Pink, yellow and blue water lilies are still flowering well the second week of October, the goldfish are still swimming about, and the afternoon light on them is soft and rich.
The blue jay population has been down 34 percent nationally in the past year or so, but I have seen the first one in the garden this past week. Cardinals and mockingbirds are both more plentiful than ever.
It is worthwhile in any garden to set up a high post or a weathercock or some kind of pinnacle for mockingbirds to perch on. Recently I set four posts with a tiny roof to shelter a garden sculpture, and the birds have been enthusiastic. At the end of the garden is an eagle weather vane, and as it is usually in motion the birds took several months to get used to it, but now they perch at the tip of the eagle's wings and ride with the wind.
Japanese anemones are now at their best. If grown in full sun they do not need to be staked, though even there they lean this way and that. Against a wall or shrubbery they will lean almost to the ground unless supported. Something as simple as black thread will do it.
Most gardeners plant the flowering tobacco, Nicotiana affinis, for its night fragrance. This plant is now available in rose madder and green as well as the usual white, but only the white is powerfully scented. It is, therefore, the only one worth growing.
But there is another garden tobacco, N. sylvestris, that is also perfumed. Lorraine Middleton, a careful observer of all plants, tells me she smells this 60 feet distant, indoors. My own two plants grow in a barrel under the duress of an overhanging rugosa rose and other impedimenta, and they sat there modestly for a couple of months, but in mid-July shot up to six feet and produced panicles of white flowers the size of tuberoses for six weeks or more.
It is curious that when the seeds form, the capsules remain green for some weeks, then in a matter of two or three days suddenly ripen and open. The gardener should be alert for this.
Hybrid teas are not my favorite kind of rose, as they require constant spraying if they are to be seen at their best, and I do not spray anything. It is nonsense to grow any plant that is chemically addicted, and with the planet already in trouble from chemical pollution, it is irresponsible for gardeners to add to the mess.
Still, Nicholas Webber, who grows more than 600 kinds of roses (hardly any of them hybrid teas), brought me several after the recent show of the Potomac Rose Society. They were on stems a bit longer than two feet and the flowers, even when slightly cupped, were six inches across.
They are impressive and in their way beautiful. It is a matter of taste whether or not you are made uneasy by such masses of vegetable tissue. They remind me a little of a visit to the celebrated rhododendron collection at Kew, which I visited one day after two or three days of light rain. They were in full bloom, waxy and marvelously colored, the heads the size of small cabbages. And everywhere masses of sodden brown petals.
Of course with roses this is not a problem as the gardener cuts off the enormous blooms once they are past.
There is an astonishing shortage of scarlet dogwood fruit this year. The handsome berries of such viburnums as V. setigera and V. wrightii have all been devoured, while in other years they last into winter.
My large red maple is beginning to color somewhat earlier than usual and the dogwoods somewhat later. Slight variations upset gardeners new to the game, and even old crocks have a moment of uneasiness, but that's life.
A friend dug 200 pounds of potatoes carefully fenced against wildlife, then noticed a cluster of small potatoes overlooked on the ground. They were young rabbits who had been disturbed by all the digging. Fortunately they were fully furred and in excellent hopping trim, and took off when an opening was made in the fence. My friend had unknowingly fenced in the mother weeks ago and she made do raising her family among the potatoes.
I picked my last tomatoes, green, on Oct. 7. Ten plants produced 197 pounds, but I have a friend who gets 50 pounds per plant from 'Celebrity,' a currently popular variety. That sounds incredible to me, but my friend is a careful gardener and is blessed with unlimited sun and horse manure.
It is natural for all gardeners to become downhearted (not to say ragingly depressed) from time to time, as favorite projects fail. It is particularly annoying, or at least humbling, when some haphazard effort turns out to be the star of the garden while some carefully planned and laboriously executed maneuver comes to absolutely nothing. I well remember one year when a background mass of white cleomes backfired. This simple and beautiful American weed simply refused to grow. As if dandelions, chicory, plantain and Bermuda grass refused to grow.
But it is impossible for the gardener who plants bulbs of spring flowers -- daffodils, hyacinths, tulips and all the rest -- to stay in ill humor for long. A bright day, the earth in excellent condition for digging, the agreeable feel of the bulbs (heavier than one expects, even after many decades of handling them) and the dream of spring will restore all.