The nights are getting chillier. The sun is setting earlier and in an entirely different spot over Little Traverse Bay. In the garden, the stargazers and rich wine-colored lilies are a defiant blaze of color against the larger and larger patches of deadheaded green.
For some gardeners, the adjustment to fall is a sad and wistful time. I have always seen a fierce and desperate beauty in that turning season.
Those late bloomers of every species are finally coming into their own. Lush mounds of mums lift their buds to the sun, preparing to burst into glorious flower. Simple "prairie" asters, relatively low on the pecking order of perennial garden plants, lift their feathery purple and hot pink heads long after most of the garden is settling in for the long winter ahead.
This, too, is a season where the volunteers come into their own, misfit daisies or astilbe or Canterbury bells that just weeks ago would have been considered out of place. Liberated by the latest deadheading, they burst into bloom amid that sea of barren green. Monarda, popularly known as bee balm, continue to hang on, appreciated late in the game for their tenacity.