Come Before Winter – Sunday’s In The South


Our Fall Garden

Our Fall Garden

Every year about this time my mind begins to reflect on the season that has passed; the hard work, the early hours in the garden and the tremendous joy that my garden brings to me. I also begin to reflect on what needs to be done to prepare for the next season in the garden, before the chill of winter takes hold in my Alabama garden.


The summer has likely taken a toll on some of your plants and the autumn winds will make their way into your garden, leaving leaves, twigs or other garden debris in your planting beds. Now is a good time to clean them out. Leaves will often become moldy during the mild winter months and can be a problem for you in the spring.

Reapply mulch. By now some of your spring mulch has broken down and needs to be reapplied. Mulch in your garden beds keeps down weeds and helps with moisture retention at the roots of your plants.

Remove annuals and replace with fall chrysanthemums. Vibrant yellows, golds and purple hues welcome fall like no other flower in the garden. Once the blooms are spent, we always plant ours in the back garden. Just snip off the spent booms and plant, and you’ll enjoy them again next year. Here in Shelby County, local garden shops and roadside stands have a great selection.

It’s a great time to divide lilies and irises for blooms next spring. Why not share some with a neighbor?

Clean your gardening tools. Removing dirt and grime will help extend the life of your gardening tools. Pruners and cutters need to be oiled to keep rust at bay.

I am reminded at this time of year of a passage of scripture from the Bible, 2 Timothy 4:21 “Make every effort to come before winter.” This passage is a reminder to me to set things right in my garden and in my life before winter comes. Paul is writing to Timothy to ask him to come. He had left Timothy in charge of the church at Ephesus. An aged Paul who was a prisoner in Rome, loved his friend and had a desire to see him one last time.

The final conversation I had with my grandmother was in the late summer of 1987. We stood in the Nashville airport and she cried as she held me tight and told me she would never see me again. I brushed it off and said, “I’ll see you at Christmas.” She just smiled and held my face and stared into my eyes as if looking deep inside my soul. Little did I know it would indeed be the last time I stared into her beautiful caring eyes and touch the hands of a woman I truly loved. She passed away two days before Thanksgiving and a few hours before my arrival at her bedside. Time is fleeting. I was reminded that day, and a thousand times since, to make the most of the time you have on this earth.

As grandma used to say, “this ain’t no dress rehearsal.” Are there relationships in your life that need to be mended? Loose ends left untied? Are there words unspoken that now need to be said?

Just as our gardens get messy, so do our lives. I urge you to take a few moments this fall and reflect upon not only your garden, but your life and set these things in order that have gone awry with the people around you. You’ll be a better person and will recapture for yourself and them a renewed sense of energy. And hopefully, by the grace of God, you’ll be at peace come winter…


About Chris VanCleave - America's Favorite Rose Gardener

Christopher R. VanCleave – America’s Favorite Rose Gardener Nicknamed "The Redneck Rosarian”, Chris VanCleave is passionate about gardening and growing roses. He is an active member of the Birmingham chapter of the American Rose Society, serving two terms as President. In 2007, he created the Rose Chat Podcast which has reached over a half a million listeners with news and information on growing on growing the world’s most beloved flower, the rose. He was a contributor to the 2015 Southern Living Gardening Book, has appeared on P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home television show and was featured in the June 2015 issue of Southern Living Magazine. Locally, Chris serves as Chairman of the Helena Alabama Beautification Board where he has spearheaded efforts to create a sustainable landscape in one of the top one hundred places to live in the United States. His writing is seen at and on his popular website;, where he chronicles his gardening adventures and explores an intrinsic mix of life, faith and gardening. An agent of change with over 20 years’ experience in process innovation, Mr. VanCleave is leading the charge to reinvigorate horticultural societies and helping them to reach their full potential in the social media age.
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8 Responses to Come Before Winter – Sunday’s In The South

  1. Lovely Chris. May both your life and garden become tidy before winter sets in. I am working hard every day now to set the garden straight…mildew is my nemesis.


  2. This is not a drill…I like that.


  3. elenawill says:

    I really enjoyed your writhing and stories this morning. When I was working (with the same core of wonderful ladies for 19 years) There would be times when we were having fun and I would also say “This is life, not a dress rehearsal.”


  4. Dan Hennessy says:

    Beautiful pictures !


  5. CurtissAnn says:

    Thank you so very much for this post. Hints to get me started. Since losing my husband, I’ve done so little in the yard. Everything is hard for me to do. Maybe working out there will soothe and uplift me. You are so very right–tell people you love them every day.


  6. So true, make every moment count.


  7. Pingback: Come Before Winter - Sunday's In The South | An...

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