September already. Were it not for those three sundrenched weeks in August, summer would have passed us by. I'll dream of them through the dreary months. Now, night closes in noticeably earlier each day, signalling a shifting of seasons.
This is a hard-working month for gardeners, with general tidying and cleanup to be done, fruit to pick and process, bulbs to buy and plant, and the last edibles like corn salad, winter lettuce and arugula to be planted early in the month. The third week in September is prime time for planting garlic, though planting can also be done through mid-October.
Watering is tricky in September, because overnight dews make the soil look damp. Check by plunging a long-bladed trowel or narrow-bladed shovel into the ground and levering it forward to see (and feel) whether the soil is deeply moist.
Deadheading, lawn edge trimming and weeding all help to keep a garden looking neat and healthy as autumn approaches. Removing faded annual flowers also promotes ongoing colour, encouraging more bloom.
If you want more late-summer and autumn colour in the perennial garden, visit garden centres to find desirable late bloomers such as border sedums of the Autumn Joy type, now available in many lovely varieties. Summer heathers bloom a long time, some through late autumn.
Bring houseplants back indoors before night temperatures become much cooler outside than they are in the house. Wash pots and plants thoroughly first and check for insect pests.
Twining alliances. Last month Leslie wrote to share her pleasure at plants entwined together in her garden, in particular a blooming honeysuckle weaving itself into the blue flowers of a California lilac, and over her gate a summer jasmine vine mixed with a lavender-flowering clematis. I found similar plant associations in my garden.
A small arch at the entry to my main vegetable plot hosts a Clematis viticella 'Abundance' with small wine-rose blooms blending in with Laura Ford, a yellow miniature climbing rose.
At a corner of a vegetable plot a deep red Don Juan rose grown in pillar form hosts another Clematis viticella, Alba Luxurians in white. Did you know that medieval monks grew roses at the corners of their vegetable plots?
On a tall, curved wire support, morning glory vines bloom amidst climbing Italian zucchini and pole beans.
In the front garden a Clematis terniflora (C. paniculata, sweet autumn clematis) blooms in clouds of small, white, lightly scented flowers over a large Viburnum bodnantense 'Pink Dawn.'
Nearby a tall clay urn holds petunias accompanied by morning glory vines, some trailing down the urn sides and other stubbornly climbing up into the petunia flowers.
I agree with Leslie that plant alliances are interesting and fun to create.
Sticky business. As I've picked dead-ripe figs over the past few weeks from my Desert King tree, I've also been pruning back overlong branches and those heading skyward and impossibly out of reach. Until I perfect the art of levitation, upward heading growth will have to be redirected sideways.
It's not an ideal time for pruning figs. That's in late winter and early spring. But in a large garden it's sometimes necessary to do a job when you can find the time.
Some of the harvest-and-prune days this year were hot and sunny. I wore long pants and a longsleeved shirt to protect my skin against the irritating sap from the tree, but the loose sleeves fell back as I reached upwards into the tree, and my lower arms became lightly splattered with the sticky white sap. Soon they began to itch and a few blisters appeared.
I came indoors and scrubbed my arms with soap and warm water, and applied the useful Gardener's Dream Cream, made on Saltspring Island. The skin returned rapidly to normal, but people with more sensitive skin are not always so fortunate. Earlier in the year, Diane wrote to me about big, itchy blisters lasting up to two weeks on some people once sunlight has shone on skin exposed to fig sap.
Be warned. Fig trees are rampant growers, requiring a fair amount of pruning. Cover up.
VHS meeting. The Victoria Horticultural Society will meet on Tuesday at 7: 30 p.m. in the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave. Judith McLauchlan will be speaking about South Africa's plants in her presentation, An Extraordinary Journey from Joburg to Cape Town. All are welcome.