I am always reluctant to say goodbye to summer but this morning, as I type with cold hands for the first time in months, I have to acknowledge a shift. The capricious weather has been bouncing from gray stormy back to sultry only to blow on a breeze to delicious apple-crisp. And visitors to the gardens no longer seem to expect a riot of summer color and instead act surprised to find a kaleidoscope that shifts with every turn. We’re not surprised though. While Gail and I are glad to have been spared the hail that battered nearby gardens the other day, we are used to taking a whole lot of color after Labor Day for granted.

But even though we expect color – and planned for it – doesn’t mean we aren’t excited about it. Of course we’re still enjoying all of the flowers that started blooming weeks and months ago (echinacea, 4 O’clocks, nicotiana, agastache, zinnias, roses…) but are especially thrilled now by the late bloomers. Last spring or early summer, Gail tucked a couple of brandy-new sneezeweeds into the cutting garden. I can’t decide if I love Helenium ‘Can Can’ or ‘Tie Dye’ better… Good thing we have both.

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum), an old standby newly placed in the pollinator garden, are perfectly timed to prove that white after Labor Day was never gauche. Even so, I  generally prefer more pigment in my colors and am endlessly fascinated by the range of pale pinks and speckled golds in the pagoda tower flowers of native dotted mint (Monarda punctata). I never want summer to end but I am always impatient for those to start blooming.

Same is true of bush clover. All summer I cannot WAIT for that to bloom. I like Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Samindare’ so much I bought one for my own garden last year. It only arches 4-5′ tall (after an early spring whack-back to the ground) so doesn’t take up as much garden as its sister ‘Gibraltar’. The bees can’t get enough of ‘Edo-Shibori’ (5-6′ arches) but to my eyes from a distance its tiny pink and white flowers read as beige so now I can’t wait for its translucent chartreuse seedpods.

Is your garden a kaleidoscope of color after Labor Day? Are there any late-summer bloomers you can’t wait to see?

2 thoughts on “Kaleidoscope

  1. As I look out over my back garden, here in Vancouver, I am surprised at how much pink I see: dahlia, sedum, phygelius, rose, and hesperantha stand out against the foliage of plants that have done their bit already. There are reds and yellows as well: monarda, persicaria, last blooms of certain hollyhocks, helenium, helianthus, and rudbeckia. The only plants whose blooms we await are the asters–oh, and the pineapple sage, in pots and in the garden.

    Debby, You’re so right about all the pinks. But my eyes seem to have to sift through all of the golds to get to them. And it’s a long wait for the pineapple sage, isn’t it? But so worth it! -kris

  2. I love the way you so lovingly write about plants, Kristin. Each passage is a gift to the reader. Sending love and green to Gail also.

    Ellen, Thank you! Love and green from both of us right back atcha! -kris

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