Sunday, September 10, 2017

Waning Days of Summer

"There is a midsummer. There is a midwinter.  But there is no midspring or midautumn. These are the seasons of constant change. Like dawn and dusk they are periods of transition. But like night and day and day and night they merge slowly, gradually.  As Richard Jefferies once wrote, broken bits of summer can be found scattered far into the shortening days of fall. Only on calendars and in almanacs are the lines of division sharply defined." Edwin Way Teale: Autumn Across America

We came to Kentucky in the early spring of 2010, thus our 8th summer here is sliding inexorably into another autumn. Each season we have experienced has shown variables--we can't state with any surety how March should feel, whether drought or rain should usher in July, when to expect the 'killing frost' that will tip us into 'winter.'
There was rain this July and August which kept the garden growing; lawns stayed green rather than turning brown and crisp.
There were surprisingly cool evenings when Jim laughed at me for bringing along a sweater  when we headed for the porch rocking chairs at dusk.

Mornings are cool now with mist wrapping the valley, seeping up in white drifts from the creek beyond the fields. Wet grass shimmers in the early sun.  The boy cats rush out to greet the day, returning with legs and bellies soaked.  The outside cats step daintily along the concrete walk, waiting for the sun to reach the edge of the porch.

My flower gardens so arduously tended in the spring, have been inundated with weeds of every sort. Where do they come from?  Cosmos rise above the  untidiness, airy, delicate, tenacious.

This wasn't a good year for nasturtiums. They straggled limply from their pots, bloomed fitfully, went to seed.  A few tendrils have revived, offering brilliant blossoms which tempt the hummingbirds.

In mid August we drove to a local nursery hoping to buy broccoli and cabbage plants.  Most years a fall planting gives us  yields well into November or early December. The nursery owner hadn't grown any and felt sure that another local grower a few miles away hadn't opened for the fall season.
I drove to that nursery on Wednesday and learned that they had indeed been open since August 15.  The remaining plants were past prime in their tiny plastic cubes and were languishing for lack of water. They were half price.  I found two packs of broccoli, one each of red and green cabbage which I felt could be salvaged. When I brought them to the check-out counter, the young man in charge scooped them up, watered them and tucked them into plastic carrier bags.
I watered them all again that evening and by morning they looked quite promising.

We have found that small plants need protection from the enthusiastic rootling of cats.
A rickety baby crib was left here by the former owners--the spring makes a tidy planting grid.
The rails are laid down over newly seeded rows of beets and kale. 
The plants have settled well. I would have preferred setting them out two to three weeks earlier; if we have a long mild autumn we may have a harvest.

Early in August I clipped the spent blooms from the buddleia. [So much less pretentious to call it 'butterfly bush!']

The butterflies are enjoying the profusion of late blooms.

The rugosas by the steps have produced clean fresh blossoms.  The scourge of Japanese beetles has run its course for this year. 
The rugosas are dreadfully invasive--sending runners throughout the herb planting, forcing their way up against the concrete of the walk. The one nearest the steps needs to be removed, but it would be a formidable task. Jim helped me dig out the one that had grown into the porch steps, but it has taken two years of yanking out runners to be free of it. Relocated to the gravelly bank beyond the retaining wall, its thorny branches no longer pull at skin and clothing when we go down the steps.

The brilliant deep red cockscomb [celosia] is also a legacy of the former residents. I tweaked out literally hundreds of seedlings during the spring and early summer--there is a plantation of cockscomb and even now fresh seedlings erupting. 

Lavender, trimmed last month, has produced a second crop of fragrant bloom. The butterflies appreciate the sweetness; yesterday I noted a juvenile hummer swaying on a stem, before deciding that the hanging nectar feeder provided an easier meal.

Along the lane Joe Pye weed has faded into shaggy mop-heads, weighting the stalks; goldenrod is more bronze than gold; Queen Anne's lace wears brown cups of seeds.  Ironweed is still blazingly purple and wild coreopsis /tickseed billows along the roadsides.
I miss the New England asters which don't seem to thrive in Kentucky.
As summer mellows into autumn, I cherish the final weeks of color and bloom, of morning mist and afternoon warmth.


  1. Your summer weather, this summer, sounds like our western Pennsylvania summer. My cosmos has gotten tall like yours! Andrea

    1. Andrea; I love the way cosmos can grow tall, fall over, get twisted by wind--and still keep blooming!

  2. I think you're closer to autumn than we are. I can't plant any fall veggies until I clean weeds out that have taken over everything. My first Nasturtiums were beautiful, the next I planted did nothing.
    So looking forward to Fall.

    1. Janet; I think nasturtiums are very fickle flowers! I treat them the same each season with variable results. Weeds--I've been asking where they come from!

  3. It's always nice to see what flourishes in the gardens from year to year as the summer winds down. You have had some lovely successes. I hope your new fall plantings thrive for you - the recycled baby crib is a clever idea. I grew a whole border of nasturtiums one year and invited a huge colony of aphids to feast! The hummingbirds love them, though. Love your beautiful writing. x Karen

    1. Karen; My 'garden' is no longer a well-tended planting--so it is especially interesting to see what self-seeds and flourishes or disappears. Four o'clocks moved from a planting at the lower house have spread in an unmannerly way. Aphids left my nasturtiums alone this summer--I think the plants were too wimpy to be appealing!

  4. Lovely post, - I delight in hearing about your garden.

    1. Hildred; Even as I see my gardening efforts being curtailed by the age of my knees [!] I continue to delight in the life-cycles of flowering plants.