Monday, June 30, 2008

Taking Stock

Summer officially began about ten days ago, but it started in earnest day before yesterday, when the thermometer hit a tropical 36 degrees (that 96.8 to you Farenheit folks). Yesterday was a shade warmer, and today we are promised 37 with a humidex reading of 39, which will make it feel as if it is 102 point something or other. We had a five minute thunderstorm about midnight last night, with a spatter of rain, which turned up the humidity level.

And naturally, while we've been busy tying our hair on before opening the door until day before yesterday, now the weeping willow hang as lank as greasy hair. It's like being in a vacuum. But there is nothing to be done about the weather, other than complain. Thank goodness we have that modern wonder, air conditioning. Long summer afternoons are perfect for reading, naps and taking stock.

At this point one looks at the garden to assess what has, and has not, proven successful. Things are beginning to fill in. The thymes and mints have done wonderfully. They are fragrant and spill out of the bed in their enthusiasm to please. The various types of thyme have different habits (some are upright, some prostrate, some are wooly, some are smooth-leaved.) The colours of the blooms vary as well, so I have white, pink, lavender and rose coloured thyme blossoms, all the size of a pinhead. Tiny stars against the deep green. I can't resist drawing the branches through my fingers. The fragrance is heavenly in the evening, and oddly enough, strongest across the street!

The dead nettles and coral bells are doing very well. The dead nettles have lavender flowers and the coral bell has about a dozen tall spikes with teeny bell-shaped flowers on them. Those flowers were lime-colured to begin with, but turned white with time. Some have faded but more spikes are forming.

The coleuses aren't huge but are colorful and luxurious. The lavender is blooming modestly and is another one I can't resist touching. The fragrance reminds me of the soap my Dad used when I was small. The rosemary has tripled in size and while the ornamental kales are not large they are colorful and have very interesting foliage. The kinnekinick has sent out runners and is loaded with berries. The tri-colour sage plants have maybe tripled in size, but the pebbled texture of the leaves and the red, white and green colours make up for any lack in height.

The hellebore is past its prime, but is now hidden behind the toad lily which *finally* woke up and started growing after six weeks of pouting. It has a faint checkerboard pattern on its leaves. I'm hard-pressed to know whether this is "normal", a mutation, or the result of a virus. It's supposed to reach five feet but it certainly will be no more than two feet tall unless it gets a sudden growth spurt. It doesn't have even the shadow of a bud yet, but it's not supposed to bloom until fall.

The Elijah blue grass is spiky and has grown significantly. I see that I put the two plants too close together. I may move one in the spring, and give them more space, so the lovely ball-shaped form is more apparent. If I can find some more I'll plant a few more of these as well.

The "rupture-wort" or "Creeping Charlie" club moss I scrounged from neighbours (who see it as a weed) has proven to be a real winner. Looking closely it's apparent that there are three different types of club moss. One type is covered in bright yellow flowers right now, each flower a tiny perfect star. These are planted between the stepping stones and in the garden bed itself, up on the Buddha mound.

My next door neighbour had lovely peonies last week. They didn't last long but I got a good picture while they were at their height.

All the "hen and chicks" plants are busy making "chicks". I was surprised to see that each type has a different method of "chicking". Some expand by growing chicks at their outside edges, others send up stalks topped by a chick. When the spike falls over the chick roots. Some must send runners underground as the chicks come up a few inches away from the hen. Two are blooming, something I've not seen before. The hen sent up a thick stalk, topped with what looked like tiny chicks. I expected this construction to fall over, but each of the "chicks" turned out to be a bud which formed a compound flower head. The flowers are quite lovely. Can't wait to see what happens next. Will they make seeds?

In the back the tomatoes are nearly four feet high and are covered with tiny green tomatoes and blossoms. The squash has the most beautiful blossoms in the garden, and the shortest-lived. By afternoon the morning's blossoms have shriveled. The tiny squashes are like huge golden beads. Alas, so far they have all gotten an inch across and then fallen off. It has been too wet and cold and the plants suffered. But now they have perked right up. I may have squash yet.

I planted scarlet runner beans in a planter box to the side of Sal's outdoor room, and they have crawled up the side and are now exploring the roof. I noted the first blossom today, so won't be long before we can pick beans from those. Even without the beans the plants are so pretty, with their big sturdy leaves and twining vines.

On the other side of the equation, it's hard to say if the heathers I planted have grown or not. The spring blooming one's branches flopped over and have spread out like a ground cover. The other two are sitting all scrunched up, and not doing much. The mums are a mixed bag, one has grown, the other two are struggling. The black ipeoma are spectacular in colour but have grown only modestly. They have an interesting bell-shaped flower which lasts for a single day, but it's a rather lurid pinky-purple which doesn't appeal to me at all. I might put some of these in hanging baskets nest year, as a foil for lighter coloured foliage, but don't think I'll plant them in the garden.

Speaking of baskets, mine have been something of a disaster. I shouldn't have put pansies in them, as pansies curl up and wither at the first sign of heat. Next year I'll go back to my tried and true petunias, which are hardy as weeds and last all summer. The basket of white lobelias I bought either caught a virus or decided life was too much. The plants just packed up and died all at once.

There's no way to put a price on the gift of a garden. If I don't feel up to working in it I can just look at it, which I do a lot of. And plan... what will I move? What will I add next year? How will I solve this problem? The moments I spend weeding, watering, mulching, feeding, are times of peace and pure pleasure.


Anonymous said...

I see nothing but weeds in my flower beds.

Oh there are flowers but the dandy lions are out of their minds this year.

Also the heat and humidex makes it about impossible to do ANYTHING outside after 10 am.

Anonymous said...

Hi Deb, sounds like you are truly enjoying your garden. I can sit for hours on my deck, just watching the willows slowly waving. I love to get up early, and sit with my tea, just watching the garden wake up. First the father quail comes out to see if the seed has been put down yet, after a quick nibble, he goes back and fetches the family. Momma and eight or nine babies, looking like walnuts on casters, roll through the grass to the seed. Dad stands gueard whilst mommma and little ones eat, then it is on to the fishpond, where dad leads the way over the rocks to an overhanging rock, that is accessible to the water. By this time the next family have arrived at the seed, followed by mourning doves, finches and sparrows.

Around this time the dogs come out for a stretch and do a bit of big game hunting to scare away the birds. The quail dissappear under the fence and the other birds fly to the willows to swear at the nosiy dogs. dogs go back to bed and birds return to continue their snack.

It is a pity that I have to work as I could sit for much longer enjoying this morning adventure. However, the peace and beauty have filled my soul with a new love for nature so I am happy to get moving. Pat