Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Autumn ardor evokes sense of growth, change

This time of year is complicated for me. As summer's ardor and the cool air of autumn battle, the environment starts to change. It's curious how these changes create what I refer to as my "seasonal anxiety". A cool morning and a blazing hot afternoon followed by the crisp night air trigger thoughts and reflection. Lyrics from the song "Autumn Leaves", start playing in my mind, "The falling leaves, drift by my window, the falling leaves of red and gold".

Did I mention that I have performed some of my best concerts while pushing my lawn mower? It's a great time to sing because it passes the time; you can sing really loud and the rumble of the motor covers the missed notes. But, it just occurred to me that it probably does look pretty silly to people driving by. I'll have to make sure I keep the facial expressions to a minimum. Actually, I'm 40 years old in a few days so who cares what it looks like, right?! Anyway, as you ponder how amazing the changes that autumn brings are, I'll get back on track.

During this time of year I always remember the anticipation of going back to school. The duality of excitement and nerves was always confusing…Will I finally be as tall as the shortest guy in class? Are these the 'right' clothes? Will I like my teacher? Remember those days when you needed a coat in the morning, and it was so easily forgotten on the playground because it wasn't needed in the afternoon?

It's ironic that while the environment begins to reset, retreat and regroup that we as people begin such a time of growth. The energy is incredible. Young minds returned to school this week. Some may speak their first word in Spanish, solve a complex equation or write their first sentence. It's fitting that this be our season to focus on growth.

Transitions can be disappointing and exciting at the same time. As I look around the yard, I try very hard to see what DID work. I don't dwell on the obvious grasshopper-devoured tomato plant or the area of lawn that didn't get enough water because "I didn't get that sprinkler head to work just right." This year, I'm starting a list now of the areas that need a different approach next year. Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to write about current examples of trouble spots in my yard. That's right. Not the pretty stuff. We're talking about "problem areas"! I will list the correction plan and hopefully the documented success in 2010.

Even though it is counter-intuitive for me, I have finally realized that every bit of effort that is put in to fall gardening is returned ten-fold in the spring. To be honest, one of the happiest days of my year is when I turn the sprinklers on for the year. Yes, the second is when they are blown out in the fall!

This year, I'm going to push the envelope a little and really clean out beds, plant more perennials and shrubbery and then put them properly to bed for the winter. Since I will have specific areas of focus, I will know exactly what to eagerly concentrate on next spring.

A page is about to turn in this life; fall will soon be here and the mystery of what lies ahead will be revealed to us with glorious color. Enjoy the show!

Jim Gainan is VP/Shareholder of Gainan's Flower and Garden Center in Billings