Normally, I love autumn. I love the changing colors, the nip in the air, having a fire at night. I love sweaters and boots, the smells of pumpkin bread and of newly sharpened pencils. I even love the early nightfall that provides more time for catching up on all that reading that has been stacking up over the summer. But, seriously? Summer was way too short and far too cool this year. As usual, it didn’t begin until after July 4. Usually, it continues almost into October, but this year, summer gave out around the last week of August. Even our local news commented: …conditions cooler than normal for most of the summer. Seattle’s April-to-August average temperature through Aug. 27 was 58.9 degrees… However, despite my reluctance to let summer go, there is a lot going on in the garden this fall. I am still enjoying a good variety of blooms. Some of my favorites this year are the hydrangeas. They are blooming like crazy, providing armloads of cut flowers and still making a great show. The Hibiscus syriacus are also lovely; ‘Blue Bird’ just finished its parade of shining, single blue flowers and ‘Blushing Bride’ is still going strong with smaller but fully double pale pink blooms. Clethra alnifolia has fragrant white bottlebrush flowers that will soon give way to golden fall foliage. The bees are besotted with the Caryopteris; ‘Jason’ has bright yellow foliage with blue flowers; ‘First Choice’ has green foliage but a dense habit and dark blue blooms. Magnolia liliflora ‘Nigra’ puts on its main event in spring when the large, dark pink blooms show dramatically against the nearly bare branches. I always get a few blossoms popping out all summer and through the fall, but this year the tree is covered with blooms, as if it is hurrying to get them all displayed before frost. Many of the roses are in full bloom once again, notably Rosa ‘Golden Celebration’, ‘Just Joey’ and ‘Graham Thomas. Some of the perennials have been blooming for months. Astilbe chinensis pumila, for example; also Coreopsis verticillata, Heliopsis ‘Loraine Sunshine’, Potentilla nepalensis ‘Miss Willmot’ , Knautia macedonica and Veronica ‘Giles van Hees.’ Geranium sanguineum ‘Max von Frei’ and ‘Lancastriense’ and Campanula ‘Birch Hybrid’ have been in bloom since early May. Other perennials have been waiting till now to put on their show. Aster fritarkii and A. ‘Purple Dome’ love the sun, but A. divaricatus will bloom in some shade. Actaea simplex ‘Brunette’ has wonderfully fragrant white bottlebrush blooms against dark brown foliage. Other perennials famous for fall bloom are in full flower, such as Crocosmia, Dahlia, Fuchsia, Helenium, Rudbeckia, Sedum and Solidago. Lobelia is a great plant that blooms in autumn. Most people are familiar with annual lobelia, a bedding plant with brilliant blue flowers held close to a mat of green foliage. I’m speaking of perennial lobelia. L. syphilitia is a rangy, somewhat coarse plant with great spikes of blue blossoms. L. cardinalis is slightly more refined with scarlet red blooms. Hybrids have been selected with both refinement and beautiful colors. Lobelia ‘Monet Moment’ has exquisite magenta spires on slender stalks; L. vedrariensis is a looser in form with purple flowers; L. ‘Grape Knee Hi’ is, predictably, a more compact purple version. All of the lobelias provide a great form contrast to the daisy type flowers that predominate in fall. All in all, that is a lot of consolation for the early departure of summer.