“A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too, have known autumn too long.” —e. e. cummings (1894–1962)
Mr. cummings must be referring to the later days of fall. For now autumn has only just begun. Today is the first full day of autumn. The autumnal equinox arrived to the Northern Hemisphere at 10:29 P.M. EDT, the 22nd of September. We get the word equinox from two Latin words meaning equal night. The fall and spring equinoxes are the only days of the year when the sun’s rays cross the equator. Now temperatures begin to fall and daylight hours grow fewer. (See where Mr. cummings lived and what building his efforts helped preserve when you are part of the Greenwich Village Walking Tour.)
“Bring me the sunflower crazed with the love of light”
—Eugenio Montale (1896-1981, Italian poet)
The Union Square Farmers Market, where these photos were snapped, is showing signs of the year’s third season, offering pumpkins, gourds, cockscomb, and sunflowers.
Cockscomb flowers, also called Wool Flowers or Brain Celosia, suggestive of a vibrantly colored brain, belong to the amaranth family, Amaranthaceae. Cockscomb flowers resemble rooster combs or convoluted brains. The origins of Celosia is from kelos, a Greek word meaning burned; referring to the brightly colored flowers some species have.
Cockscomb flowers have no fragrance; but have a vase life of 5-14 days. They say autumn to me; to the Victorians, in their language of flowers, Celosias said humor, warmth, and silliness.
The gourd family, Cucurbitaceae, includes hundreds of species of vines producing some of the world’s most unusual looking fruit. The total number of species exceeds 700. Known as “curcurbits” the fruits of this extremely diverse family come in an astounding array of shapes and sizes.
The gourd family includes many fruits and vegetables, including pumpkins, squash, melons and cucumbers, that play an important role in the agricultural economy. Gourds are fun too! They are used by people throughout the world for musical instruments, including shakers, maracas, drums, horns, and marimbas. Pipes, masks, canteens, water jugs, dippers, birdhouses, bath sponges are other uses that people have fond for gourds. Decorative gourds have become an autumnal staple.
“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”
—Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)
When fall arrives mums are the divas of the autumn garden. Unlike summer blooms, dahlias, Shasta daisies, zinnias, asters, and morning glories, their blooms last for weeks, not days. The sheer number of flowers per plant makes it clear that this plant likes to show off. Mums for cutting and mums for the garden come from the same parent, a golden-yellow daisy-like mum from China. Today’s hybrids in both categories resulted from endless cross breeding between several species from China and Japan.