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Cosentino: The fairest village of them all

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I had to go way back to Miss Latham’s English class, at East High School, to come up with this opener. Do you remember Miss Latham, a great, dedicated teacher, whose bible was "Beacon Lights of Literature," a compendium of stories, plays, poems and essays of all sorts, edited by Rudolph Chamberlain, then editor of The Citizen Advertiser? This poem, written some 400 years ago by Oliver Goldsmith, certainly describes a village in his native land, but it fits Auburn, New York, today:

Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain

Where health and plenty cheered the labouring swain,

Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid,

And parting summer's lingering blooms delayed.

How could the poet had known so many years ago that his words would nicely describe a lovely city nearly 2,500 miles from his native land?

Of course, we have had a difficult year with COVID-19 and all the problems caused by it. We lost many of our friends and relatives, we lost historic restaurants and businesses. Yet, among all the problems and difficult things, just look at Auburn in 2021. Look at the beauty of it. The magnolias, which seemed to be in everyone’s yard, were magnificent. We are getting more varieties of them, stretching the season. Though there seem to be fewer and fewer lilacs, then came peonies with flowers in strong reds and pinks and purples that seemed to be as plentiful as the magnolias. Beautiful shrubs and trees were everywhere. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Hoopes Park was beautiful throughout the summer, and the spirit was lifted with the return of the summer concerts.

Here we are in the middle of October, and the flowers in my garden are still thriving. I cannot fathom where all the mum plants have come from. I saw a porch a couple of days ago that had so many on it that I drove around the block and stopped to count. Seventeen! In most yards, zinnias, marigolds and geraniums are still showing a lot of color. And now, as the bad weather we are sure to experience nears, our tree foliage is bursting in reds and yellows and oranges. I know that I love this city for its beauty and everything else it has to offer. I hope that you do too.

I digress for a moment to mention some things that you should be doing in the garden right now. I really liked some of the interesting blossom colors on my zinnias, so I have picked and saved the seed pods, hoping that some will come true to color next year. If you have any begonias or coleus plants, if not already in pots, dig and pot. They make wonderful houseplants throughout the winter. They tolerate low light and low humidity in our homes. But remember to keep them well-watered, though not sitting in a saucer of water. Geraniums can also be brought in, but you need to keep them pruned so they do not become large, leggy plants. I remember my Mom digging them, shaking off the soil and hanging them in a cool, dark spot in the basement. She then replanted them in 6- or 8-inch pots in March and got a head start with her garden.

If your garden has some large sunflowers, I can guess that the birds are enjoying the seeds. But why not cut a few flowers and dry them? The birds will enjoy them even more when you set them out in the middle of January.

Yes, there is still time to add color to your spring garden, but I would not wait too long. There are still many tulip bulbs for sale around town. The bulbs like a little warm soil to get the roots started. And remember that my philosophy is to plant them where you can enjoy them, from your bedroom window or from your breakfast table.

Be safe, wear that mask. Get vaccinated.

Carmen Cosentino operates Cosentino's Florist with his daughter, Jessica. He was elected to the National Floriculture Hall of Fame in 1998, and in 2008, received the Tommy Bright award for lifetime achievements in floral education. In 2016, Carmen and Jessica were presented Teleflora's Tom Butler Award, naming Cosentino's the florist of the year at the company's annual meeting in Hawaii. Carmen can be reached at or (315) 253-5316. 


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