The Garden Life: Late summer perfect for stroll in the garden

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The sun is out and the sky is a clear blue. Although we have had a run of good weather, it took a long time to get to the point where I truly believed it was summer. Finally, after a series of fits and starts, we have the summer weather we wanted all along. For a few weeks now, I have enjoyed working out in the garden in full sun. Here I am again; with the whole day ahead and nothing more important to do than enjoy the fruits of my labor.

The perfect way to begin a late summer day is to take a long morning walk through the garden. For a change of pace, stroll through the garden without intention. Enjoy the flowers, the foliage and the combination of plant color and texture. It's the perfect time to daydream. Make a mental note of any colors you would like to add to the garden. Ask yourself what area of the garden could use a fresh, new plant to fill a void?

Of course, there are few gardeners who can peruse their own garden without pulling a stray weed or clipping off a spent flower head. When I'm working in the garden, I carry a canvas bag loaded with pruners, a folding knife and other garden tools. Every morning, I throw in a pair of gloves and a refilled bottle of water. If I didn't have this garden tote, I would be forever retracing my steps to the barn to get the tool or item I needed for the next chore.

I won't list all the things I carry in this bag but I do have a portable radio, a silver pocket watch with a cover to protect it from dirt and a folding magnifying glass to help me see the world I cannot see without it. In one pocket is a small glass container of liquid Band-Aid for those unexpected scrapes and cuts. One more item I often use is a roll of green, stretchy garden tape. With this I can stop and tie up any wayward plants attempting to overtake their nearby neighbors.

Every year, there comes a time when I have to stop at the first arbor along the garden path and tie in a leggy, rambling rose. By midsummer, the side branches of this climber, called Zepherine Drouhin, flop over and out into the pathway. It's the new stems that grow from mature branches that flop the most. With my garden tape handy, I can tackle the job of tying them in when I first see the need.

This rose is a perfect climber for walkways since it is virtually thornless and its scent is strong enough to fill the air for several feet. Its rich, fuchsia-pink blossoms contrast nicely with the summer blooming Golden Clematis (C. tangutica) that grows up the other side of the arbor. In less than an hour, both plants are properly trained to carry the eye up and over the arch, where they meet in a fusion of contrasting color.

Later in the afternoon, after a day of garden work, I like to bring a cup of coffee outside and relax at a table on the deck. This is my favorite place to daydream. Many years ago, from this same deck, I dreamt of building a structure in one of the large lawn areas to enhance the charm of my garden. That dream came true with a small garden cottage made in Finland. Its steeply sloping roof is set off by a view of the city in the background.

An unexpected surprise was the lovely views of the garden from inside the cottage. Since the structure is six sided, there is a different garden picture out of every window. It has become quite the gathering place as a shelter from the rain in winter and spring and as a party room on warm summer evenings. I am often here by myself, which is fine by me, since a gardener needs some time alone and the occasional day in the garden with nothing to do.

Summer came late this year. I have a feeling autumn will be here early. I was outside last night, sitting in a large, cushioned garden chair looking up to the stars. This was around eight o'clock, and I noticed it was getting dark. Those days of sunlight until 9:30 p.m. and beyond are already gone.

Robb Rosser is a WSU-certified master gardener. Reach him at Write2Robb@aol.com.