Mike Darcy on September Gardening and Outdoor Rooms

Once September arrives and school starts, I consider summer over. I realize it is not “officially” over yet, but September is a time to relax, enjoy the garden, and scale back.

Cuphea micropetala

As I walk through my September garden, it is bursting with color. The fuchsias, salvias, and abutilons are in full bloom, and all are hummingbird magnets. A relatively new plant in my garden is Cuphea micropetala.  While it is technically a tender perennial, I do not think it would be winter hardy here, so I am growing it as an annual. If it survives the winter, I will be pleasantly surprised next spring.

This Cuphea has been in full bloom since mid July and shows no signs of stopping. My plant is in a large pot and gets hot afternoon sun which it seems to love. With its tubular flowers, it is also a great hummingbird attractant. This is a plant I would suggest adding to your list for planting next spring.

Beal Burns seating
The Beal Burns outdoor seating area.

Outdoor Rooms

Outdoor living spaces have become very popular, so I have added a small “outdoor room” to my garden.  Just having a quiet space with a table and chairs tucked away in the garden can create a feeling of relaxation. Sitting in the shade on a sunny day is very welcome and enjoyable.

More elaborate outdoor seating areas are also becoming more and more popular. I recently enjoyed seeing one at the home of Portland Garden Designer, JJ DeSousa. Her outdoor living space consists of a poured concrete patio fitted with appealing patio furniture surrounded by fenced garden. It is very inviting for conversations. When I have been at functions in her garden, this is the place people gravitate to. The photo of her patio garden might look large, but it is not. Her home and garden are on a small city lot, but she makes great use of the space.

JJ seating area
The patio garden of JJ DeSousa.

Fall Garden Redesign

September is also a good time to walk through your garden and look at areas that could be improved. Consider places where plants can be taken out, added, or re-arranged.We all make garden mistakes, and this is a good time to correct them. In my own garden, I have plants that have grown too tall for their space and require transplanting to a new location. I also have bare spaces to fill with plants that will look good late in the season.

This is also a great time of year to consider adding garden art. A feature that I have seen in other gardens and have incorporated into my own is the use of large pots. At one time, I thought having a pot meant that it needed to be filled and planted. This is not the case. Many beautiful pots I consider to be standalone pieces of garden art that I strategically place throughout my garden.

Thai Pot
Many beautiful pots I consider to be standalone pieces of garden art that I strategically place throughout my garden.

As I write this column in early September, we are having temperatures in the 80’s. It is what I consider perfect fall weather with warm days and cool nights. However along with the warm days, there have been some drying winds. With hot sun and drying winds, exposed container plantings quickly dry out, so I maintain a rigorous watering schedule and use Black Gold Natural and Organic Potting Soil to help roots hold moisture.

BG-GRDNCMPST-BLND_1cu-FRONTAs I look at the soil in my garden beds, there is a big difference in the areas where I worked in Black Gold Garden Compost Blend. Those without compost are hard, dry, and cracked. The areas where compost was look great and require much less water.

Consider September as the month to review what was good in your garden and what was not so good. Take pictures to make a record of your successes. I am going to do that as I continue to improve and make changes in my own garden.


About Mike Darcy

Mike lives and gardens in a suburb of Portland, Oregon where he has resided since 1969. He grew in up Tucson, Arizona where he worked at a small retail nursery during his high school and college years. He received his formal education at the University of Arizona where he was awarded a Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture, and though he values his formal education, he values his field-experience more. It is hard to beat the ‘hands on’ experience of actually gardening, visiting gardens, and sharing information with other gardeners. Mike has been involved with gardening communications throughout his adult life. In addition to garden writing, he has done television gardening shows in Portland, and for over 30 years he hosted a Saturday radio talk show in Portland. Now he writes, speaks, gardens and continues to share his love of gardening. To be connected to the gardening industry is a bonus in life for Mike. He has found gardeners to be among the friendliest and most caring, generous people. Consequently, many of his friends he has met through gardening.

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