21 September 2008

September, harbinger of autumn

Before anything else, pretty pictures or words, let me say a huge, heartfelt 'THANK YOU' to all of you who have posted get-well wishes to me in recent days. It's been a challenging summer at many levels, and I'm fed up with being sick all the time. Yet I also recognize others have it way, way worse than I do, so to paraphrase an old poem, "God forgive me when I whine...I ain't dead yet, the world is mine."

September: it was the most beautiful of words, he’d always felt,
evoking orange-flowers, swallows, and regret.
- Alexander Theroux, 1981

I read these words on a calendar or in an almanac one time, and thought about how true in some ways it is, at least in this gardener’s musings. It seems especially poignant to me this year, as we race towards the oncoming of autumn in just a few hours time.

Orange-flowers may have meant the flowers of the orange tree to M. Theroux,(I love texts that can be construed in several ways) but to me they mean orange-coloured flowers, of which there are more than a few in our garden. The last of the daylilies are winding down, after a remarkable display that has been going on for at least six weeks, but the school-bus orange of Stella d’Oro still remains. A host of Rudbeckia, Helenium and helianthus are doing their thing in riotous shades of orange around the garden, and Ligularia ‘Desdemona’ brings visitors to a complete halt, with her huge burgundy-backed leaves and very orange flowers. Even the wildflowers are into orange, with touch-me-nots (Impatiens) hanging with their little bonnet-like blossoms open for bees and any errant hummingbirds that might be around. I know I wax on and on about ice plant flowers, but they just please me so immensely, and I love the orange ones contrasted with the blue of the plumbago--a sure cheering sight on a watercolour autumn day, when rain is hinted and the sun is weary.

Swallows means several things to us. The tree and barn swallows fledged their young some time ago, and while they were here earlier in the week, I think they have departed. They brought great joy to us as we watched their aerial ballets and breakdances (the children were a bit clumsy by times.) Last year’s fledgings and flight-training was hilarious, happening on a particularly windy day. The swallowchildren would flutter around for a while, then all land in a row on the ridge of the house, where no exhortations could move them until they were ready to move. This year, flight practice days were cool and calm, and the little ones landed only to start their incessant demands for food. “Feed me!” their imperious little voices proclaimed, and the parents did.

Swallows too meant swallowing those lumps in the throat that come on wistful moments when we realize that summer is slipping through our grasp all too quickly. Wasn’t it only last week that it was April and we were grumping about the cruelest month, waiting for bulbs and lilacs and all sorts of other floral festivals? We celebrated the arrival of each and every species, from snowdrops and crocus to daffs and tulips, forsythia and lilacs and on and on. Then came the big flood of perennials and we were drenched in colour, texture, scent and sounds of our garden. Now suddenly the evenings are shortened as the sun’s journey takes less and less time with us; and even though we know we will have many golden autumn days to savour, we also feel a definite spasm of …

Regret. We berate ourselves about what we didn’t accomplish. There are too many weeds, too few flowers, too many things left to do before the closing down of summer is completed. We didn’t visit other gardens as often as we wanted to. We didn’t stop to enjoy our own often enough, perhaps. We didn’t plant that dozen new trees, build that wall, or simply wander around of an early morning with coffee cup in one hand, savouring the marvels of a perfect rose or the dance of the hummingbirds or even the lumbering bouncing flight of a pollen-and-nectar-laden bumblebee. Or maybe we did all these things, but still grieve at the passing of our favourite part of the gardening year.

Still, September and autumn come laden with gifts and hope. The clear, sunwashed days give way to crisp nights ideal for sleeping, and not so many humid-hung days when even reading causes a sweat. In our garden, at least, the floral fireworks continue almost unabated, and while there are orange-flowers galore, they are tempered by other shades, roses and purples and blues, sparkling white and fiery red and yes, the much maligned magenta so despised by some and so embraced by others. It’s true that the swallow-children and other young birds have packed up and headed out—a few hummers still around, and there will be stragglers yet. But also, we will have an abundance of birds throughout the autumn and winter to delight us and the fans of ‘Bird television’ (also known as the cat-children).

And there is planting yet to do, whether dividing perennials or tucking fall-flowering annuals into containers, or planting the hundreds of bulbs we just couldn’t resist purchasing. So I won’t throw in the trowel just yet, nor wallow in too much autumn-nostalgia. Just a little...

Is anyone else feeling that twinge of sorrow for summer's passing? Or are you ready for a break from it all?


  1. Hi Jodi, I do believe you have emerged from the silence, hooray and a hip hip! Your garden looks delightful in these waning days or hours of summer. Does the cold come instantly up there, or does it dribble in bits and dabs? We will have warm weather here for another month, then the cold comes in one day out of seven, then more frequently. I am never sad to see summer end, I love fall with the rich colors and the hopes of next spring already making notes in my journal. Glad you're back.

