POV: A garden’s September swan song

The writer is with the Cornell Cooperative Extension Albany County.

Have you noticed that the days are getting shorter and the nights are cooler? Both are sure signs of the changing seasons, and it is the month of September that leads the charge into autumn.

While families with young children view this month as the time to get back to a schedule, gardeners take a deep breath of recognition that there is a lot of garden work to do in preparation for winter. September’s glorious weather guides us gently down the path to reality. There are a lot of subtle changes that begin in September and much of it has to do with light; either the length of the day or the intensity and, in particular, the quality of the light. Warm golden tones bathe the plants with soft amber sunlight, and the rays seem less intense to me as I weed and begin the cutting back ritual. Chipmunks and squirrels have begun to bury nuts and seeds, and I unearth some of their food treasures as I plant the spring-flowering bulbs. It seems as though we are all planning for spring even as we prepare for winter.

Fall-blooming anemones are radiant and downright distracting to me as I cut back the perennials that have finished their cycle. Asters pop in the border with their burgundy and purple hues, and hardy fall mums are coming into their own, as is sedum and Montauk Daisy. The Rose of Sharon, Diana, is still aglow with pure white open-faced blooms and the Sweet Autumn clematis is a solid white blanket engulfing the deck railing and perfuming the air.

There is a lot going on! My autumn joys continue as I gaze at the mop heads of hydrangea gently taking on a rosy tinge, and I make a mental note to cut some for drying. The coleus and angelonia do not know that cold weather is coming, and I won’t tell them lest they cease beguiling me with their colorful ways. And the impatiens, well what can I say as they are faithful and true till the end but always a treasure in September when they are fat and sassy – a riot of color in my shady little backyard.

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