Thursday, September 4, 2014

Late Light

This is the time of year when I get discouraged by the state of our gardens. We have lived in this house for eight years now and I am still trying to work out what I want and where I want it and how much labor I want to put into the whole shebang. This varies with the humidity levels.

Late Wednesday afternoon, I went out to tackle one wild corner. I was grumpily toting buckets of weeds to the compost heap when the lowering sun's rays suddenly lit up a red glow in a shrub I'd planted our first summer here. Ah, yes, I remember. That was supposed to be a highbush cranberry, but up to now, it hadn't fruited much. Yesterday, in the right light, it was finally showing off. This made me smile The berries should hang on for a while and may provide some winter color to that corner of the yard. My mood lifted a little.

Another shrub I planted eight years ago is this panicle hydrangea, which puts on a good show in late summer and fall. This one is getting quite large. I like the way the white flowers kind of glow against the woods in the early evening light. Admiring its wild sprawl at the edge of the woods, I was beginning to enjoy my chores a little more.

 In a tamer strip of garden, the low angle of the sun was setting off these late phlox blooms, as well.
 Some of my Mary-golds [sic] are past their prime at this point, poor things, but this cheerful bunch was a-glow in the late light.
 My Tom-mato plants [sic] suffered from Septoria Leaf Spot this summer, causing near complete defoliation. Yet, enough hearty fruits hung on to ripen and give a reasonable crop. There are still a few to come, despite the unwanted attentions of some squirrels and chipmunks.

 Chipmunks also ate nearly every pumpkin seed and sunflower seed I planted this spring. Grrrr. And the few seeds that they missed turned into tender - and apparently tasty- plants that were soon gobbled up. I managed to cage off only one pumpkin plant and it has rewarded me with two plump pumpkins, just now beginning to color up. For next year, I have to figure out some way to keep those chomping chipmunks at bay.

 The rudbeckia is past its peak, but it, too, creates a late day glow in the shadow of a spruce tree.

Pink turtlehead thrives in my yard. It is one plant that the munching critters ignore. But in September, the bumblebees can't get enough of it. They burrow down into the tight blossoms for the nectar they find there.
The annual zinnias keep strutting their stuff. What pops of color they still offer to an otherwise tired garden.
Chrysanthemums, here above and below, are re-blooming from plantings of years past.

Mums are not usually treated as perennials but in my garden, many return year after year.

Here is the kind of insect damage I LIKE to see: Something has been feasting on milkweed leaves. I
hope this means butterflies have been laying eggs here. Monarchs, maybe?

Rose of Sharon would happily take over our whole yard. Maybe I should let it.Volunteers pop up everywhere and bloom within a couple of years.

Hmm, more critter damage.

The cardinal flowers that survive are a buzz with hummingbirds. The little birds are too fast for my skills with the camera. I imagine that the hummers are fattening themselves up for their long migration south.

And here is the culprit who has been munching all of the hosta and cardinal flowers. You know I can see you, right? 

I guess gardening has been ever thus. Plant diseases, garden pests. Yet, we will not starve. We are very lucky and I know it.

On this early September evening, I entered my garden grumpy and out of sorts. The world news alone these day is enough to put one down in the dumps. But I was also brooding about the troubles of others: of a loved one who is in serious trouble; of friends who are dealing with grave health issues. I was also focusing on things that I have left undone, on the many ways that I am not measuring up to my own expectations.  

The garden brought me out of myself. As I poked about, weeding a little here, checking on something there, observing, planning ahead, I inhaled deeply. I noticed and took joy from the hum of pollinators, the glow of late summer blooms and fruits, and yes, even our marauding rabbit. The rhythms of life, the changing of the seasons, it was all there to see, to learn from, in lovely late summer light.