Life With Horace

poetry & essays

Black eyed susan

field notes: end of summer, visual feast


The end of (traditional) summer has arrived. In the natural world summer is only winding down, its passing not a done deal. This year I’ve been struck by the blowsy charms of the overripe, the almost gone, the partly eaten former glories in my garden.

Sedum, blue lobelia and black eyed susan.

Sedum, emerging blue lobelia and black eyed susan.

I’ve been feeling each day of this summer so intensely, mindful of time passing. It has been a wonderful experience I hope to carry into fall.

With the usual late season suspects coming into their own — garlic chive flowers, blue lobelia, cardinal flower, buddleia and sedum, red and yellow apples — our visual smorgasbord is lush.

We have at least one pair of ruby throated hummingbirds here this year. I wonder if I will see them leave, or simply realize they haven’t been by in a couple of days.

I now know generally where one nest is, and will take a careful look come October.

A weed visitor, not without charm

A weed/wildflower visitor, not without its charm

This has been a so so summer for butterflies, although we did have a Luna Moth visit early on. I have not seen a single Monarch this summer so far. Not one. [9/11/14 post script: three monarchs have appeared, big relief.]

Our milkweed patch, here before we moved in, continues to thrive, and we will harvest some seeds to spread in other areas around our yard.

Blue lobelia

Blue lobelia in full bloom

Did I mention the toads? And frogs? They are all over the place, many more than usual. Horrie thinks it is his mission to catch them all. Yesterday one tiny toad hid out on my water sandal next to my heel until the coast was clear. It felt like a very soft, wispy kiss, which is what made me look down in the first place. Coming home last night from rehearsal there were big two green and brown bullfrogs on the kitchen doorstep, feasting on bugs!


Not quite denuded sunflower.

The bandit-masked yellow goldfinches have been going at the sunflowers, duking it out with the chipmunks for all the goodies on offer.

As I write this, there are three of them out there, calling to each other, pecking away.

Some of our winter residents have been coming by to see if the feeders are back up yet (they aren’t). Titmice, nuthatches, a woodpecker, and the ever hopeful mourning doves have all been here in the last week or so. The jays haven’t bothered yet. Come November we will be in the sunflower seed and suet business again. Any sooner and our bear friends will be back.

Purple bee balm, almost gone by

Purple bee balm, almost gone by

The purple bee balm had its glory days, and is now showing the effects of some mildew, but it was quite the star of the garden in mid-summer. It seems to be thriving and spreading more than its red or white cousins. I usually leave some deadheads intact over the winter for visual interest. And the birds.

Starry garlic chive flowers, echoing early spring bulbs

Starry garlic chive flowers, echoing early spring bulbs

Cardinal flower, always such a surprisingly intense red.

Cardinal flower, always such a surprisingly intense red.

It will be time to harvest the herbs soon and move a few plants around, and after the first frost trim things down and top dress the beds with a wonderful compost from Maine.

But not quite yet. We still have hummingbirds and dragonflies!

Author: Life With Horace

Poetry & Essays

3 thoughts on “field notes: end of summer, visual feast

  1. Oh they’ll know, never fear!


  2. I would love to see a luna moth! We’ve had gallium sphinx moths out at the football stadium but nothing as dramatic as a luna. The image of the little toad on your shoe is priceless.


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