in the peony flowerbed will blossom again next year! Planting bulbs – and imagining their beauty in spring – makes me bear more easily the withering aspect of the garden: after a humid spring and a torrid summer, almost every plant has a pathetic look: hydrangea flowers are faded, rose leaves are yellowing; only The Generous Garden climbing rose has some new pale-pink buds – and that’s a joy to the eye! Fortunately, the pomegranate tree and the quince tree are loaded with blessed fruits: blessed, because I can make loads of jams and jellies (if you consider that I planted them exclusively in order to make preserves…). Last year I had made so many jars that they ended up being the Christmas presents for friends and relations. Probably I’ll repeat myself this year, who knows. In the meantime, I’m waiting for the fruits to ripe: pomegranates are quite ready, but quinces are still green. It will take some more weeks before they gain their gorgeous velvety golden color. So, as days are drawing in and weather is getting colder, I’ll enjoy myself making some preserves for the winter season, while waiting for my beloved quinces to ripen. Incidentally, mangoes are awaiting me on the kitchen table: will I be able to turn them into a good Mango Chutney?