“Indian Summer”

African Blue Basil and Comfrey still attract bumblebees in late September.

African Blue Basil and Comfrey still attract bumblebees in late September.

September is nearly gone.  We will greet October in only three more days.

Yet summer lingers in our garden.

Shorter days and cooler nights have brought color to our Dogwood trees.

Our Caladiums have passed their prime.  Cool nights send them into dormancy.

Our Caladiums have passed their prime. Cool nights send them into dormancy.


The Caladiums began to crumple and lose leaves three weeks ago.    But we forgive them.  They are tropicals, after all; and they hate temperatures below 50 F.

We know the cool nights, sometimes dipping into the 50’s lately, have sent a strong signal that it is time for a rest.

It is nearly time to dig them and bring them in for winter.


September 27, 2014 garden 015

But most of our herbs and flowers looks as lovely as they did in May, June, and July.

Here, near the coast, we have something like a  “second spring” in September and October.  And I grew up calling it, “Indian Summer.”

Although nights may be cool, we still enjoy sunny days of 70 and 80 degrees.  Last week’s rain signaled an opportunity for new growth through most of the garden.

September 27, 2014 garden 001

The color palette may have shifted towards richer, deeper tones  now that the Black Eyed Susans have opened.

And our Pineapple Sage opened its first scarlet flowers this week.  Perhaps I’ll remember to take some photos of them tomorrow.

I gathered figs today, and pears.  There is pear butter cooking in the crock-pot this evening, filling the house with the rich aroma of cinnamon and cloves, brown sugar and stewing fruit.


September 25 iris 003

But the Basil still blooms, perfuming the garden with its spicy sweetness.

Some of our Lantana now bloom over my head,and I’m rather tall for a Woodland Gnome.

"Miss Huff" Lantana, now in its third summer, blooms at "head height" now.  It will continue to bloom until a hard freeze kills the leaves.

“Miss Huff” Lantana,  in its third summer, blooms at “head height” now. It will continue to bloom until a hard freeze kills the leaves.

The Cannas still open their crimson flowers  each day, and the Elephant Ears grow larger than toilet seats.

That may not be an elegant way to describe them, but I bet you know exactly how large they’ve grown!

Colocasia, "Blue Hawaii" is supposed to be hardy here in Zone 7b.  I'mn debating whether to pot up a division to keep inside as insurance...

Colocasia, “Blue Hawaii” is supposed to be hardy here in Zone 7b. I’m debating whether to pot up a division to keep inside as insurance…  This one spent the winter in the garage.

Geraniums still offer up  fresh fuchsia, cream  and pink blossoms in their pots.  They love these cooler days and nights.  Almost embarrassingly bright now, they soldier on as though summer will last forever.

Those who spent winter in our garage are most determined to keep the blooms coming, savoring each new day out of doors.

A particularly nice cultivar of ornamental sage, this has bloomed in the garden since I planted it from a 6 pack in April.

A particularly nice cultivar of ornamental sage, this has bloomed in the garden since I planted it from a six pack in April.


And of course, our Begonias have covered themselves in tiny pink blossoms; hundreds of them on every stem.

Their new foliage has grown in, replacing the pale winter leaves with which they greeted May.  I”m a little sad now, realizing they have grow so much there isn’t room for them all to come in next month.

All of those little cuttings I stuck into pots with such optimism are now full fledged plants.

These blooming adults need new homes of their own if they are to survive.  I am hoping to find some willing adoptive parents among my gardening friends.

Although this photo was taken a month ago, Begonia "Flamingo" remains covered in flowers.

Although this photo was taken a month ago, Begonia “Flamingo” remains covered in flowers.

I sent home a little division of a favorite Begonia, tucked into a clam shell as there was not pot at hand, yesterday evening with a beloved friend.  We are sisters at heart, although she grew up half a world away, speaking different languages and eating different foods.  Somehow our paths brought both of us to this community at about the same time.  And now she fosters Begonias for me over the winter in her bright, sunny home.

Colocasia, "Black Magic"

Colocasia, “Black Magic” is supposed to be hardy here, and should survive winter with a little mulch over its crown.


And yes, it is time to begin the move back indoors for those tender plants who won’t make it through the  first hard freeze.  Another friend and I were chatting today, as I visited her garden for the first time.

We agree the coming winter will be as cold and harsh as winter 2013.   She is waiting to buy perennials for her newly made border, knowing in her bones they don’t have time to establish before the weather shifts.

Flowers have grown into seeds on this butterfly tree.

Flowers have grown into seeds on this butterfly tree.


This “Indian Summer” may be tantalizingly sweet, but it will be brief.  Gardening friends to the north already feel the change that is coming.

And so I’ll begin to close the garden down next week.  I’ve already been walking around and making plans; assessing what will be hardy and what is not.  My windowsills are full of cuttings.   I’m gathering seeds; pulling up spent annuals.


