September Song

b tomatoesSeptember is the easiest, most rewarding time to be a gardener in Michigan. Weeds have slowed way down but the tomatoes are really rolling in. The yellow squash and eggplants are doing the same. Their leaves may look ratty, but my biggest garden chore is tying the plants up and harvesting their bounty every day.

b autumn clematisMany summer flowers have given up, but the Autumn Clematis that previously did nothing but try to swamp my asparagus, is now in full gorgeous bloom with sweet, sweet scent.

b basil in frontThe basil in the front yard shows tinges of its coming shutdown. I’m letting it flower now, since at this point it’s a toss-up whether the basil will go to seed before the frost gets it. The sage in the upper righthand corner of that picture, however, will continue to stand, proudly flavoring the stuffing and festooning the platter of the Thanksgiving turkey. It will still be leafy in the snow. I’ll trim it back in spring when the new leaves start coming out.

b flowersThe zinnias and petunias will bloom until frost, and the geraniums will keep them company until I bring them inside for the winter, but I do have to start watching the weather forecasts for frost warnings.

b yellow leavesA well-known poem of my childhood was the story of Jack Frost, who came with a paintbrush, unexpectedly and unseen in the middle of the night, and everywhere he went he left a trace of red or gold on the leaves of trees.

b red leavesThe poem never said whether his brushstrokes were deliberate, and I always imagined them as accidental. I thought Jack Frost was on his way somewhere else with that paintbrush, with something else in mind, and slopping a little color onto the trees as he went along just happened. It looked that way to me then, and it looks no more deliberate to me now, though I’ve learned, as a gardener, that the color change doesn’t necessarily come with a frost. No frost here yet, but there’s a slash of gold on the weeping cherry in the front yard, a spatter of red on the wild black cherry in the back, and I think of that paintbrush, trailing glory like grace over a world that can certainly use it.

Late Summer

caryopterisMy favorite color is blue, and late summer is when I have the most of it in my garden. Bees love it, too. The caryopteris is full of them – you can see one here.

blog agastacheThe agastache is just as popular, but the bees zoomed off when I lifted my phone to take their picture.

blog herb gardenThe Russian sage in the herb garden arches its blue branches behind a white froth of garlic chives. Hummingbirds like Russian sage too, but are too fast for me.

blog pinetreeIt still looks like summer, but the critters and I can tell it’s winding down. The chipmunks are busy gathering tiny wild black cherries, their cheeks puffed out with the treasure they’re carrying off to their winter nests, hollows in some of the same trees the cherries came from. Black cherry trees, though prolific and fast-growing, always seem to be losing branches and developing hollows, so that I wondered how they ever survived. But their loss of bodily integrity is the chipmunk’s gain of home and hearth. Traipsing through the woods, no doubt he plants a few more cherries as he goes. The tree and chipmunk have a mutual aid society. Probably the squirrels are in on this, too. The pine trees are so laden with cones, the squirrels must be licking their non-lips in anticipation.

helper bunnyI was surprised to see a bunny in my herb garden. They don’t eat herbs, which I like to think is because then they’d be pre-seasoned, and too many critters eat bunnies as it is. So what was this one doing? A gracious and helpful bunny, she hopped further onto the brick path so I could get a better view. She was eating the weeds! She was cleaning weeds out from between the bricks! Oh best of bunnies! I had no idea. There is always something to be learned in the garden.