Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Endless Summer

It's pretty hard to get excited about my garden these days. The grass has patches of brown that I'm trying to ignore. Most of the perennials are finished blooming, leaving the annuals and shrub roses to carry the burden of pleasing the neighbors. Fall seems so far off, although a few bulb catalogs arrived last week tempting me with their glossy pictures, and I can almost imagine the scent of burning leaves (does anyone do that anymore??) and the grumbles of my husband as he hangs Christmas lights before the first snowstorm of the season (which has occurred as early as Halloween). I've been trying to decide what might improve my spring beds, scratching notes about possibilities and dreams for that area next to the garage, and jotting down ideas for hostas in the shade bed alongside the house.

During this lull (when I know should be weeding, deadheading, and watering), I find myself flipping through Flower Gardening in the Hot Midwest: USDA Zone 5 & Lower Zone 4. The author (for whom I worked very briefly in her independent bookstore here in Lincoln) has some marvelous ideas and thoughts on gardening specifically in our area. I especially like what I read this morning, feeling as if she'd been eavesdropping on my recent thoughts:

Gardens are easiest in spring and early summer - young, tender, sweet, moist, and effortless. Weeds are mere seedlings, rain is adequate, diseases haven't yet gotten a foothold. This, too, is when many of the most beautiful flowers bloom - delicate, profuse and fragrant... The garden is a delicate fairyland. It seems a paradise and you are in love with it. This is passionate young love when happily-ever-after seems not only attainable, but a lead pipe cinch.

Phase two - reality - hits around the end of June. "I've sort of lost interest in my garden," I heard someone say in July. Well, no wonder. It isn't all roses anymore. The weeds are up, the leaf miner has ravaged the Aquilegia (columbine), and mildew has overtaken the Phlox divaricata (woodland phlox or wild sweet William). Summer heat has struck the Midwest with its full blast, requiring endless watering. A gap in bloom between the spring flowers and the late season ones has made the garden seem a wasteland. This is midlife crisis with a vengeance. The strong light of a summer day reveals the garden's every flaw. Autumn will roll around with cooler temperatures, renewed rain, truer colors shown under the sun's angled rays, and mature love will reap its reward. Staying power is the key in the midseason garden. Staying power means keeping on top of routine tasks like watering, weeding, and deadheading to see the garden through the heat of the summer.

OK, I can do this. Staying power. How hard can it be? Water, weed, deadhead. Water, weed, deadhead. With rainfall exceeding the normal monthly totals and more precipitation predicted for the next three days, I'm in pretty good shape. At least I don't have to worry about mowing. I have my own personal yardboy!

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