It is a season of changes.  Not only is the weather cooling, life is changing here.

Benjamin, my only child (my baby!), has gone off to college at The Citadel.  He is the third generation on his dad’s side to attend college there. When he graduates, he will wear “The Ring” with his dad, uncles, great uncles and cousins. He knew what to expect going there. He is well-prepared for the challenge. And he seems to thrive on the manly camaraderie of the place.

That still didn’t stop me from crying for pretty much the first week while he was gone. The tears were drawn from a combination of missing him, worrying about him and being disoriented by the new direction of my life as an empty-nester.

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Sweet autumn clematis blooms over the garden gate in September

I have stopped crying now, but am still trying to navigate a life with a 50% reduction in the number of men I need to take care of on a daily basis.

In other changes, Harry has left private practice and gone back to work for the government. The book I was co-writing this summer, Grocery Gardening, is finally off my desk. The six new baby chicks will be laying in about another month–leaving us with 10 – 12 eggs a day to dispose of. And I have major new work and writing assignments to keep me busy.

Oh, the garden?

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Garlic chives and pineapple sage duke it out in the herb bed

I can’t say this has been my most productive or meticulous garden year. There were so many distractions and challenges that kept me out of the garden. Still, Mother Nature was forgiving for just this year. The work from past years has paid off, as perennials continued to bloom, flowers to re-seed and the overall bones of the raised beds, fences and arbor to hold it all together. I don’t think I can continue this type of neglect next year and still hold my head up as a gardener though.


The hakuro nashiki willow standard needs a haircut--but then it ALWAYS seems to need a haircut. The tuteur is covered with malabar spinach and scarlet runner beans.

Now, as weather cools and all these darned changes slow down just long enough for me to catch my breath, I am enjoying being out in the garden, putting in fall vegetables and tidying up for the winter to come.


I just broadcast a mix of lettuce seeds for this pretty little bed. What a treat to pick our salads each night.

I’m actually looking forward to winter now. I have a fancy new cold frame to put together this weekend. I’m setting up the light garden in the basement to grow microgreens. Cooking projects, sewing projects, writing projects and, of course, visits to The Citadel and Ben’s visits home are going to keep me busy.


That's amaranthe leaning against the tuteur where the henryi clematis grows.

Overall, I’m still living the good life. It’s a life of transitions, but it’s a good life.

(You can click on an image for a larger version of the photo.)

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  • Val says:

    Welcome to the bittersweet land of the empty nest! I remember how strange it all seemed, and how those emotional moments can sneak up on you at unlikely times. Best wishes as you establish your new rhythm of daily life — it’s a wonderful new place. P.S. your garden looks lovely…

    Hi Val,
    A new rhythm is a great way to describe it. It has its ups and downs, to be sure.

  • Nice to see your blog blooming afresh Robin. Life is full of changes, but the empty nest is one of the biggest. Congrats on Ben getting into the Citadel. It’s difficult to get in. He’s a grand boy. You should be proud. Congrats on all of your writing projects too and the new book.~~Dee

    Hi Dee,
    Thanks! I am very proud of Ben. He has made a difficult choice, but one I believe will pay off for him.

  • Gail says:

    Hi Robin, Your life sounds full, even with Ben leaving for college. Congrats to Ben on the Citadel. That first year is quite an adjustment for parent and child. gail

    Gail – I’m quite sure the bigger adjustment is Ben’s! And yes, life is VERY full.

  • Nell Jean says:

    It’s quite normal to have unfounded worries and tearful moments. When I left my older son in NY in 1980, I boo-hooed on the airplane home. I finally pulled myself together and apologized to my seat-mate, a flight attendant returning home, saying that I’d just left my child at the USMMA. She replied ‘Oh, that’s okay, my mother acts the same way.’ My grandson is a cadet there now and it was a different experience for his Dad, who knew what to expect.

    Both your garden and your child will make you proud.

    Hi Nell,
    Thanks for visiting and sharing the story.

  • I’ve been where you are, Robin, and it ain’t easy. But you’ll quickly settle into it and you and Harry will love the time you have together with just each other. I love this time in my life.

    I really like the ‘wild hair’ look of your Nishiki willow! I know it isn’t supposed to look like that, but hey, I like odd things. LOL.

    Your lettuce is gorgeous.

  • Congratulations on your son entering the Citadel, and for finishing your book. That’s so exciting.

  • Frances says:

    Hi Robin, I love the metaphor of the open gate! It works two ways, going out, like Ben, and entering, you coming into a new stage of life. We visited The Citadel once and were struck by the cadets walking in the straight lines, proud and erect making 90 degree turns. A place full of family tradition and great pride. And congrats to you on the book! Your garden still looks wonderful, sometimes it needs us less than we think. :-)

  • Daricia says:

    robin, your garden is just gorgeous! i’m trying not to think about mine just now. the comparison is depressing! lol.

  • Jean says:

    Robin, you have a lot of things to be very proud of. It looks like setting a good foundation for the garden paid off in a big way this year. I hope you get back to your garden when you need to. And I look forward to your new book! Congrats!

  • Robin, Honestly, I think you do more in one hour than I do in a day. Plus I’ll wager that you remember to breathe once in a while too. You’re not alone in feeling like this isn’t the “most productive” year in the garden, but it certainly doesn’t show from your pictures. – Your salad mix is a thing of beauty – why haven’t I done that?

  • Layanee says:

    I have failed as a gardener this year…oh well there is always next year. I have been thinking of you and wondering how you are coping. Our lives change drastically compared with the lives of men don’t you think?

  • Leslee says:

    Empty nester I will be next year. I am looking forward to it.. I have three children and time for my own interests have been on back burner for too long.

    Wanted to know what you think of your autumn clemantis.. it looks great.. I have wanted to try but have heard it is very invasive and can take over..your thoughts??

    My garden has lacked attention also but looks ten times worse than yours.But yes periennels save me every time.

  • Pippi21 says:

    Your picket fence surrounding your home is “the icing on the cake” and I just love that gate and arbor design and oh, that sweet autumn clematis is beautiful! Do you have any other clematis vines growing in your gardens? I browsed your blogspot off Flowergardengirl’s blog.

  • Robin,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts during an emotional time.
    Hope it all works out.

    Aanee xxx