  2. Beautiful and poignant, Jodi! I mourn the shorter days and lack of lightning bugs, and yes, the end of the season for some of my favorite fruits and vegetables. But fall is my favorite season, and to feel the crisp, clear, humidity-free air and enjoy its blueness, and to see the golds and oranges and reds and purples begin their autumn show and the season of harvest home arriving and, as you say, the wonderful array of winter birds, is balm to my heatstruck soul...

  3. Just came across your blog! Was immediately attracted...especially when I saw the photos of your 'catchildren'. I love kittycats and our current family member is a 6 pound tyrant called "Miss Kitty".

    I also enjoyed seeing your other photos...some beautiful shots.

    I'll be back!


  4. Jodi, way down south in Texas, I sure don't mourn summer's passing. We're finally going to have weather cool enough (probably warmer than your summers) to enjoy gardening again, taking long walks, and just being outside. Winters are mild here, and while the garden slows down and some plants go dormant with the first freeze in late November, much planting and even some blooming still goes on.

    No, it's spring that brings regrets to my mind, much as I enjoy that season's wildflowers.

  5. Though I love the autumn season, I'm never quite ready for the change-over. As you pointed out, it seems only yesterday we were full of, "hurry up!" for spring, and now I find myself screaming, "I didn't mean THAT fast!" But, seasons come and seasons go, in spite of us -- I think every summer just hammers home more clearly for me how time really DOES steal away from us and I'm always left with an overwhelming sense of -- what's the word? Regret, perhaps, as Theroux suggested? That and BIG plans for next year. :)

  6. Oh, the dilemma we are in at this juncture! Wishing for respite from the weeding, feeding and watering, but yearning for just a bit more of the warmth of summer to send us blissfully into the autumn with the warm sun on our back and cool breeze in our face. Autumn truly is my favorite time of year, and unfortunately, it doesn't last nearly long enough. We've already had fires in the wood stove at night to ward off the chill in the evening air. The first frost is forecast for tonight.

  7. Your laments and mixed emotions have inspired my writings at Rosehaven Cottage today. Thank you for that inspiration, Jodi!

    Hugs and wishes of wellness,

  8. Lovely thoughts - I'm with you! Summer went way too fast and though Autumn is my favorite season, I'm not ready for it yet. I feel like I somehow missed Summer this year.

  9. Jodi, so wonderful to have you back in true blooming writer form! You put into words some of the feelings I have when autumn comes. Not enough time spent just enjoying my garden, not enough accomplished. But I am tired of watering and weeding and dead heading.:) So I will welcome the cooler temps, enjoy what few flowers are left, and start to plan for next year.

  10. Hi Jodi,

    Lovely post and beautiful photos. Take care of yourself so you're back on your feet and feeling your old self again soon.

    Ntl Gardening Examiner
    (and chicken lover)

  11. Welcome back, Jodi. I love this autumnal poem and your eloquent musings upon each word. Tree swallows should be heading our way soon - they'll remind me of you and I'll send them your regards. Wish I could grow ice plants, and love the tulips. I vow to plant bulbs this fall as I crave some spring flowers next year. Glad you're feeling better!

  12. Hi Jodi, I glad to see that you are feeling better. I am also looking forward to the Fall season but for us it means temperatures in the 70’s instead of the 80’s and 90’s not much else changes around here (kind of boring depending on your point of view) Your garden looks beautiful as always.
    PS - You have a very smart horse with a brilliant understanding of politics.

  13. Jodi, you have expressed the feelings of a gardener so precisely and vividly. Like Beckie, I am ready for cooler temperatures and no more weeding, but not for the end of blooming.
    Such a great reminder to enjoy every moment of the garden--"to every thing there is a season."

  14. Beautiful, bittersweet post Jodi, so reflective of some of my own sentiments about autum.

    I'm feeling lots of twinges over the passing of summer, and could do without the break. It's a bit of a fantasy of mine to live in a climate where the gardening season never ends.

  15. Hey Jodi, hope your feeling better.Often bloggers disappear for a time leaving us to wonder how they are doing. It is the one failing of a web community.
    But know we think of you and wish you well...Gloria

  16. I just love the way you write. Hope you are feeling a lot better now.Best wishes fom Tyra

  17. Best wishes.
    You have a pleasant way of writing.
    Great pics.
    I have to come back soon.

  18. I love the changing of seasons, and fall (and, of course, spring!) are my favourites. There's beauty in a garden's decline into fall, too.

  19. Every thing here is beautifil...
    really great..

  20. jodi, glad you are on the mend. i am really sad about fall every year, not because i don't like fall, but because i don't like winter! spring is my favorite season. thanks for the thoughtful post.

  21. A most thoughtful post, Jodi. I indeed feel a twinge of sorrow for summer's passing (and a bigger twinge of sorrow facing the many chores ahead ... always more fun in the spring than fall).


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