Sunday Opinion: The Changing Of The Season

Every year I tell Buck with great confidence that I will keep my summer season going past Labor Day.  I watch the weather-especially the night temperatures.  I water like crazy-all of my completely root bound containers need water daily.  We just had a 4 day spell of temperatures in the 90’s-one day we soaked the roof boxes twice.  Of course I interpret this to mean that somehow summer will go on into September, at the expense of the fall. 

I have plenty of half baked ideas-this is just one of them.  I know Labor Day formally celebrates the economic and social contributions of people who work.  It is celebrated with speeches, barbeques, picnics, and fireworks.  I love labor day weekend-my neighborhood streets are jammed with cars.  There is music in the air.  My immediate neighbor always has a party.  I get to go to the party, based solely on my proximity.  But labor day also represents the opening day of the fall season.  Kids go back to school.  The night temperatures drop.  My containers may go on another 6 weeks, but the season is already changing.  Those beginning changes are so subtle, it is easy to ignore them.  The days are a little shorter, the nights cooler, the sun not nearly as hot.

We have four seasons in Michigan.  Not just summer and winter-spring, summer, fall, and winter.  Each one lasts about 3 months.  The summer season has been extreme-lots of cold, then rain, then the fierce heat and more rain.  Most of the maples in my neighborhood have been defoilating from fungus for weeks. There is mildew on everything; I started getting calls for fall plantings two weeks ago.  I do not fault the gardeners for this.  There is always something that doesn’t work out. How hard you work, how passionate you are, the amount of time effort and money you spend, has little or nothing to do with success.  I have plantings that I have tried every gambit I can dream up; they can still do poorly, given the right circumstances.  The lime nicotiana I plant on my deck every year with glorious results is completely out of bloom. I can put the entire weight of my experience and interest to a planting that is struggling, and still come up wanting.  That summer is coming to a close can be a very good thing.  I am ready to be relieved of that which just didn’t work out.

This labor keeping up a garden is considerable.  This is a polite way of saying that should you decide to garden, you will have blisters, scratches, bug bites, soaking wet feet, aching muscles, sweat running everywhere, calloused hands, sunbaked arms, and a  A giant amount of sweaty work that every day will threaten to do you in.  Late this afternoon I chopped down the asparagus in between my roses to 12 inches above ground.  This took 2 hours.  I had gobs of debris-all of which I hauled down the steps to the trash.  This may not be the best move for the asparagus, but I have boltonia and white Japanese anemone coming on that I would like to look at. I went on to water 2 new plantings by hand.  I watered all of the pots-I have 26.  At the shop, I have 40 pots, the driveway gardens, and the roof boxes.  I am on duty for that over the holiday.  That the temperature is 59 today-excellent.  My labor day will not be labor free, but it will be manageable.   

Overall, the shop gardens look good-but for the window boxes.  There is too little contrast in leaf forms, and the overall shape is ungainly to my eye.  The mildew is spreading underneath.  Grassshoppers, snails and aphids have been lunching there nonstop.  On the up side, I will not have to deal with them much longer.  My windowbox troubles are about to be eclipsed by the coming of the fall.  A new season means looking forward another chance to interpret the garden.


  1. The first question people ask me when they tour my English-style garden is “How much time do you spend in the garden?”. They do not realize that it takes at least three or four hours a day to maintain large, mainly herbaceous borders and numerous (actually 28) annual containers, not including all the mowing and edging. And it is hard work – bending, pulling, lifting, toting, lugging, pruning, etc. It is a labour of love and the rewards are immeasurable, but when September arrives, I admit I do give a little sigh of relief.

  2. Personally, given what we saw yesterday, I think your window boxes are a triumph….and the orange concept for this season was a real stunner…this coming from someone who is just as happy with a white garden. As usual, here I sit, the day after a trip to DGW: overstimulated to the nth degree. This time, to the nth degree cubed.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Michael, you are too kind. The first pass at a conceptual landscape design had better be stimulating-where else will the energy come from to revise and revise again until it delights in every way? Deborah

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