All posts by Mark Taylor

First Sunday in Autumn

Autumn Landscape
Charles Rondeau (publicdomainpictures.net)

Summer is gone and Autumn has officially begun here in the northern hemisphere.  The hot breath of summer is still blazing in many places though. Once again Death Valley topped out on Saturday at 107?F (41? C) with a low of 20?F (-6? C) at both Bodie, CA and near Mackay, ID.

Bodie is today a ghost town but started in 1859 as a mining camp. The discovery of gold would lead to a boom in 1876 and by 1879 its population was somewhere between 7,000-10,000. The boom lasted until around 1880. Then the discovery of gold elsewhere began drawing people away. The mines kept producing gold and a smaller community thrived in the town for many years. Most who stayed did so because they wanted to settle down. By 1910 the population was 698. The city newspaper folded in 1912. The Standard Consolidation Mine was closed in 1913, was bought up and reopened and for a while made some profit. It was not enough to stop the decline though. In 1917 the Bodie Railway stopped running and the last mine closed in 1942. The 1920 census showed a population of 120. People would still live there until after the end of WW II, but it was mostly a ghost town. In 1961 Bodie was declared a National Historic Landmark and the following year the Bodie State Historic Park was created. Today you can visit the once boom town and see, from the existing and surviving buildings, what it was like back in the late 19th century to live in a Gold Rush boom town.

With October coming up soon, Halloween decorations are appearing along with the usual Halloween themed commercials on television. With the fall harvest comes the change in produce. More apples appear since they are harvested in late summer and early fall. Artichokes, cranberries, pears, and pumpkins are also available during this time. In areas with lots of wineries, grapes are harvested for both wine and table use. No more grapes from Chile!

Photo:David Wagner(publicdomainpictures.net)

Although Covid restrictions have eased, supply issues and higher costs means a lot of Halloween candy and other items are more expensive this year than before. This may lead families doing simpler Halloween activities. There was something to be said about dunking for apples, caramel covered apples, roasting pumpkin seeds and making lots of popcorn. And with a lot of cleverness, you can make easy decorations without having to buy them at the store. Many people are relearning how their great-grandparents got through the Great Depression by keeping costs low and at the same time keeping their families fed.

Happy Sunday Everyone!

Friday Titanic News

 

Titanic Wreck Bow
Image: Public Domain (NOAA-http://www.gc.noaa.gov/images/gcil/ATT00561.jpg)

Hey Kids, Want to Visit the Titanic? Only $250,000
Explorers Web, 11 Sep 2022

If you’ve never seen the Titanic in person, you’re not alone. But you can become part of that small coterie soon. As part of a trip with OceanGate Expeditions, you can visit the wreck of the Titanic next year alongside a crew of dive experts, scientists, and filmmakers. The caveat: it costs a quarter of a million dollars. Still, the experience promises to be a singular one. Scuttled under about 4,000m of North Atlantic Ocean water, the RMS Titanic rests about 600km off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. The ship sank in 1912, taking about 1,500 souls with it. Divers first found its wreckage in 1985. Tour visitors are called “mission specialists”. That could register as amusing but actually, the company requires its clients to train for some mission-specific tasks while at sea. Submersible navigation, piloting, tracking, communications, maintenance, and operations all make the checklist. Mission specialists make one submersible dive during the voyage and assist on the surface when other teams dive. There’s room for six such positions on the mission, the brochure adds.

You can view details and download a brochure by going to https://oceangateexpeditions.com/titanic.

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Woman Who Completed Lifelong Dream To Explore Titanic Says She ‘Lost It’ Afterwards
Independent, 12 Sep 2022
(Paid access required to view full article.)

Renata Rojas had been obsessed with the Titanic for more than half of her life when she looked out the window of a submersible, 4,000 metres under the North Atlantic, and saw the doomed ship’s spectre appear hauntingly from the depths. She thought she’d cry – but she was far too busy.

