Thursday, July 24, 2014

Everything on Schedule: Telling Time in the Garden


   It's three weeks into July. One of the benefits of having a garden is that it moves you along through the seasons, even if you aren't doing anything major to it. Without any assistance from me to speak of, the native orange daylilies come and go. I started stretching the season last year by consciously planting different varieties of the astonishingly expansive daylily family. These start flowering at different times, some are just starting to blossom now, some are going strong. 
            The rose bushes, which have cruising along splendidly for a month and a half, have lately developed black-spot disease on their leaves. Conclusion: it must be the second half of July. So I fertilized them for the first time this year and spent a thorny afternoon picking off the yellowed, diseased-looking leaves. We'll see how that works. If the disease hadn't shown up, I would have been happy to go on doing nothing but admiring them.
            The butterfly bushes that looked dead this spring -- bare sticks, naggingly slow to leaf -- are back to their old shapes. They look remarkably like they did a year ago, even though I cropped them back aggressively last fall in an effort to make them grow fuller and bring their blossoms down closer to the ground. Instead they've grown tall and leggy, and bare on their lower branches, just as in previous years. Which only means that any day now I'll start reaching up to remove the dead blossoms and stimulate the new ones, and face the same old decisions about how to prune them in the fall.
            But the thing that tells me it's really high, full-on summer is the way the two hibiscuses have bonded. One is the plant, an annual variety, that grew big last year on the patio and produced a lot of classic pink, roseate blossoms. I took it indoors during the winter and kept it alive; it went on blossoming for some weeks in the fall and then ran out of solar energy. The plant survived the winter, but its productive urge slept. I lugged it outdoors again when the weather warmed up and waited for it to do its stuff in the manner of previous summer, but the now second-year annual took the longest time to re-adjust to prosperity.
            To give it the idea I purchased another hibiscus, a different variety called a Mandeville rose (also an annual in temperate zones), loaded with buds and dark red blossoms and lodged right up against the older plant. Sure enough the sleek vines of the Mandeville have begun curling around the branches of the bigger plant (top photo).         
            If this trend keeps up, we'll be started on our own rain forest.
            Because the natural world performs in the age-old manner -- you can set your calendar, so to speak, to some of these behaviors -- we think everything is the same and will always stay the same. There's nothing new, as the saying goes, under the sun.
            But everything under the sun is also moving on, always, if imperceptibly. In the next couple of weeks our family will celebrate a couple of milestones. Our niece will celebrate her 30th birthday. Anne's father will celebrate his 90th.
            We're somewhere in between. Every age is a stage, and each role in life has its own job to do. We'll keep the roses, and the lilies, and the hibiscus coming.