Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Fall is not Goodbye


Hello Fellow Readers,

There’s a fall-ish feeling in the air, and today it’s official. September 23rd is when the sun will pass directly above the equator as it crosses from north to south marking the autumnal equinox.


An early fall maple leaf captured during a walk in remembrance of my lifelong friend Elsa.

Soon leaves will change color and drop to the ground, where they will decompose into glorious nutrients that fertilize our dear earth. Perennials will die back, and annuals will, too, leaving behind seeds that will sprout into new beginnings come spring.

You can gather seeds to propagate next year. Or, scatter them where you’d like babies. I let seed heads remain like dry flower arrangements and allow Mother Nature to do her magic —choosing where volunteers will go or providing food for our feathered friends.

While on the surface, plants seem to sleep over winter, there are miracles underground preparing for the promise of spring; roots busily absorbing nutrients for next year’s growth.

Fall is an excellent time to plant most trees and shrubs, as weather conditions are perfect for stimulating root growth. Fall is also a great time to divide perennials or plant new ones if you find healthy bargains.

It’s best to divide spring and early-summer flowering perennials in the fall and late-summer to fall bloomers come spring. If you opt to plant or divide late bloomers, cut back the flowers so they put energy into their roots.

picture-of-Mary-Stone-and-Elsa-MastropasquaSpeaking of roots, if I may share a reflection of a lifelong friend. I met Elsa in my early twenties while commuting to NYC. We became fast friends and then “family” as we bought a two-family fixer-upper in Cliffside Park, NJ, each having one floor. The postage stamp lot soon became our vegetable garden. She’s lived in Texas for twenty years, where I visited just before Christmas. This year’s visit is not to be. Elsa unexpectedly joined the Angels on September 8th. We spoke the day before; I’m so grateful for that. She called to check on Ellie, who has health issues; our canine rescue kid is about eleven now.

“Remember when you came while I was visiting Mom soon after Dad passed? KC followed her from room to room. Mom said it was like having the miniature horse she longed for as a kid.” Elsa and Gene’s lab was a hundred and five pounds, the same as Elsa’s.

“My eyes still tear when I think of her,” Elsa said.

We shared many laughs during our last chat that day. Her laughter was always remarkably loud despite her petite frame, as huge as her heart.


Like our gardens in the fall, it’s not goodbye when our loved ones move on.

We reminisced when her mom giggled like a young girl tossing tennis balls to my then-golden Sara. Elsa and her family immigrated from Cuba when she was a child. Though her mom never learned English, her adoring eyes and gestures spoke profoundly, and, like Elsa, she was proud to have become an American.

And so, this fall, I will plant a tree in honor of Elsa. A Pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba) seems fitting. At the same time, the small tree is not well known; its native to the Northeast and makes a significant impact with beautiful maroon flowers and nourishing fruits.

Like our fall gardens, it’s not goodbye when our loved ones move on. The love will continue to provide sustenance to our soul, rooted in the lives shared.

Garden Dilemmas?

You can learn more about Pawpaw trees in a previous column titled What is a Pawpaw Tree?

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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