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Morgan Robertson
circa 1890-1900, self-portrait
Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)

The Man Who Predicted the Sinking of the Titanic
History of Yesterday, 15 Sep 2022

Robertson’s novella draws many similarities between the fictional SS Titan and the RMS Titanic. The book mentions the ship’s perceived “unsinkable” attribute that many assigned to it due to the advanced technology used to construct it, an attribute shared by the RMS Titanic. It is also predicted that because of this perceived attribute, less-than-usual safety precautions were taken when equipping the ship with safety equipment, mainly manifesting through the lack of lifeboats.

Editor’s Note
The book, Futility or Wreck of the Titan, is actually a good read. The article accurately relates the similarities, but the fictional Titan was different and hits the iceberg dead on. Robertson always denied his book was inspired by anything supernatural. The version of the book I have also includes one or two other stories. One is about an attack on the United States by Japan long before it happened! Back in the time he wrote it, Japan had emerged as a major power and was flexing its military muscle (such as defeating the Russians and taking Port Arthur from them). So a lot of people were worried about a Japanese attack on the US (I know because I read a lot of letters written by people back prior to World War I about their concerns). Robertson took what he knew about ships and crafted a clever story about a big new ship that suffers catastrophically on its maiden voyage with a shocking loss of life. The book would likely have been forgotten had not Titanic occurred making it a prescient book. It does beg the question-if he saw it as a real possibility how come the people who built and ran the ship didn’t? Like the question as why every culture has a version of meatballs, you may bang your head fruitlessly against the wall on this one.

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Padlock on gate
George Hodan
publicdomainpibtures.net

Titanic True Story: Were Third-Class Passengers Locked Behind Gates?
Screen Rant, 18 Sep 2022

As seen in Cameron’s movie, there were clear separations between first, second, and third-class passengers on the Titanic, and they had designated areas where they could walk around freely. In accordance with US immigration law, the Titanic had to have gates between the ship’s decks in order to avoid the spread of diseases, but these weren’t used in cruel ways as seen in the movie. Third-class passengers were in the bowels of the ship and thus didn’t have direct access to lifeboats, but they weren’t purposely kept behind gates to avoid getting to the lifeboats, and third-class stewards were reportedly instructed to have passengers put on their lifebelts and go to the deck, but many refused.

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With autumn now officially here, it is time for the pumpkin! Here are some helpful tips from the Muppet Labs on carving your pumpkin.

 

Shop for everything Halloween at the Halloween Store!

Lewis & Clark Return From Epic Expedition (23 Sep 1806)

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
Public Domain (Wikipedia)
On 23 September 1806, and amid much public excitement, the expedition of William Clark and Meriweather Lewis returned to St. Louis, Missouri. They were the first to record an overland journey from the Mississippi River to the Pacific coast and back. They had set out two years ago and came back with a wealth of knowledge about the territory of the newly purchased Louisiana Purchase. Under President Jefferson, the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1803 for a price of 3 cents per acre for some 828,000 square miles of land. It is considered one of the best land deals ever. Jefferson commissioned the expedition of Lewis and Clarke to explore this territory and report back what they found. The expedition left in May 1804 with about four dozen men and equipment. Traveling up the Missouri River in six canoes and two longboats they would winter in Dakota before crossing into Montana where they saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time. They would meet the Shoshone Indians on the other side of the Continental Divide, who would sell them horses. The journeyed through the Bitterroot Mountains, down the rapids of the Clearwater and Snake rivers, until they reached the Columbia River and to the sea. They arrived at the Pacific Ocean on 8 November 1805 and were the first European explorers to do this overland from the east. The paused for the winter and then made their journey back to St. Louis in the spring. The journals that were kept noted longitude and latitude with detailed notes on soil, climate, animals, plants, and native peoples. They identified new plants and animals (the grizzly bear for one). They also named geographic locations after themselves, loved ones, friends and even their dog. They experienced a variety of diseases and injuries during their journey but only one person perished. Their expedition is considered one of the most consequential and remarkable in U.S. history. Their travels in Oregon would lead the U.S. to able claim territorial rights later. Sources:  

Autumn Equinox Today

There are two equinoxes in the year, Autumn (September) and Spring (March). When these equinoxes occur the sun is directly on the equator, and the length of day and night is almost equal. In the Northern hemisphere, the September Equinox heralds autumn but the opposite below the equator where it heralds the beginning of spring.  Go here to see the time it begins in your area.

