September may be the most difficult month for gardeners. Not fully summer, but not the coolness of a real autumn month. The good news is that we are over the worst of the summer heat and by the end of the month, night temperatures are getting down into the 60’s. Plants, like other living things, breathe. They go through transpiration where they expel moisture to keep cool. Think of how you would feel if you were panting all night long in the hot evening air!
To say that our plants are exhausted by the time that September arrives is an understatement.
And our gardens show it.
Many of my perennial plants have just given up and gone dormant. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp) have nothing left by seed heads, coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) have their big cool pom pom like seeds, and my red hot pokers (Kniphofia spp.) are nothing but a few spiky leaves. Some Salvia’s are dying at the top, but have fresh rosettes of leaves at the bottom of the stalks or might even have new leaves growing along the stalks. I cut off what looks dead and when cooler days and nights arrive, I should have new growth and new flowers.
The one plant that looks as fresh as a daisy (as the cliché goes) and is not a daisy, is a rose. Roses seem so delicate and yet mine seem to love the hot weather. I have two David Austin English roses that have bloomed all summer long without a break or rest. I will be giving them a fall feeding for more blooms. They seem to go dormant the end of December when the daylight hours are short and the temps are actually cold at night. Yes, it does happen in the Lowcountry. How can we forget that hard freeze last Christmas?
I cannot say that September is my favorite month to garden. It is still too hot to tackle any large projects and there are still biting insects. My garden is no longer lush and there are distinct gaps or holes in the foliage. I also hate to see the days getting shorter and the mornings so dark.
There are some things that do keep a smile on my face in transition September. A type of salvia, known as forsythia sage (Salvia madrensis) blooms this time of the year. It is a very tall (5-6 feet) plant with sturdy stems and long spikes of yellow flowers. Asters (Symphytotrichum spp.) and goldenrod (Solidago spp.) are coming in their own and who doesn’t like purple and yellow? They are both native plants and pollinators love them. I am finally seeing lots and lots of butterflies in my garden right now and they were quite sparse earlier in the summer. I also have one of the weirdest looking flowers right now on my pinecone ginger (Zingiber zerumbet). They look, of course, like giant red pinecones. This plant has been used as a shampoo and conditioner. If you squeeze the “cones” a liquid is exuded so this plant is often known as shampoo ginger. I have not tried it as a shampoo. It is a fun plant to have just for interest.
So, even though September is my least favorite gardening month, I have learned to take pleasure in what is growing and what is going through a transition from our H and H days to a more temperate season.
You may wonder where the Comya Gardener has been these past few weeks. I was fortunate to play golf in Scotland for two weeks and then just arrived home from a 15 day cruise around the British Isles. I got to check Orkney and the Shetland Islands off of my bucket list. It was interesting to see what the gardens were like in those places since there is only a temperature difference of about ten degrees between winter highs and summer highs. Gardens were lush with an abundance of flowers. The entire landscape was very green although with the small amount of daylight in the winter, I am sure that will change dramatically.
If you are interested in purchasing my book on gardening in the Lowcountry for newcomers, it is available at LowCo Gardens in Port Royal, Bruno's and The Greenery on Hilton Head, and Southern Marsh Nursery in Bluffton.