There’s Room at the Table

By Trish Beckjord

DETA 104
Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphlitica) is happy in its new found home near the rainbarrel

I’ve always loved fall. There’s something about the turn of the seasons that I somehow feel deeply. I think it’s the subtly changing light that signals to me a different season approaches. Without kids in the house, it’s no longer the first day of school but just something is different in the air.

I love autumn’s colors and coolness in particular. The bees and birds are busy in the garden and at the feeders. I laugh as I sit and watch three bumble bees all vying for the same plastic flower at the hummingbird feeder. They just tumble on top of each other trying to get to the sugar water. And of course the hummingbirds, at least two of them I think I have, are busy with their return trips.

I’m filling the hummingbird and regular feeders once every two days now. In addition to the hummingbird feeder, I have a thistle feeder, peanut feeder (which the woodpeckers love) and larger and smaller feeders where I provide mixed seed for cardinals, finches, nuthatches, chickadees and others. Of course a lot of seed ends up on the ground and then I find I have 5 squirrels in the garden and what seemed to be three chipmunks running here and there.

You’d think that with three cats that I would have better control of these guys. My felines just seem, like me, to love to sit in the garden and watch and listen to the crickets. Occasionally they will lay a vole or a chipmunk at the door but not very often.

Some of you may be reading this and saying for heaven’s sake, why in the world are you feeding chipmunks? Well, they haven’t damaged anything yet and they don’t seem to be burrowing under the patio or the front sidewalk. Rather, they seem to have found homes elsewhere that are not damaging and for me that’s okay. I think of them as little mini-Hoovers as they move around close to the ground grabbing up seed in their pouches making repeated trips back and forth. They make me smile.

The colors of fall and their combinations are something else that’s totally lovely. All the many golds and yellows contrasted with the blues of Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) and the purples and whites of the asters that are soon to come. My Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) has spread in my rain garden whereas I have lost my Rose (swamp) Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). Clearly it seems to be better adapted to the water regime that such a place provides. The Great Blue Lobelia is still there and the Brown Fox Sedge (Carex vulpinoidea) and the Riddell’s Goldenrod (Solidago riddellii). But the Riddell’s and the lobelia have also shown up elsewhere in the garden. Interestingly enough the lobelia found a new home around the overflow outlet for my rain barrel, and it stands in happy partnership with showy black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida var. speciosa) in front of my Wild Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa).

Yellow in all its many tones is always a predominant September color. In Geneva’s River Park, the Stiff Goldenrod (Oligoneuron rigidum) and Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa) are in full bloom. They’re easy to tell from the Tall Goldenrod (Solidago altissima) that really needs to be pulled. Although a native it really is one that is clearly a weed.

Elsewhere, compass plant and prairie dock (Silphium laciniatum and S. terebinthinaceum respectively) are getting ready to feed the goldfinches. Their flowers are so interesting. Able to top out at up to 10-12’ tall in the right conditions, compass plant can live up to 100 years! I don’t typically recommend Silphium species for home gardens because of their height and aggressiveness, but they lend a joyous note here standing so upright above the rest of this prairie garden.

My wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) adds a hint of red, my Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana) starts to show its fall red and orange, and the Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) begins to think about turning its luscious bronze and orange. Not yet it says, I save that for October. All the same, the September garden is quite lovely.

Yes, indeed I love fall! I hope you are enjoying the start of this new season. It’s a beautiful time of year!

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