Solstices and Equinoxes
Image: NASA

Photo:David Wagner(publicdomainpictures.net)

For those of us in the North, it means a transition from summer to winter.  During this period  days start getting shorter and nights longer. Depending on where you live, you will likely have moderate warm days followed by long and cooler nights. Harvests of many crops often take place during the fall and in the old days you would make preparations to store food for the winter. Harvest festivals are very popular and in particular Halloween. Pumpkins begin appearing along with all kinds of Halloween decor culminating, of course, in All Hallows Eve (Halloween) on October 31.

Shop for all things Halloween at the Halloween Store

Cruise Ship Passengers Find Water in Cabins and Think Titanic

CARNIVAL VISTA in Willemstad, Curaçao on March 29, 2017.
Gordon Leggett via Wikimedia Commons

Cruise ships offer a lot for the traveler these days. You have nicely appointed cabins, casinos, places to shop, lots of entertainment options, and of course lots of food. No one though expects they might experience something akin to the Titanic. A video making rounds on Tik Tok shows passengers standing in a hallway where water was reaching up to their ankles on the Carnival Vista. Of course they posted comments as well on what they were seeing.

“Woke to water rushing into our cabin…our lives flashed before our eyes.”

Two floors were flooded by a plumbing issue (probably a leaking pipe) when a ceiling collapsed from the water. According to news reports, the issue was apparently resolved quickly by the staff. While it is not mentioned, it is likely all those affected by the event were relocated to  other rooms (no word on any compensation for any personal items or damages). Most cruise ships (especially the larger big name ones like Carnival) have procedures for dealing with such emergencies. At least in this case, no lifeboats were needed!

Sources:

Carnival Cruise Ship Floods Like Scene Out Of ‘Titanic’
International Business Times, 8 Sep 2022
https://www.ibtimes.com/carnival-cruise-ship-floods-like-scene-out-titanic-3610930

Flooding on Cruise Captured in Dramatic Video Prompts Comparison to Titanic
Newsweek, 9 Sep 2022
https://www.newsweek.com/flooding-cruise-captured-dramatic-video-prompts-comparison-titanic-1741650


Remembering 9/11/2001

he northeast face of Two World Trade Center (south tower) after being struck by plane in the south face.
September 11, 2001
Source: Robert (Flickr(

It was a day that changed America. Planes hijacked by terrorists flew into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center. Another plane would crash into the Pentagon. And a fourth plane that was destined for a target in Washington D.C. crash-landed into a field in Pennsylvania. The extreme heat caused by the fires from the impact of the planes would cause the collapse of the two towers.

Picture of the World Trade Center on 9/11 shortly after the WTC1 had collapsed.
September 11, 2001
Source: Wally Gobetz

Firefighters and police raced to the towers trying to rescue those trapped inside the burning buildings. Stories of their heroism in getting people out are extraordinary examples of courage that are both remarkable and breathtaking. Things were so dire at one point that some jumped out of windows to the shock of people watching. And when the buildings collapsed, many of these brave firefighters and police were killed. As the rubble was cleared later, every body of a fallen firefighter and police officer was removed with great care and respect.

Ground Zero, New York City, N.Y. (Sept. 17, 2001)
Source: U.S.Navy
Public Domain

More than 3,000 people were killed (including 400 police and firefighters). Over 10,000 were wounded during the attacks on 9/11. Some suffered long term effects due to smoke inhalation and toxic chemicals that were burning at the time. The attacks of 9/11 was the most devastating foreign attack on American soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

We take time today to remember the fallen of 9/11. They went to work, got on planes, and did countless other things not knowing the evil that was about to take place. Countless lives were changed that day. Families were shattered with the loss of a husband or wife, beloved son or daughter. Friends were never seen again having perished in the towers, the Pentagon, or a passenger on the planes used as weapons.

