"And God said, 'Let the earth bring forth grass, and herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth': and it was so." Genesis 1:11
November again, the days are shorter, the air is chill. In the ripeness of autumn, plants have gathered a last burst of energy to produce seed and fruit for growing seasons to come, gifts for the future. It’s time to put the garden to bed for the winter, to remove the tall, stately stalks of Sorghum bicolor (broomcorn), cut back the brown, brittle stems of the sunflower, valerian, and mallow. There is beauty in the remains of summer’s rampant growth, evidence of lives fully lived, of completion, of shalom.
Seeds are collected to replenish the seed basket for next spring’s planting – barley, cleome, lupine, calendula, and pulses. The fig tree and the grape vine will be wrapped in burlap to protect tender branches from drying winter winds. Religious school students will lend a hand with the chores that maintenance of the garden requires.
This year there is a new task: gathering up the bulbs of the brilliant red Anemone coronaria, in Hebrew, kalanit, to be stored for the winter. Anemones carpet the northern Negev region of Israel in the spring and their blossoms are breathtaking in intensity of color and perfection of form. In the Biblical Garden, however, they require patience and persistence. After several seasons of unsuccessful attempts, fresh bulbs were planted by religious school students this past spring, and were (finally) brought to bloom in one of the raised beds. Perhaps the brightest of the “flowers of the field," they are members of the buttercup family, and, when encountered, elicit exclamations of awe and delight. Those who discovered them blooming in mid-summer, nestled among unruly tangles of cucumber and melon, might have stored up images of their vivid scarlet, to be recalled in the chill, grey days of winter to come, memories that refresh the spirit and warm the heart.
Michael Schlesinger is Temple Sinai’s Biblical Gardener. Mike has been gardening since he was eight years old. He used to grow grape vines and make wine when he lived in California. He now tends to our garden, continuing the traditions started by Catherine Walters.