I spent a recent morning working in my garden back at our house in Portland, which we are renting out while I am in Eugene going through grad school. Summer is long gone and I wanted to check in on the permanent plantings. It was a mixed experience.

It felt good to be back home, even though it’s not my home right now. The familiar feeling of the gate latch under my fingers, sliding open and letting me back into the garden felt so comforting. The colors were beautiful in the garden, with the asian persimmon being the most spectacular. The leaves were red, orange, and purple all over. In another couple years, bright orange fruit will be hanging from the tree at this time of year.

The grape vine I planted three years ago had grapes hanging from it for the first time. It was on the Glenora table grape variety with fruit that ripens to a nice, dark purple. They tasted bright, crisp and were very sweet. I politely snuck just one single grape, leaving the rest for the renters. Both grape vines have become so gangely that I need to develop a plan to keep them off the ground before next season begins. Another garden project and I’m not even living there!

The sadder parts of my visit was discovering one of the cherry trees has died. It was a mature, dwarf tree that we dug from my mom’s house and transplanted 3-4 years ago. We had some fruit when we left in June, so I think lack of watering dried the poor thing up. It had become established and I would water it occasionally (maybe weekly in the hot months), but it must have gotten thirsty at some point and no one noticed. I guess it’s an opportunity to plant something new, but I will have to wait until we move back. If an established tree died this summer, a new tree would certainly die if I planted it now and wasn’t watered.

We have a fruiting dogwood in the front yard whose leaves are about 80% brown from being thirsty, but it’s luckily still alive. There were tons of ‘trees of paradise’ which are horribly invasive. I spent most my time pulling those up, along with some random blackberry vines. Coming back periodically should help keep those guys from getting too strong of a hold on the homestead.

Overall it felt good to be home, and a little sad to leave. Gardens are living things that constantly change and evolve. Although I’ve lost a tree, the raspberries have multipled, the hardy kiwis vines have gotten longer over the pergola, and the other trees continue to grow. Every year it builds and makes me prouder of what I have cultivated here. And so ends another season for this garden.

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Written by Renee Wilkinson