We cannot forget those who perished on this day. And the heroic sacrifices of first responders- firefighters and police-who tried to save lives cannot be forgotten either.

We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here—
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.

We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.

(Part of Pope Benedict XVI prayer from his visit to New York Ground Zero in 2008.)

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Battle of Lake Erie (10 Sept 1813)

Battle of Lake Erie by William Henry Powell (1823–1879)
U.S. Senate Art Collection, U.S. Capitol, Washington D.C.
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Battle of Lake Erie (10 September 1813)

 During the War of 1812, control over Lake Erie and the Northwest were crucial to both the British and the United States. The War of 1812 between the British and the United States resulted from simmering tensions between the two since the end of the American War of Independence. Though long over by this time, tensions existed between the two.  The British had attempted to restrict U.S. trade. During the Napoleonic Wars, the U.S. was neutral, but the British were not happy with American merchant ships supplying the French with supplies. Another issue was the forced impressment of American seamen. To fill out their crews, the British Royal Navy would stop merchant ships and take some of their crews forcing them into Royal Navy service. Additionally, tension over the U.S. desire to expand its territory led to clashes with the British as well.

These and other things led President James Madison to declare war on Great Britain on 18 June 1812. While it passed Congress (barely), it was not popular in New England since they heavily relied on trade. Western and Southern states generally supported the war. However, the realities of war would soon set in. The attempt to take Canada was a failure and resulted in a humiliating defeat on 16 August 1812 with Detroit being surrendered without firing a shot. The American Navy was aided early on with the fact the British were also fighting Napoleon so not all their ships were committed. One notable naval battle was at Lake Michigan in 1813. At stake in this battle was control of Detroit, Lake Erie, and nearby territories the U.S had claims on.

The American naval forces were led by Captain Oliver Hazard Perry, who had nine ships. The British had six warships led by Commander Robert Heriot Barclay. Barclay was an experienced naval officer who had served under Nelson at Trafalgar. The British were armed with long gun cannons that gave them a range of about a full mile, while the Americans used carronades that had half the range of the British cannons. This meant that Perry would inflict a lot of damage but at closer range. At first the wind was against Perry in the morning and then shifted giving him an advantage. He would raise a famous navy-blue banner written with the words “DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP” as the slogan to rally his officers.

The ensuing battle would last for hours, and Perry would lose his flagship Lawrence. He transferred his flag over to the Niagara and then sailed straight into the British line firing broadsides that ultimately gave him the win when they surrendered. Perry lost 27 sailors and 96 wounded, while the British lost 40 dead and left with 94 wounded. Perry sent a famous dispatch to U.S. General William Henry Harrison that said, “We have met the enemy, and they are ours.” The British were forced to abandon Detroit after the Battle of the Thames resulting in American control of the area.

Aftermath

The victory was an important one when many battles had gone against the United States. The Royal Navy was still fighting Napoleon so not of its navy was committed to North America. This would change in April 1814 when Napoleon was defeated. With both ships and troops now freed up, they raided Chesapeake Bay and moved on the capital of Washington D.C. burning it and other government buildings to the ground on 24 August 1814.

On 11 September 1814, the American navy defeated the British fleet at the Battle of Plattsburgh at Lake Champlain, New York. A furious battle at Fort McHenry in Baltimore took place on 13 September 1814 and withstood 25 hours of bombardment by the British navy. After the bombardment had ended, the Americans raised a large flag over the fort to show they had survived the bombardment. Seeing the flag being raised inspired Francis Scott Key to write a poem that later would be set to music called “Star Spangled Banner.” British forces withdrew and prepared to act against New Orleans. Negotiations for a peace settlement were undertaken not long after in Ghent (modern day Belgium). The resulting Treaty of Ghent would abolish the taking of American sailors from merchant ships for British naval service, solidify the borders of Canada as we know them today, and end British attempts to create an Indian state in the Northwest. The treaty was signed on Christmas Eve, 1814. Formal ratification would be in February 1815.

