Field of Science

Mini-summer in October

A week of 80 degree highs in October is a rare event, and the Phactor wonders if this is the beginning of a new pattern with such weather becoming common? The weather in mid-October is often warm, and dry, not as parched dry as this year, but dry, and the 2nd or 3d week in October is reliably some of the best weather of the year and when the Missouri Botanical Garden looks its best. When deciding when to host a weekend systematics symposium, the ever pragmatic and empirical former director, Peter Raven, had his staff do a century of weather research and match that with peak display times at the garden, and mid-October was the solution. The estate is looking fairly colorful, but the display will be both less vivid, and short-lived because of the dryness. Lots of leaves are parched at their margins, and even our great big sugar maple will be not so orange as usual. This weekend we attempted to apple up, no not in honor the late Steve Jobs, but to stock up on apples for the winter, especially to seek some Northern Spies, our favorite. Our local source didn't have any, so another great old variety, the Red Pippin, was purchased instead. Then a lovely friend arrived back from a quickie trip to Michigan for football something or other, and delivered us a bag of spies. Oh, that is the measure of a friend. Unfortunately this is a bit early for spies in Michigan and indeed they are a bit underripe and their full complex flavor has not yet developed. In the usual domino effect, the pond renovation has drawn attention to a long neglected hedgerow and Mrs. Phactor declared death sentences upon the old, over-grown shrubs and left yours truly to carry out the sentences. Basal pruning is the usual method of execution, although some ancient forsythias and an old flowering crab were given reprieves on the condition that they grow back attractively. The new Japanese maples were planted and now the area can be sized up for additional landscaping. Then, as if on command, a large box of bulbs arrived via UPS indicating that this was not going to be a watch football weekend, and the joggers pranced by while real exercise was accomplishing something. Stop by if you want and drag some shrub corpses to the street. It's great exercise!

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