The Endless Summer?
The signs are unmistakable. Birds and butterflies flutter south. Leaves turn golden or brown. The sweaters come out of storage. For some people, this time of year comes as a blessed relief, an end to sweltering temperatures and short tempers. For others, autumn is the end of everything lively and beautiful. “It’s about DEATH!” one friend recently hollered at me. Is it any wonder that some people call snow “terminal dust”?
I fall somewhere in the middle of this eternal debate. As the garden begins to slow down during these shorter days, I can look forward to a different set of tasks and a welcome break from sunburns, mosquitoes and lukewarm water bottles (ugh!). A whole new set of wonders emerge – the painted ladies swarm upon the Maximilian sunflowers, the cat-faced spiders sit house-proud in their webs. Some critters seem especially active during this “last hurrah”, and there are so many plants that shine during this brief season. Of course, all this beauty makes it harder to let go.
Here in our habitat gardens, the horticulture staff and volunteers know how important it is to provide resources for our birds, butterflies and bugs this time of year. We want to stretch out the season as much as we can, and with luck, we can keep our gardens blooming through Halloween. We plant late-blooming perennial nectar and pollen sources, including asters, goldenrod and rabbitbrush. We also deadhead our perennials constantly, to encourage them to produce new blossoms. We continue to water, albeit less. We may cover tender plants if frost threatens, although we don’t beat ourselves up if the frost sneaks up on us.
After all, the frost and ice and snow are inevitable. I would even say that they can be beautiful, in their own way. But for now, I’ll enjoy the golds, rusts and reds that enliven our outdoor gardens.
Posted by Amy Yarger