It was during this time that the famous Battle of New Orleans would occur. On 8 January 1815, British forces (unaware of the peace deal yet due to slow communications of the time) launched a major attack on New Orleans. General Andrew Jackson led the Americans in this famous battle and defeated the British soundly. News of the battle was another boost to American morale and likely convinced the British that they were right to get out of this war as well. For Canadians and Native Americans, it ended their attempt to govern themselves. For Americans, it ushered in a new time of good feelings ending the partisan divisions that had grown since the Revolutionary War. National self-confidence would ensue and a growing spirit of expansionism that would shape the rest of the 19th century. The country resulting from it would be comprised of states and territories that went from New York on the Atlantic Ocean to San Francisco on the Pacific making it one of the largest countries in the world.

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Siege of Leningrad Begins (8 September 1941)

On 8 Sep 1941, German forces began their siege of Leningrad that would last 872 days making it one of the most grueling sieges in modern warfare. Let’s find out more about it.’

The fire of anti-aircraft guns deployed in the neighborhood of St. Isaac’s cathedral during the defense of Leningrad (now called St. Petersburg, its pre-Soviet name) in 1941.
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Leningrad (formerly known as St. Petersburg and capital of Russia before the Communist takeover in 1918), was a major industrial center and the Soviet Union’s second largest city. When Germany in June 1941, many of the city’s industrial plants and inhabitants were relocated far to the east to prevent capture. Two million were left behind though to face the rapidly moving German army. Everyone who could lift a shovel (men, women, and children) were conscripted to build anti-tank fortifications around the city’s edge. The railway to Moscow was cut off at the end of July by German forces and they were starting to penetrate the outer fortifications of the city.  On 8 September, German forces began besieging the city but were held back by the fortifications and the tenacity of the defenders, some 200,000 Red Army soldiers. German bombers destroyed a warehouse containing food making life more difficult for the defenders.

Germans next moved to seal off the remaining highways and rail lines south of the city. Finnish forces joined the Germans by coming down the Karelian Isthmus in the north so that by November the entire city was encircled. German bombings intensified with raids several times a day. Most people were reduced to eating one slice of bread per day and starvation was rampant. One of the coldest winters on record would set in as well adding to the misery of the inhabitants. Many continued to work to produce arms to help defeat the Germans despite the lack of food and warmth as well. Just about anything that could be burned for heat was used from books to furniture. Pets (dogs and cats) were eaten along with animals from the city zoo. Wallpaper paste was used for food and leather boiled to make an edible jelly. Plants, grasses and weeds were put to use to produce vitamin supplements. Cannabilizing the dead was a major issue resulting in the Leningrad police department having a special unit to handle it.

Some supplies were able to be brought in over Lake Ladoga, but it was very small and not enough to alleviate the conditions in the city. Some were evacuated-mostly elderly and children-but many were unable to leave and starved and or froze to death. In June 1943 the Soviet Army was able break through the German blockade and establish a better supply line along the shores of Lake Ladoga. The city was kept alive through this and later an oil pipeline and electric cables were connected to the city despite the ongoing siege. When spring came in 1943, land was put to use so that by summer produce could be grown. The siege would end when the Soviet Army forced the German army to retreat in January 1944. The siege ended but the human toll was enormous. Over a million died. Survivors got the Order of Lenin in 1945. The population of Leningrad (now renamed to St. Petersburg) did not regain its former population of three million until the 1960’s.

St. Petersburg, Petrograd, Leningrad?

