Autumn Joy/Spring Joy

Our local newspaper includes a column by Helen Chesnut called “Garden Notes”. Recently, Ms. Chesnut wrote about a late summer gardening newsletter she had read:

[It] started with the suggestion that as summer’s end approaches gardeners will have fewer chores to do.

That’s never been my experience, with all the harvesting, processing, storing, digging, planting, compost care, cleanup, planning, and preparation for a new gardening season to be done.

This year, I find myself busier than ever with cleanup: weeding, cutting back foliage, adding compost, digging whole plants out of overcrowded beds and moving them (or sometimes discarding them). There is a lot of satisfaction to be gained as order emerges from chaos and the plants themselves seem almost to beam with pleasure. At the same time, I find myself thinking forward to spring, as I look for spots to plant bulbs and imagine how they will look in combination with the spring-blooming perennials that are already in place.

(Click on any photo to enlarge.)

Right now, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is blooming. It is a sturdy and dependable plant, attractive throughout the year. Its common name is “stonecrop” and it stands for “tranquility” in the language of flowers. In my garden, it is situated next to Helleborus argutifolius (Corsican Hellbore). I find the combination attractive: the rounded, light green leaves of the Sedum next to the darker, more olive toned, spiky leaves of the Hellebore. In the spring, these two are joined by sinuous stems of Nectaroscordum, so heavy-headed that it must lay itself down on a bed of Sedum and Hellebore.

Helleborus argutifolius blooms in late winter/early spring, usually in February here in Victoria, British Columbia. It is also called “holly-leafed hellebore”. The flowers are pale green and may be slightly rose or yellow tinted. The plant self-seeds quite readily. The meaning of Hellebore in the language of flowers is “scandal” or “calumny,” possibly due to the fact that the plant is poisonous.

We are enjoying a series of sunny days, not too hot and not too cool. It’s easy to find joy in my autumn garden and to dream of spring flowers to come.


Helleborus argutifolius, watercolour, pen & ink, 9″ x 12″