By Ashley Walshe
The month of August had turned into a griddle where the days just lay there and sizzled.
— Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
August is equal parts ecstasy and agony.
At dawn, a shimmer of hummingbirds dips and weaves among cascades of morning glories and a sweeping sea of hibiscus. In one day, the nectar of one thousand flowers will have sweetened their bellies and tongues. In one month, when the blossoms fade, the tiny birds will disappear, taking summer with them.
The honeybees have multiplied. They drift in dizzying circles, supping joe-pye weed and purple coneflower as if the future of the hive depends on it. And it does. The bees know that the season is slipping with each precious sip. They know not to waste it.
Swallowtails orbit goldenrod and lemon balm, ring around the butterfly bush, float like dreams from blossom to fragrant blossom. Soon they, too, will vanish.
Yet — for now — all is lush and dreamy. All is warm and sticky-sweet. Never mind that each kiss between bee and flower could be the last. The golden season always dims to black.
And so, you savor the last glorious slice of it. Absorb it with your whole body like the water snake sunning on the rock. Cradle it like a sipping spirit; inhale deeply, drink slowly, let the textures and flavors roll around on your tongue.
Sprawl out across the summer grass. Float from flower to flower. Drink the nectar of one thousand blossoms.
Harvest the fruits of the garden. Sink your teeth into them. At night, dance among the fireflies, here for a glittering moment, and then gone.
The cicadas know. As they scream out in rapturous longing — ecstasy and agony and nothing in-between — you soak up the sweetness of summer as if the future depends on it. As if it will carry you through the darkest days of winter.
Sweet Morning Glory Late Summer Harvest
The morning glories have run wild. Twining vines with heart-shaped leaves and fragrant, tubular flowers, these late summer bloomers are hummingbird magnets. They thrive in full sun and, given a trellis or fence, will climb up to 20 feet.
Among the most common varieties are Heavenly Blue (sky-blue with white-and-yellow throats), Grandpa Ott (a royal purple heirloom from Germany), Fieldgrown (an amalgam of white, pink and purple blossoms) and Crimson Ramblers (a hummingbird favorite).
True to its name, the blossoms open in the morning, each lasting for just one glorious day.
Late Summer Harvest
The garden gives and gives. August offers eggplant, green beans and peppers. The last of the sweet corn. The earliest apples, pears and figs. And — oh, yes — an endless stream of plump tomatoes.
But what to do with them?
The ’Mater Sammich never fails (make mine with Cherokee Purple, balsamic glaze and pesto mayo — I’m no purist). Cook them down into sauces. Dice them for pico de gallo. Make bruschetta, pasta salad and summer quiche.
Better yet, pluck them straight off the vine, sprinkle with salt and enjoy. PS