Guest Post by Kass the Clueless Gardener (Apologies from Susan for posting this a tad late.)

Hmmmmm. Every August, just like a patient with
her psychiatrist away at Truro, I start brooding.

I stare balefully at the
flowerbed, wondering why I haven't cut down the iris stalks yet, even as the
seed pods grow larger, sucking more energy from the plant every moment. I notice
the swarm of red ants that have taken up residence here, wondering if they bite,
and not caring much. I see the Japanese beetles, having no roses to eat here,
chomping on my climbing petunia. Why don't I go get a container of soapy water
and get those guys? Instead I just stare at them. My felcos are so dull they
won't slice a daisy stem, yet…am I sharpening them…? No.

I realize I've let
the back field almost completely revert to forest mode, which I didn't want, but
now there are too many saplings and huge wild roses, and it's too late for
anything but a major renovation. So that's out. Rather than get out there and
attack the flower bed with gusto, I take a nap and wait until the bed is in
shade til I mosy on out there. I do nothing more ambitious than weed the moss. I
find a white slimy mold on some of the moss that is grosser than anything, even
slug slime.

But it all makes sense in August, when All Things In the Garden Go
South. I can grasp that once peony poppy and iris season passes, I become
listless…I am concluding, as I do every year about this time, that I am not a
real gardener. Wouldn't I have kept my precious weeping pear pruned if I were?
Wouldn't I care that deer eat the leaves off every year? What do I do about it?
Is my tough love policy really just neglect?
If I were a real gardener, wouldn't
I have kept the lilacs clear of the imposing weeds, which now includes poison
ivy? Would I have stood by and watched goldenrod take over the tigerlily bed (at
least I hope it's goldenrod, and not something worse)? Wouldn't I keep the weeds
out of the cracks? Wouldn't I be dying to plant all sorts of new plants found in
out-of-the-way garden centers or catalogs? Would I really have a flowerbed
filled with only the easiest plants to grow, those that really don't mind total
abandonment? Wouldn't I have a gorgeous climbing rose around my door? And,
every time I get up from a crouch, the pain in my back reminds me not only am I
not much of a gardener, I'm also getting creakier every season. If I were a real
gardener, wouldn't I have tons of containers adorning my deck? (I used to, but
this year there is only one, and that one doesn't look too hot, either.)

I had a
dead tree taken down two years ago, and have let all weeds fill in the space. It
looks horrible, but I follow my main gardening motto: "If it looks bad, direct
your attention elsewhere." I think that instead of modeling my gardening self on
V. Sackville-West, I am channeling the Beales of Grey Gardens. All the seedlings
I started last spring went south, and the hastily-bought substitute nicotiana
alatas just aren't the same, so I don't care much for them. The doldrums go on
and on. And yet….and yet….and yet….
Just in time to save me from the
noose is Joe Pye, the weed I love most. I scan the roadsides and fields for it,
and squeal with delight upon spotting it. I tromped through (doubtless,
tick-laden) weeds to cut three stalks to bring home, and all is saved. With
mood cheered, I get down to weeding that moss, and ignore the shooting pains in
my lower back. As I pull out the intruders, earthworms literally pop out of the
moss, and take off for a safer spot. I always say hello to them, and then if I
glance away for even a split second, they disappear. Who knew wormies could
travel so fast?! The rudbeckias are glorious this year, and the globe thistles
did well, too. Is it that I was so lazy that instead of fertilizing the garden,
I just threw a mulch of manure atop? This must be the silver lining to neglect,
I guess.

I'm still waiting for the 'Heavenly Blues' to bloom; what's taking them
so long? But having them still in store is like a good mood in the bank, so
necessary during the month when I am becalmed in the garden. Maybe that wisp of
sweet autumn clematis will bloom if the yard guy didn't completely kill it with
his weed whacker…I decide to hope for that, too. And the anemones are coming
on, too. So maybe things aren't so bad. The humidity's been low, something to be
truly grateful for. That's a real upper in the dog days. Hmm…I begin to feel
strangely better now…There, doc, I just did all my own horticultural
therapy, so who needs you? August!


  1. Yep! Nothing is so important that it can’t be ignored so as to watch Butterflies, Hummers, and flowers bending in the breeze!

  2. I run out of steam at this timeof year as well. I flag when it comes to tidying up after the early summer flowering and only start to find some enthusiasm when it comes to choosing bulbs for spring

  3. I agree with Helen. For me, August is the monthe that I am just not interested. I do not know if it is the heat, or I am just tired, but a lot slides then. However, I perk up when bulb planting in the fall, and it is always a good time to move plants, make new beds. Then, I am really glad when winter comes. I can doze in front of the fire, with my catalogues, happy my plants are all tucked in under their fluffy duvet of snow. And I dream of spring.

  4. You are my brand of gardener. If Martha Stewart ever visited my patch, I would hope she would see June’s potential and not August’s overgrown mess. Fortunately September is here, lower humidity and hope for the fall growing season. In Florida we rarely get to the dozing in front of the fire stage but that’s ok too.

  5. oH BOY– where do I start? This is nature’s way of preparing us. Things sprout, they grow, they flower– they die. Wah! If I were a lion in the veldt I might break into “The Circle of Life.” Clueless, you are channeling the Great Inevitable, which is better than trying to push against it– a battle you would lose!

  6. oh, the sweet sentiments of the late summer gardener! I have the identical thoughts. You put it all perfectly! Thanks for the therapy!

  7. What is a real gardener anyway?
    One who constantly is at work, or one who loves a garden and piddles around enjoyably, and loves all the little worm(ies) and weed (ies)
    and petals and leaves and blossoms. You sound like the real kind of gardener to me. Not clueless at all, really.

