Well summer in the garden has finally come to an end.  As the seasons get ready to change, my plants appear ready for a nice long break.  Due to the excess amount of rain this summer and scorching hot afternoons my garden has been showing signs of stress.  I have had to walk past my plants screaming for attention each day for the past month.

In my post, A Welcome Change, I mentioned that I would be exploring new horticultural ventures in the near future.  My professional horticultural experience includes: retail nursery customer service/manager, grower, researcher, national mail-order nursery customer service, garden designer, garden consultant, and now I can add to the list…teacher.

I have been substitute teaching at a local community college for 4 weeks.  The course is called Landscape Management.  I may or may not be teaching the entire semester.  It is still yet to be determined.  Teaching has been a completely new experience for me.  In many ways it has been challenging, but everything is that way when you’ve never done it before.  I am unsure if I will be given the opportunity to teach other courses in the future.  However, for now I am enjoying playing the role of professor.

The first thing I have learned about being a teacher is that they have to work twice as hard as the students.  Therefore, I’ve had very little time for anything else including my garden.  The weeds have been multiplying.  The many days of rain were a nuisance to many, but were somewhat of a blessing for me.  My plants may not look great right now as a result of the rain, but they would likely be dead since finding time to water would have been nearly impossible.

Until today I had been taking short strolls through the yard, only allowing myself to look at all the work needing to be done.  From my window I’ve been watching the butterflies feast on the blossoms and the hummingbirds drinking the sweet nectar.  There has also been a frequent visiting box turtle who stayed many days in the back yard.

I happened upon him one day while I was watering (one of the few times I made it out there) my Bolivian Sunflower in the corner of my privacy fence.  I didn’t want to disturb him, but my plant desperately needed a drink of water.  I tried to be careful not to spray him, but then suddenly he started walking towards the stream of water.  I asked him, “Are you thirsty?”  Very slowly I knelt down and laid the water nozzle at ground level.  He walked right into it and stretched his head forward into the water.  This turtle was taking himself a shower!  It was a very sweet moment I will remember always.

After this I saw him many times.  He seemed to feel comfortable around me and even my dog Coach.  One morning he was at the opposite end of the yard tucked in the corner.  Once again he walked into the water indicating to me that he wanted me to hold still for a moment.  After I did this he walked right out into the open completely unafraid of me and Coach.  We went inside, but I watched him from inside the sunroom.  I was concerned that he may be trapped and that he might be hungry.  Vito was looking up what box turtles ate inside as I watched the turtle step up into my flower bed to nibble on a mushroom.  I had no idea they even liked mushrooms!  He was precious taking one slow bite after another chomping away.

I’ve always known people to kick over a mushroom when they see it concerned more will pop up.  Mushrooms don’t really cause any problems for me (luckily Coach knows better than to eat them), so unless they smell I just leave them where they are.  I was so thankful I did because my little friend now had something for breakfast.  So the next time you feel the need to eliminate your mushrooms remember they are food for these sweet creatures.

After only being able to watch my garden for many weeks, today I was finally able to do a little weeding and pruning.  There are still many weeds left to pull, but I did get to cut back my spent perennials.  They all looked so tired and ready to recharge for a while.  I lost one of my butterfly bushes to nematodes, so I had to yank it out.  I had already grieved this loss back when I realized what the problem was and that there was nothing I could do.  Regardless of what happened, this plant was so beautiful for such a long time that I will be planting another in its place.

Coincidentally, the perennials that needed the most cutting back were those that were absolutely glorious in the garden this summer.  More than likely they will all come back next year, but they are due for a rest.  Many gardeners become saddened as autumn approaches because they know their plants will be slowing down preparing for the winter.  I will miss these plants too, but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them today.  This was the first year my veronica flowered and it was well worth the wait.  They bloomed for 2 months straight.

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My Shasta daisies were gorgeous this summer.  These happy flowers filled my vases all season.  I never thought they would stop blooming! Of course eventually they did cease to flower and I gave them some heavy pruning.

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These plants have worked hard this summer and I don’t blame them for running out of steam.  While I was placing the once green stems now brown into my trash bucket, I made myself remember how beautiful these plants were just a short time ago.  It’s amazing how things can change just like that.  There is no reason to be sad…nothing lasts forever.  All we can do is enjoy, appreciate, and be present as these moments happen.

I know many folks are looking forward to some cooler weather after so many hot summer days, which I am too.  However, for me the cooler weather means that I can begin the next stage of my cottage garden.  It seems like the unrelenting summer will never quit, but sure enough I’ve been feeling the change in the air, watching the light become more golden, and the dreaded cool season weed, Florida Betony, has begun to pop up in my flower beds.

DSC06695The non-gardeners may be ready for sweaters, the gardeners might be sad to see their flowers fade, but one way or another Fall is coming.  No matter what we do these changes, welcome or not, will come.

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