It was so hot here yesterday that pots I had just watered on Thursday, and that seemed fine yesterday morning, were parched and nearly dead when I went out this morning. It was our first day in the 90s with bright sun. I made my best efforts first at the botanical garden where I volunteer, and then at home.
Apparently, it wasn’t enough for some of the new plants still waiting in their nursery pots. I found a perfectly lovely (yesterday) white Gaura dry and limp this morning. I’ve cut back all its beautiful stems of flowers, watered it well, and set it in the shade in hopes it will recover.
Gaura is pretty tough. It root easily from stem cuttings and blooms here until nearly frost. I bought this white one two weeks ago and have been tardy in planting it. If it recovers, and I expect that it will, I’ll get it into the ground right away and hope it still will grow into its potential.
Mid-summer heat hit us quickly this year. The cool and damp of April and early May lulled me into procrastination on many fronts. But the slow transition from spring to summer in our garden has now gotten stuck on ‘fast-forward.’ There’s not much one can do once the weather turns hot except play along as best one can.
That means a lot of cutting back spring growth and some lifting and lugging plants out of storage. I’ve been cutting back yellowing leaves of spring bulbs, spent Helleborus flowers, lanky Violas, presumptuous vines growing a foot an hour, and bare wood that hasn’t yet leafed out. I’ve been lugging out pots and baskets of tender tropicals we stored this winter indoors.
It is prime time to plant out rooted cuttings of all those Begonias I cut back last fall and through the winter. The Dahlias are growing, and the Caladiums have sprouted for another year. Now to find the best places for them all outdoors….
Plants follow their own rhythms. We may understand the broad outlines of their cycles, but the timing is unique to each year’s conditions. Sudden heat, like we’ve had these past few days, speeds everything along, like the bamboo.
Some previous owner planted a stand of bamboo at the bottom of our yard, at the edge of the ravine. We love the bamboo. We enjoy it for many reasons, but we need it to ‘stay in bounds.’ When new shoots emerge each May, along with the mayflies, we must respond or surrender to its relentless march up the hill and toward our home.
Each year it creeps a little further up the hill, and each year our response gets a bit more vigorous. My partner greets each morning armed with a hammer and heavy loppers. He knocks over the new spears of the day, growing too far up the hill, with the hammer. Then if he can find any exposed rhizomes, he cuts them with the loppers. We are fortunate that the resident squirrels enjoy eating the newly harvested bamboo shoots, but there are so many holes now, where shoots have been removed, that we could put flags in them and create a little miniature golf course in the back yard.
I was out on the deck reworking hanging baskets yesterday when I heard a strange, rhythmic tapping coming from our ‘bamboo forest.’ I couldn’t see what was causing it, and so dropped what I was doing to investigate. Hands covered in dirt, I traipsed through the house and outdoors, down the hill to the edge of the ravine to see what I could see. It was only then that I realized the sound was above my head. No one was in the ravine tapping on the bamboo, no animals in sight, nothing but a slight breeze to relieve the oppressive heat settling over the day.
It must have been something about the older bamboo stalks settling and popping even as new ones grow in to replace the old. I went back to the deck to finish the baskets, still listening to the mysterious sounds in the ravine.
It has been so hot and dry that a small turtle waited for me this morning on the front patio. Perhaps it heard me watering around back and had some expectation that I’d bring water to the front as well. The bowl of water left for wildlife was nearly empty.
When I began going pot to pot with the hose, it bravely hung around to watch my progress. And when I sat down on the front steps, hose set to mist, it clambered over to feel the spray on its shell and leathery skin. As water collected between the flagstones, it began drinking from the puddles, neck and legs fully extended under the cool spray.
I sat with it awhile, and then left it happily drinking while I finished with the pots and headed up to the upper garden to water there, as well. Water is life. Forget to water and plants die. When water sources dry up, animals suffer.
This summer season ahead will be like none that we have experienced before. There will be more record heat, and more record storms. Just yesterday: snow in Colorado, tornadoes in Michigan, fires in New Mexico, and record heat in the East.
We can only hope to adapt to the changes around us, figure out how to survive, and then help our communities adapt to the inevitable changes coming. Resistance, whether mental or physical, won’t help with that. Procrastination is simply a form of resistance.
Good gardeners watch for signs of the season that tell us what needs doing. We follow the rhythms of the seasons where we live, knowing when to plant bulbs and seeds, when to prune, and when to cut away old growth. We know when to water, and when to pour out water gone stagnant. We know when to put plants into the Earth and when to dig them out.
Now let’s widen our perspectives a bit and see what needs doing to work with the changes already in motion. How can we help? How can we tend the garden that is our Earth, to keep her fertile and hospitable for us all?
With appreciation to The Propagator, who hosts Six on Saturday each week.
You might enjoy my new series of posts, Plants I Love That Deer Ignore. Thirteen plants are featured thus far, and the list will continue to grow.