Outdoors Recreation

The Observant Gardener: Summertime Abundance

Vegetables from Judith’s garden. Photo by Judith Canty Graves

“Then followed that beautiful season… Summer…. Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

By Judith Canty Graves

August is when we experience the fullness of the summer season. All the initial growth from late spring and early summer is now steady, vigorous and strong. Plants have thicker stems, broader leaves and many blossoms. As I walk around my yard, I feel like they are vibrating with energy. This is a season that I truly savor each day because there is so much richness around me.

In the morning, the squash plants are spectacular with their orange-yellow blossoms. Their enormous leaves hide the growing squash fruit. Dozens of bees pollinate, tendrils curl and thick stalks grow stronger from the ground to the leaves. As the squash foliage reaches across the walkway into the zinnia bed, I remind myself to leave more room next year when I plant the tiny seeds.

During August, the sunflowers produce spectacular blooms that are noticeable because of their size and beauty. The flowering zinnias are striking, with colors of red, purple, yellow, pink, lavender, white and orange. There is color everywhere in the summer landscape.

With more blooms out, butterflies and bees arrive to enjoy the nectar and pollen. Hummingbirds appear briefly, then dart away before I can get a good look. Finches also appear, inspecting the sunflowers to see if the seeds are ready. The amount of plant growth, pollinator activity and bird calls seems to increase daily.

The sun still sets late every day. I enjoy working outside in the cool evening air until about 8:30. There is plenty of light. At this point, summer feels endless. My senses are heightened with the sunshine, the warm air and the plants in my garden. Spending time in my yard is a sensory experience as I listen to the birds and take in the bounty of this magical season.

Tailgate markets are bursting with produce, every dinner at my house features fresh vegetables, and best of all, it is peach season! I know the peaches won’t last too long, but I treasure every bite. Tomatoes and squashes are plentiful, so I look for new recipes for how to cook them. Also, eating some fruits and vegetables raw is even more satisfying because their flavors are so strong and delicious.

Panicle hydrangeas reach their peak in August. I have several Limelight hydrangeas that grow to about ten feet tall. They reliably produce handsome white blooms with a light green tint that last for weeks. Arranging floral bouquets is one of my favorite things to do, especially in the summer when the flowers are right outside my door. I enjoy having the bouquets in my kitchen to remind me of all the flowers outside.

Another great joy of summer is sharing my flowers and vegetables with friends. My garden overflows with abundance; there is simply too much to keep! Having this bounty to share makes summer a perfect season of the year.

Judith Canty Graves is an Asheville gardener with a background in photojournalism. Follow @TheObservantGardener on Instagram to see new garden photos daily.

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