  8. Kass, you captured my own gardening behavior so well! Last weekend I did some weeding and then flopped in the hammock to look at the different beds and begin the planning for next spring. It was lovely to just lie back and drift.

  9. I guess you spoke for many of us – me included. August is a tough month, but really, aren’t the grandchildren and the Heath Fair more important. Talk about directing one’s attention elsewhere. It’s done! September is a whole different thing.

  10. hi kass; can i relate and now i am so glad that in this very lazy month of august, i have found others just like me…before i would look at all the over growth and weeds that have crowded so many of our beautiful flowers and plants, but now i just look at the late beauty of the garden after a gorgeous display this summer..and think about next spring and how i get to start all over..

  11. Kass is an excellent gardening writer! I hope to see more of her work publicized. I happen to know that she is an excellent cartoonist as well; she illustrates the “Imponderables” book series. Check ’em out!

  12. Ha! That is me all over, except that the apathy usually sets in even earlier in the summer. I’ve always blamed it on my lassitude in hot weather. But this year I’ve had to face the truth: The Michigan summer has been lovely and cool, and I STILL haven’t done any of those small tasks of which you speak so eloquently. So it’s just me, a lazy–yet appreciative!–semi-gardener. And it’s okay. Thanks for the therapy!

  13. Kass, you described the August gardener exactly! Made me feel much much better about myself.

    I have a love/hate relationship with my garden sometimes, but in August it turns to hate/hate. They say that humans remember pleasure but not pain, but when it comes to August I remember only sweat and bugs. But — this morning it was 60 degrees and unhumid, and I bought a beautiful “Limelight” hydrangea at Home Depot at a bargain price, and it’s time to choose bulbs for the reclamation area, so heighho for the autumn season.

  14. My sentiments exactly. My August gardening can be summed up as a lot of “just don’t look too closely and things don’t looks so bad.”

    This week, the weather has turned cooler and already I am starting to think about what shrubs to plant this autumn. What a difference a change in weather can make!

  15. The Clueless Gardener is my new favorite therapist! Please tell us that you’ll be back for the winter woes and the bulb blues and the Spring showers. You’re a treat, Kas

  16. The bees polinated the heck out of my apple trees. Now I have apples. I’ve spent the past two weeks trying to figure out how to get the apples out of the trees. They’re tall. We never really pruned them effectively. And until we got the bees, the one only fruited every other year or so. One year, a tropical storm completely de-fruited the tree. Alas, no tropical force winds can save me. This weekend’s task is trying to figure out how to pick apples from a too-tall tree.

  17. I loved reading Guest Post by Kass the Clueless Gardener. What a delight. Hope I see more of her comments in the future!!

  18. Kass, that was so entertaining. I need further therapy because my laziness began sometime in mid-June. Thanks for letting me know I need to cut down the Iris stalks (truly clueless) … if the mosquitoes let up, I might actually go out and do that!

  19. It is a wonderful treat all through the year to read about Kassie’s garden and thoughts and flowers and weeds and insects and highs and lows of garden energy.
    The cartoons are perfect.

  20. Your writing is dog-day-delightfully dreamy, Kass. You’ve made me feel like I have a kindred spirit who knows all too well what it’s like to feel the inner lament of “If I were a real gardener” or “if I were a real writer….”
    Can’t wait to savor more of your pretty penned ponderings.

  21. Thank you Kass, for this wonderful reflection!

    August is the time of year when I find that it’s so much more interesting to watch the Monarchs at the milkweed, the hummingbirds fighting over the trumpet honeysuckle, the Goldfinches picking the seeds from the Helianthus, and the Tiger Swallowtails floating lazily through the air.

    This activity is much better than TV, and also much better than disturbing this activity with gardening chores. Those can all come later…..

  22. Its been so hot here in central Florida that pretty much all I’ve been able to do is go outside take a look around and head back inside..I have taken to gardening in the rain to avoid the heat. I love to just watch how the bee’s (and I mean some pretty big ones) like to move from flower to flower on my Caryopteris, Dark Knight…

    Been feeling the call of the lounger to… Have a great Day Kass.

  23. I know your pain! I just split and cut back all my irises and I have ALOT! They are so hard to saw up, I died. I hated it every minute. Why are they so MUCH work! But it feels good when you actually get it one.

    Yes, this time of the year sucks. What I did was got rid of my flower pots and replanted them with shrubs, goldflame spirea. I just need to look at something else. They will turn to red and drop their leaves and thats fine. It’s different to look at.

    I just planted mini coral roses in front of my large bed in the front yard. I took out the strangely annuals that got wild and a little burned out and I was tried of looking at them.

    Yes, it’s a bit wasteful because I could have gotten a few more months out of my overgrown, somewhat burned out annuals. But you know what…. I’m excited again. I needed a change. And not just adding some mums which are *yawn* boring. And what everone is doing.

    It’s nearly bulb time, and if you dont feel like digging up and replanting perhaps planning a site for bulbs to plan next month might get the fix your looking for.

    But I guarantee you this, after you get those iris split and cut back, you do feel good about it.


  24. Kass, thanks!! You captured precisely the way I feel in August, as well as how I feel in April, July, October, May, November, June…you get the picture.
    Susan Orlins

  25. this is so beautifully written that it’s fun for me — I don’t garden but love the idea of living things like flowers and moss, and she includes so many evocative names that make music for the ears and visions, albeit not precise ones since I don’t know all of these plants, for my tired September eyes. Thank you Kass!

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