Crisp October's shorter days and cooler nights elicit a last hurrah from many flowers, shrubs and trees. But what a hurrah! This month offers up some of the year’s most lovely weather, and gives us a brief opportunity to enjoy the sight of brilliant red, orange and gold leaves standing against bright blue skies.
The name October comes from the Latin “octo,” since it was originally the eighth month. Even though later additions to the Roman calendar made October the tenth month, the name stuck. People in northern European countries called October “Wynmoneth” or wine month, since it was the time to gather grapes for wine-making. To the Anglo-Saxons, October was “Winterfylleth,” since winter was supposed to ensue at the appearance of this month’s full moon.
The October Garden With warm days, cool nights and no annoying insects to contend with, October can be a delightful month to work in the garden. Even though you may have already accomplished any necessary plant division last month, there is still plenty to do. October is time to plant spring-blooming bulbs, dig up tender bulbs, bring vacationing houseplants indoors and clean and put away any garden ornaments. Be sure to continue providing an adequate amount of moisture to evergreens and broadleaf evergreens like boxwood and holly to help them better withstand winter weather.
October garden stars include chrysanthemums, asters and fall anemones. Cool season annuals like pansies, snapdragons and ornamental kale take center stage. Certain ornamental grasses such as 'Karl Forester' feather reed grass and ‘Autumn Light’ miscanthus come into their full glory in the fall.
Apple Month October is Apple Month, according to the U.S. Apple Association. Everyone knows the expression, “as American as apple pie.” But how did America come to be associated with apple pie, especially since the Europeans were responsible for bringing apples to America in the first place? Long popular with the English, apple pies were a common item on the colonial menu, and came to be regarded as a quintessentially American creation. When asked why they were heading to battle, World War II soldiers often responded, “For mom and apple pie.”
Leif Ericson Day -- October 9 Leif Ericson Day recognizes the Norse explorer who is regarded as the first European to visit North America outside of Greenland, some 500 years before the sea voyages of Christopher Columbus. The date of October 9 was chosen not for any connection to Leif Ericson’s life, but rather because this was the date in 1825 when the ship “Restauration” arrived in New York Harbor from Stavanger, Norway, prompting organized immigration to the U.S. from Scandinavia.
Canadian Thanksgiving -- Second Monday in October Canada’s Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated on the second Monday in October. That may seem odd to Americans, but technically Canada can claim to have had the first harvest celebration by Europeans in North America. It occurred in 1578 -- 43 years before the Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock -- when English explorer Martin Frobisher arrived in Newfoundland and gave thanks for his safe landing. In the several hundred years that followed, Canada, whose season of harvest occurs earlier than in most of the U.S., observed the holiday in either late October or early November. In 1957, Canada’s parliament declared the second Monday in October to be a day of general thanksgiving.
Columbus Day -- Second Monday in October Columbus Day was declared a federal holiday in 1937 as a commemoration of the “discovery” of the New World by Italian-born explorer Christopher Columbus, who, under the auspices of the Spanish crown, arrived in the Americas on October 12, 1492. The holiday eventually became fixed on the second Monday in October. The observance has become controversial for a number of reasons, but particularly because of the effect of Columbus’ arrival on indigenous peoples who had long inhabited the region. Alternative celebrations for such groups as Native Americans and Italian-Americans have come to replace Columbus Day in some parts of the U.S.
Halloween -- October 31 We’ve been calling the last day of the month “Halloween” for so long that it’s easy to forget that the holiday’s name is actually an abbreviated form of All Hallows’ Eve, or the night before All Saints’ Day. The holiday derives from Samhain, an ancient Celtic summer’s end festival and a time when the spirits of the dead were believed to return to earth. As pagan festivals were incorporated into Christianity, Samhain became tied to All Hallows’ or All Saints’ Day, a Christian observance of the lives of saints and martyrs on November 1st. In the U.S., Halloween has developed over the years into a distinctly American celebration, where traditions such as trick-or-treating are as popular as ever.
Opal In the language of gems, October’s birthstone, the opal, stands for hope. The name derives from the Latin “opalus” or precious jewel. The opal has an internal structure different from any other stone, giving it a milky white base with a rainbow-like play of color. Opals are more delicate than stones like diamonds, sapphires and rubies, and must be cut and handled carefully. One superstition holds than an opal is unlucky unless the wearer is born in October.
Calendula The birth flower for the month of October, the yellow or orange calendula, received its name from the Latin “kalendae” or first day of the month, a reference to its long-lasting flowers. Calendulas were actually the original marigolds, but today the name is more commonly used to refer to the unrelated but similar in color members of the Tagetes family. Marigold was a shortened form of “Mary’s gold,” so named because the plant was associated with the Virgin Mary.
Thank you to DG photographers: Chrysanthemum by dicentra63 Aster by TuttiFrutti Anemone by kniphofia Pansy by kniphofia Snapdragon by Equilibrium Flowering kale by Weezingreens Calamagrostis by LilyLover_UT Miscanthus by mgarr
About Gwen Bruno
After spending 28 years as a teacher and librarian, Gwen Bruno is now a full-time freelance writer residing in suburban Chicago. As a preschooler, she lovingly tended a small patch of weeds in her backyard. Luckily, her parents supported her budding horticultural endeavors, and she's been gardening ever since.