September 27, 2014 garden 003

But it’s not quite time to bring all the pots back inside, yet.  It is still September, and the sun shines bright and golden on the garden this weekend.

Bearded Iris have come back into bloom and there are new buds on the roses.  Bumble bees still hum around the herbs.


September 27, 2014 garden 005

New leaves are opening on the figs, and early mornings feel like spring.

I hope summer still lingers in your garden.   

I hope a few vegetables are still ripening on your vines, and flowers are still blooming in your beds.


Pyracantha berries have begun to ripen.

Pyracantha berries have begun to ripen near the street.


As the trees turn up the volume of color a little more each day, there is no mistaking the crisp scent of change  in the air.

But let summer linger just a little longer, before it fades back into memory.


September 27, 2014 garden 002

Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

14 responses to ““Indian Summer”

  1. Your garden still looks very lovely and vibrant! I am in the process of shutting ours down. The drier and warmer weather did no favors for our vegetables and flowers. The last of the zucchini bread will be baked tomorrow and placed in the freezer. The last of the apples made into sauce…

    I can’t wait for spring…

  2. I’ve started pulling in the houseplants from outside, repotting, etc. Deciding who gets saved and who perishes is never fun, I am rather soft-hearted, but I realistically can’t save everyone!
    Your seeds arrived – thank you very much. Are they winter hardy here in zone 5 do you think or should I keep them inside ’til spring? My I. purpurea seed self-sow with no problem, but not sure about yours. Is the leaf heart-shaped or 3-lobed and would you know its Latin name per chance? I think they’ll look great with my scarlet runner beans next summer. BTW, would you like some of them – I have tons.

    • Dear Eliza,
      I started pulling plants back inside for my parents yesterday. They anticipate upper 40s or low 50s on Saturday and Sunday nights. We will be a little lower, but I have not decided how much to do here. It WILL warm up after this “blast across the bow” cold front sweeps through. The Caladiums remain my first concern, and the best of the Begonias. Always such a hard time to know some of the beloved being in the garden must be left behind to the weather- Another reason to love hardy perennials!
      Eliza, I don’t have the Latin name for the vine, but the leaves are three lobed. The seeds survive our Zone 7 winters just fine, as all of the vines each year “self sow.” They should be gorgeous with your scarlet runner beans! I already have seeds for the beans… thank you very much for the offer 😉 I had a “volunteer” of scarlet runner this summer, coming from a pot on our deck which I’d left alone in spring waiting for some fig cuttings to come out. The figs leafed out, eventually, and the bean vine has clamored over them all summer, to the delight of our hummers and bumblebees 😉 Wonderful to hear from you, Eliza. So glad the seeds arrived safely, WG

  3. Beautiful post, as always, WG. I’m not sure about harsh when it comes to winters here since they seem mild to me. We found out today we have a fig plant, so I’m excited about that. 🙂

    • That is exciting! Does it bear figs, yet? Isn’t it interesting that you’ve been on the property more than a year, and still making discoveries 😉 Last year’s “harsh winter” was more about how it affected the garden and the animals here, than how it affected us. We plant for the warmer climate so things will survive our summers 😉 We lost so many of our Rosemary plants last winter, and others were severely damaged, though they’ve bounced back. And our figs were killed back more so than other winters. We’re getting very few figs, and the trees took a long time to leaf out. Much of the older wood just died in the cold. I am hoping for an easier winter on the garden, but know it is likely to be another tough one. All of the volcanic activity around the world is one factor which will likely keep it colder than usual.

      Thank you for the kind words on the, and so glad you enjoyed it 😉

      Best wishes, WG

  4. farseems

    Thank you dear friend and sister at heart, for your words, which I know come from the heart. Though far from my biological sisters, I have found another here: and so that is what the real world and real truth is all about. Differences are but an opportunity for savoring of variety and of “knowing one another” as humans, finding our kindred souls wherever we might be: the tasting of our varied foods, yours of mine and mine of yours is such a joy as is growing our gardens and sharing our plants: your love of them is akin to that of my father’s for his garden, and one of my bio sisters, so much like you my friend, in her love of plants, and so is not my cup then running over? so much to be grateful for besides the spring/summery entre into autumn. You have described it so well, there is no more to add, except waiting for a few more tomatoes on the vine, hoping for enough sunlight to redden them before the vine is composted and laid to rest.

    Yes this summer was lovely in more ways than one. For us who are blessed to have had it thus at least. We pray no one suffers and all are able to live with love and peace in their environs.

  5. Lovely pics and views as always, WG. 🙂 September is certainly ending on the warm side up here. Not so bad we need the a/c on again, just in the low 80’s. Maples are now beginning to turn to their reds, and the Elms have begun yellowing; days are noticeably shorter, no doubt. Hope you have a great Sunday. Peace and luvz, Keith

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