Comes the day the Blue Jay calls of Autumn... a mist hangs in the trees in the morning... and the Goldenrods begin to bloom.
Summer is over, we must move on.
No more wandering around the garden, coffee cup in hand, looking to see what new treasure has come into bloom overnight. No more debating the purchase of that irresistible new plant which might look wonderful in a certain corner but is there room for it. And no more of that lovely luxurious feeling that a whole long summer stretches ahead.
Summer is over, we have work to do.
High on the list of work is the dead-heading of all the things that bloomed in the last few weeks. In my garden, that means masses of Lamb's-ears, Ornamental Salvias, Geraniums, Shasta Daisies and many others. I always have to wait to trim the Lamb's-ears as the bees love them and every stalk has at least one bee on it. Lamb's-ears self-seed something fierce if you wait too long, so once the bees are finished with them it is a race to get them trimmed. Shastas are the same in so far as they ripen their seeds about five minutes after the flowers fade... but the bees don't care for them at all! There were a lot of Salvias in the Herb Garden (self-seeded of course), enough to fill the wheelbarrow twice over. They have a strong rather rancid odour, not my favourite. Usually working in the Herb Garden is a pleasure with the scents of Mint, Sage, Lavender and all the others.
Speaking of scents, I once told someone that Hyssop smelled like a dead cat and she was very puzzled, wondering how I knew what a dead cat smelled like. I never admitted I made it up, but Hyssop does smell nasty. Worse than Salvia. All the Onion tribe smell good to me - Garlic, Chives, Garlic Chives, as well as the many ornamental Alliums. Tarragon needs to be rubbed to give its scent, delightfully licorice-like, and of course Anise Hyssop is a wonderful combination of licorice and lemon. Lemon Balm, which by the way you must dead-head and dead-head early and thoroughly, doesn't smell very good at all. Perhaps it smells better in teas. Lemon Verbena is very sweet, much better. I have one in a pot which is about 30 years old. It is deciduous so drops its leaves all over the Studio counter where it winters and then looks quite dead for the rest of the winter. Visitors wonder why I have a dead plant in my Studio, and if I like them (the visitors), I explain. If I don't, I don't. A unique gardeners' revenge!
Some plants need dead-stemming rather than dead-heading. Things like Centaurea montana, with its sparkling blue bachelor's-buttons flowers, will die back after its first flush of bloom. If you cut the old stems right to the base, it will put up fresh new ones and likely bloom again. Lady's Mantle and some of the Salvias have the same trick. Others, like Mulleins and Salvia Argentea, need to be cut back so that they don't die off completely. They are really biennials, but you can trick them into behaving like perennials by cutting the old growth right back like that.
Another big job for this time of year is restraining those plants that are taking far more real estate than they are entitled to. Goldenrods are a case in point. I like to let them bloom, then pull out the stalks that are moving into their neighbours' space. Asters, while they can look huge right now, and take over a lot of the air space above the garden bed, are not really a problem as they grow in a fountain shape. Their 'feet' are really quite narrow. Asters need to be restrained in the spring.
Then there is trimming the bushes, planting bulbs, collecting spores and seeds, moving the things that you've planted in quite the wrong place... cleaning the pond, picking the last beans, the list is long.
Yes, summer is over. Time to change gears, get some tidying done, and enjoy the Asters, the Goldenrods, the Lobelias of Autumn.