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“Mother, the bush clover is in bloom in the garden. And valerian, burnet, bellflowers, timothy — the whole garden reeks of autumn. I am sure that once it’s October your temperature will go down.” I am praying that it will. What a relief it will be when the sticky, lingering September heat has passed!

From “The Setting Sun” by Osamu Dazai,translated by Donald Keene (Charles E. Tuttle)

Along with last week’s wild carnation, the bellflower is one of Japan’s celebrated “seven flowers of autumn,” the others being bush clover, kuzu vine, fuji-bakama (or boneset), susuki grass and maiden flower. Actually, these lovely bellflowers (or balloon flowers) start blooming in summer, but according to the old calendar, autumn began in the seventh month, which corresponds to our August. During the season, all these plants and more appeared on the misty moors and in gardens, so endearing them to romancers of old.