The Dirt

September Inspiration

Photo/Illustration: Helen Yoest
Photo/Illustration: Helen Yoest

September delights.  With the dog days of summer behind us, September opens with cooler air and less humidity, creating a fresh scent and a sense of excitement.  The source of this excitement may be for no reason other than it is bearable to be outside once again. 

Indeed, September, and throughout the fall, is an ideal time to plan and plant new garden beds to ready oneself for the next year.  September is also an ideal time to enjoy what the month has to offer.  

As I walk the gardens I created on my plot of land I call home, I realize that neglect from summer doesn’t mean I need to shelf the garden for the next 30 days.  Instead, I can deadhead, dead leaf, weed, and watch the wildlife September brings.

While watching the butterflies alight lantana, I begin to wonder.   Carefully looking around, I take inventory of the nectar-rich plants; the berries, fruits, and seeds.  Is there enough for September?  Is there enough for the wildlife to gather nourishment for the next phase of their migration North or South?  Is there enough color, texture, and form to excite me throughout this one month?  Many are planning ahead, but I plan to live for the moment.  My inventory reveals September has enough–more than enough.  Now is the time to enjoy the garden’s lasting lushness. 

Color has been extended into September with asters, anemones, eupatoriums, helianthus, salvias, and sedums.  There’s beautyberry, fothergilla, goldenrod.  I delight in the Chrysanthemum ‘Sheffield Pink’ given to me by a friend; the flowers make the most perfect landing pad for a butterfly.  I watch as a hummingbird pauses mid-air to sip nectar from a canna, tanking up on sugar for energy needed to make the long journey South.

Milkweed seeds are puffing about.  Monarchs are grateful to find nectar still rich. Gingers are releasing scent to waft the thinner air, with flirty flowers causing reason to stare.  Roses are regaling, hardy begonia beguiling, amsonia amazing.  The month of September is a month not to be missed. 

Reds dominate.  Yellows generate.  Purples empower.  Grasses sway, with flags as flowers.  Finches steady themselves as they feed on seeds.   The box turtle moseys around the tomatoes eating what the birds or deer knocked to the ground.  Life abounds.  September was made for sitting on the patio to watch in wonder. 

The work will wait.  Take your time in the September garden.  September is your reward. 

September gardening does not need to be all about what needs to be done for the future.  It can also be about what is available now.  In the wise words of garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence, “Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.”  

Enjoy your garden this September and all the Septembers to come.  As you plan and plant, include September sensations in your choices. 

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business, She also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum.

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  1. JMTaylor 09/02/2009

    Great post, Helen. I wholeheartedly agree on bringing wildlife back to the garden. There is so much habitat lost to houses, we really should give some land back to the birds and critters.

    We have a lot of room to work with and have devoted a lot of the ground to native habitat. We have included native and naturalized fruit trees, flowers such as salvias, penstemons, lavenders and herbs to attract a wide range of visitors. Watering stations are part of the drip irrigation system, and we have lots of deep cover for nesting and loafing.

    We enjoy literally hundreds of quail that keep our gardens free of insects, hawks, owls and falcons to help keep the rodents in line, road-runners to deal with lizards, even a resident bobcat. There have been over 130 different bird species identified on the property.

    So, yes, bring the wildlife back to your gardens. It works very well for us...

  2. HelenYoest 09/02/2009

    Hey JM, Our gardens are on the opposite ends of these United States of American, with different zones, terrains, and resources. Yet, our goals are the same. Create a wildlife habitat as the garden. My goal is to bring in all the plants that I love and benefit the wildlife at the same time. It just makes sense. Plant diverse, dense ground covers, annuals, perennials, shrubs, vines, and trees, and the wildlife will come. Provide food, water, cover and a place to raise their young, plus sustainable practices is all you need. Sustainability is a very real issue, as you well know. In the end, practicing sustainability saves time, energy and resources, and lessens the impact gardening can have on the environment. But I digress – Ain’t September gardens grand!!! Helen

  3. Genya 09/04/2009

    Yes! The amazing thing about Helen is that she is so in tune with the nature and with the effect of the nature on us. I walked into my garden early morning, on the first day of September and was totally overwhelmed by sights, smells, sounds and feelings. I did not know what it is until I came across this article that puts it in words, so beautifully! Now I know - I'm September Inspired!!

  4. HelenYoest 09/05/2009

    Thank you Genya. Every month has it's inspiration. I hope I have the chance to show you! Helen

  5. TorontoGardens 09/06/2009

    Beautiful combination of jungly and tranquil with the whites and the inviting looking porch. Would love to see this in real life. Sounds wonderful. The white cleome are lovely. I have some this year, but they aren't growing like this!

  6. etgarv 09/07/2009

    Don't forget the dahlias dahling! They're in their prime now.

  7. HelenYoest 09/07/2009

    Right you are etgarv! I do have a nice selection from Brent and Becky's Bulbs and Old House Gardens. They are blooming their heads off right now. H.

  8. BillyGoodnick 09/07/2009

    Helen: thanks for the mental tour of the garden. I enjoy your words and you make a good case for living in the moment. I certainly hope the fall weather prevails when we all descend upon Raleigh for the Garden Writers Association symposium at the end of September. I'm holding you personally responsible for delightful weather.

    See ya then.

  9. margaritaelena 09/07/2009

    after the deluge of rain from april thru july the past few yrs followed by heatwaves and droughts in aug the sept gardens in new england are even more enjoyable then ever! crystal clear cool days to enjoy healthier roses; annuals singing: zinnias and cleomes and tall verbenas; rose of sharons, pee gee hydrangeas, grasses and butterflys in the background; tall helianthus, asters and dahlias; and nothing could be better than the anemonies just popping! buterflies, hummingbirds, and the largest praying mantis i have ever seen! maybe it will bring me good luck to keep the woodchucks away... has anyone ever used a set of windmills attatched by a underground pipe with marbles to scare the chucks away? looking for advice to keep them away - have tried everything?

  10. The_Write_Gardener 09/09/2009

    I photographed a milkweed seed on one of my zinnias the other day. I have no clue where it blew in from.

    Nice little essay Ms. Helen.

  11. Bob_Scherer 09/10/2009

    Nice writing Helen. I totally agree about the wildlife - except for the voles!!!!
    We live on 16 acres of Maine woods. Why do they have to pick on my garden? Never mind - I know why. My plants are an easy treat compared to the natives in the woods. But I ain't going native. It's too narrow a plant palate for me.

    Time to go outside & enjoy my garden.

  12. HelenYoest 09/10/2009

    Hey Bob,

    I loath voles too. I have voles, moles, bunnies, and the occasional deer. The moles I don't mind. The bunnies make me so mad, but finally, the garden has grown out enough to please us both. The occasional deer bothers me, but they are such an uncommon sight in the garden, they might as well be a kangaroo. As such,I haven't gotten to the mad state yet; I'm learning how to deal with them. I did notice they prefer my neighbor's Hostas. I don't have Hostas, because, I have voles. I also have hawks, though. So let's just sit back and see if we can get nature in balance. In the meantime, the Hellebores make a fine subsitute for Hostas, without the need for watering. H.

    Thanks for your kind words, Bob.

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