Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fall's Fading Blooms--September Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Ah, September. This morning truly felt like fall--slightly chilly, a bit overcast, less humidity. Perhaps the fact that I walked into at least half-a-dozen spider webs cemented that fall-feeling. As soon as the temperatures cool and the days begin to shorten, the spiders throw a convention at our house, inviting friends to spin their webs conveniently along the path I take to the big kitchen garden. 

Have you ever picked a spider web from your eye lashes? No? Well, let me assure you--it's an experience you'll never forget.


I might admit to a touch of arachnophobia, but don't tell anyone. I'll lose credibility as an organic gardener. In fact, this is the time of year that the neighbors think I'm looney. I'll walk through the gardens, waving a stick in front of my face, desperate to avoid repeating that web-in-the-eyelash experience.

I know, poor spiders. They work so hard building their webs, and then a wimpy gardening girl goes and swishes a stick through their home.

Last week, though, I fought my fear and battled a writing spider to save two swallowtail butterflies. Normally, I really admire writing spiders--they're not only creepily gorgeous, but their webs are works of art. This one, though, ticked me off. It built its web in my lantana, where dozens of butterflies converge for high energy sips of nectar. As I walked to the bus stop to meet Mikey, I saw two swallowtail butterflies struggling in the web.

No! My poor butterflies!

Taking an envelope from the mailbox, I scooped one butterfly free from the web, while the ginormous spider hung but an inch from my hand, wrapping up the second butterfly. The first flew free, but try as I might--I couldn't rescue the second.


And when I looked more closely, I found a butterfly graveyard in my lantana--dozens of butterfly wings lay on the lower leaves.

OK, it's nature, and I shouldn't intervene--but somehow, I just HAD to rescue the butterflies from that crafty spider. Finding so many butterfly victims made me sad.

But fall always tends to make me a tad melancholy. The faded blooms, the disappearance of summer produce, the kids back in school, and our hectic schedules...

Fortunately, our fall seedlings bring a sense of excitement and rejuvenation, just as the rest of the garden looks so tired.

As I walked through the garden today to play along with May Dreams Gardens' Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, I felt a little more peaceful about the impending arrival of fall. 

The snail flower vine, one of my favorite heirloom flowers, bloomed for the first time this season. I love this plant and its history.

The fraise ds bois continues to charm with its tiny blooms, and thankfully we're still enjoying its incredibly sweet fruit.

The soft pinks of the aged oakleaf hydrangea blooms will soon be complimented with the stunning red foliage. How can you not love oakleaf hydrangeas? 

The caryopteris still draws bees like mad... 

...and the few late 'Provence' lavender blooms are like bee-candy.

The toad lilies brighten our shady back garden, although I think they'd appreciate a bit more light. They're stretching and searching for the sun, trying to find it around the neighboring plants.

The dwarf gardenias surprised me this year. After an amazing show in the spring, they decided to host a repeat performance in September. Our front entrance way smells delicious. 

Fortunately, many plants loved by pollinators continue to produce and bloom in our gardens. Perennial hibiscus...



...and even the marigolds in the kitchen garden are working hard this month. I'm hoping this Gulf Fritillary butterfly finds one of the 18 passionflower vines I planted this summer. I'd love to play host to Gulf Fritillary larva.

Although the nectar sources are still plentiful, I always supplement with feeders for the hummingbirds, especially as fall nears. 

Really, is there anything more lovely than watching hummingbirds? With three feeders outside the office window in the front gardens, I admit that I'm easily distracted, watching their swooping and hovering.

A happy fall event--plant sales! Soon, it will be time for my favorite plant sale at Hatcher Gardens. This sale, though, was too good to pass up: two tropical hibiscus for $5! Yes, it was at a big box store, but honestly--who cares? They're pretty, and they'll become organic, living in our gardens. (Of course, they'll spend the winter in the greenhouse.)

I'll also move the hanging baskets of fuchsia into the greenhouse, once the temperatures threaten to drop. In our area, our first freeze is expected near the end of October.

We've successfully overwintered the mandevilla for the past two years. But for now, it continues to bright the pool gardens.

The viburnum, which bloomed extravagantly all spring, is at it again--huge, lovely, cheerful blooms began appearing last week, and the bushes are filled with buds.

The Pee Gee hydrangea continues to show off, but it's slowly quieting down as the weather cools.

As some of the blooms wind down, our shiitakes are just beginning to pop. The amazingly wet summer, such a rarity in South Carolina, bodes well for a great mushroom harvest. The first shiitake of the fall rests on our counter, awaiting a chef's inspiration.

The poor, neglected herb garden is a tangle of blooms and scent. Tomorrow, I must, must harvest herbs to dry for the winter. I've been remiss in tending these babies, but they seem to like the lack of attention. The mints, of course, don't need much help--except the wisdom to keep them contained in pots. I love mint blossoms--they're so cheerful.

While a few scraggly tomato vines and pepper plants remain in the big kitchen garden and potager, the edible beds need to be cleaned up and readied for the fall veggies. However, the beans continue to produce like mad, much to the agony of the kids. (We've eaten a lot of beans recently.) Scarlet runner beans' blooms provide a darling addition to the vertical garden...

...while the purple blossoms of Rattlesnake pole beans also provide a bit of beauty.

I adore Asiatic dayflower, but I wish it would stay out of the kitchen garden beds. While I appreciate this adorable wildflower, it's quite invasive in our forest--and in our compost pile! Still, it IS awfully pretty.

While there are still quite a few blooms in our gardens, the true stars of the September garden are the Japanese anemones. What began as five plants purchased three years ago became a forest of bright pink and yellow cheerfulness. It's constantly bobbing and swaying, filled with pollinators feasting gluttonously.

Japanese anemones are truly the best part of our fall garden.

What's blooming in your garden? Will you plant a fall kitchen garden, or will you take a rest for the winter?

Happy Bloom Day!




  1. You still have some beautiful flowers going strong! I've been known to wave a stick around in front of me at this time of year as well. I've had a spiderweb in the face too, but I don't think I've ever had to pick one off my eyelashes. We have a lot of spiders out there right now.

  2. Your photos and your blooms are gorgeous! I love your blog! You write well!

  3. I would have intervened for the butterflies as well! My spiders are only allowed to eat bugs I don't like!

  4. Ah, the autumn spiders – they have arrived in my garden too! I walk into them everywhere, don’t mind the cobweb so much, but I hate getting spiders in my long hair, not really knowing if I have managed to get it out again or not! Loved the snail flower vine, never seen that one before. And I have bought a hardy, double dwarf gardenia just a few weeks ago, it is still just a tiny plant, a couple of inches tall so I think I will keep it in the pot over winter, but I have a great spot for it once it gets a bit bigger. How long have you had yours? Any tips for me growing it? And what type of Viburnum is your white one in the photo? Thanks for the stroll around your beautiful autumn garden, so much to see, happy GBBD!

  5. I laughed at the mention of spiders throwing a convention at your house, Julie. They're having one here, too:) So delightful to see your butterflies, though the lantana graveyard made me sad. We've seen very few butterflies here this summer, and I hope it isn't a sign of fewer next year as well. The growing season is very short here, so I won't be planting any more in my vegetable garden--time to clean it up!

  6. Hi Julie, I enjoyed your post. We've had a number of spiders, too, and after trying to decide how to handle it, decided to flick at a web so the skipper in it could get away.

    Thanks for the comment on my blog. I hope you see a good number of monarchs yet this fall.