St. Petersburg was found in 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great and named after the apostle St. Peter. Until 1918, it served as capital of the Russian Empire when it was moved by the Bolsheviks to Moscow. The city was both a cultural center as well as the capital in old Russia. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the city was renamed Petrograd because of the strong anti-German sentiment and the fact its name contained two German words. In 1924 after Lenin’s death, the city was renamed for him, Leningrad. In 1991 a public referendum approved the renaming of the city back to St. Petersburg. The city is a major tourist destination owing to its cultural and historical significance. And old guidebook reminds the city is spread out, so be prepared to spend time going to and from the various historical sites. Summers can be warm and sometimes rainy (bring waterproof jackets and something to wear if it gets chilly as well). Winters are cold, so bring cold gear. Surprisingly St. Petersburg is not as cold as Moscow during the winter.

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New Photos of Titanic Wreck Stun, Treasures Found in Attic, Local Titanic Heroes Remembered

Titanic Captain Edward J Smith, 1911
Author unknown. Published after sinking in 1912
Public Domain/Wikipedia Commons

Titanic Captain Edward Smith Was Married In Warrington (Warrington Guardian, 28 Aug 2022)

He came to Warrington in 1887 when he married Sarah Eleanor Pennington, from Winwick. The newly-weds lived in a cottage in the village until Captain Smith’s death in 1912. That year the celebrated Titanic set sail for New York with 1,316 passengers and 891 crew on board. A copy of the marriage licence is inside St Oswald’s Church in Winwick, after the original was stolen a number of years ago.

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Local Heroes Remembered on Titanic Tour (dgwgo.com, 29 Aug 2022)

Award-winning storytellers and tour guides, Mostly Ghostly, presented a special Heroes of the Titanic tour last Friday, marking the birth of Thomas Mullin, a young man from Dumfries who was tragically lost in the disaster, on April 15 1912. Thomas, a Third Class Steward, was born on 26 August 1891 in Maxwelltown, and at the age of just 20, he perished in the sinking, along with his 21 year old school friend and Titanic Violinist, John (Jock) Law Hume, who famously played on with the band, as the ship lowered beneath the waves.

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8 Treasures Discovered in Attics, Barns and More (History.com, 29 Aug 2022)

You never know what will turn up when you’re browsing at a flea market, searching through your attic or basement, going through an old barn or even looking through a boarded-up projection booth. Here are eight of the most surprising historical objects that people have ever found by accident.

(An interesting write-up of historical objects found in attics. Of course, Wallace Hartley’s violin makes the list. I had no idea that a missing Faberge egg that once was owned by Russian Tsar Alexander III ended up in a flea market and bought originally for its scrap value.)

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Titanic at Cobh Harbor, 11 April 1912
Public Domain (Cobh Heritage Centre, Cobh, Ireland)

Titanic: New 8k Footage Shows Wreck In ‘Highest-Quality’ Ever (ITV News, 1 Sep 2022)

The footage captures close-ups of the wreckage and decay, which shows details including a boiler which fell to the ocean’s floor when the Titanic broke in two, and the name of the anchor maker on the portside anchor which Titanic diver and expert Rory Golden says he had never seen before. “I’ve been studying the wreck for decades and have completed multiple dives, and I can’t recall seeing any other image showing this level of detail,” Mr Golden says.

 

 


Welcome To September

Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Septembre
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

September is the ninth month on the Gregorian and Julian calendars. On the old Roman calendar, September was the seventh month since their calendar started in March. When the calendar was revised to add January and February, the name Septem (meaning seven) remained. In the Northern Hemisphere, September is when autumn begins but in the southern half it is the first month of spring.

September is traditionally the start of the academic year for most schools, though some do start in late August. The Eastern Orthodox Church starts its liturgical year in September. The Autumnal Equinox takes place between September 22-24 and marks astronomically the first day of autumn. The first full moon of September is often called a Harvest Moon since many farmers begin harvesting crops that are harvested in the fall.

Morning glory flower (Ipomoea nil)
Photo: Public Domain

While daytime temperatures can remain warm during September, generally the nights start getting cooler and the sun starts setting much earlier. And generally, the sun starts come up later in the morning resulting in people going to work when it is still dark. The birthstone for September is the sapphire (represents clear thinking) The September flowers are the forget-me-not, morning glory, and the aster.