Summer Garden

I look forward to August 1st each year because that is the unofficial date one can stop weeding with a clear conscience. It is a time when one can give shoulders and knees a deserved rest since the garden has filled in. Cone flowers rub elbows with hydrangeas, black eyed Susans mingle with phlox, and there’s interdigitation going on among morning glories climbing for low-lying pear limbs. Stilt and crab grasses hide under lush foliage, and we lose sight of them looking at the rainbow hues above. The garden rabbit feels claustrophobic under the thick green umbrellas.

This is the time I look around and wonder if I haven’t subconsciously planted flowers that remind me of the girls I lusted after from afar in high school. There are the twin Veronicas in containers by the steps, Mandy climbing up the lamppost, sultry Lantana giving suck to bees. And in the corner, Becky and Susan showing off in black and bright yellow like road signs for pollinators. You doubt me? Here they are.

I still lust for Lantana. So do bees and hummingbirds, while deer pass her by. She originated in Australia so I was concerned she might grow upside down here, but she’s adapted. Maybe it’s my age, but I avoid exotics and lean toward less demanding, more pliant and rewarding flowers like Lantana and Marigolds. With little effort they thrive and flower all summer and don’t complain if I’m a day late in watering them.

Coneflowers and young Hydrangea

In a world where instant gratification is the norm, slightly delayed gratification is a desirable luxury. Last spring, I benefited from the help of a Covid-19 unemployed grandson who felt safe among the dried stalks and matted debris in the main garden that he removed and added to a hedge row next to our woodlot. He’s less than half my age, but he works more than twice as fast as I do, so he spared me a sore back while I made executive decisions about dead stalks removal. In early April the garden was pristine under a fresh layer of mulch with just a few bottle green shoots looking around. 

Today the Joe Pye weed is eight feet tall, providing a lavender-topped backdrop to phlox and black-eyed Susans. Shredded wood mulch has disappeared under a crowd of volunteer hostas I can’t bring myself to remove. Hydrangeas are puffing themselves up next to our bleached wood bench so that it feels like a soft green cocoon is blocking out earthly worries. So there it is. A little worry-free paradise where a few months ago green shoots pushed aside wood chips. Waiting for it, weeding it, anticipating it, savoring it. Beats bruising your thumbs for an hour at Grand Theft Auto.

Eight feet of Joe Pye Weed

Rereading this and focusing on my girls in the garden and knowing that we call our fall crocuses naked ladies, should I be concerned that we have a slightly X-rated garden? Nah, I don’t think so.