The Clueless Gardener

"fanaticus sine potestas"

Monday, August 11, 2008


Hmmmmm. Every August, just like a patient with her psychiatrist away at Truro, I start brooding. I stare balefully at the flowerbed, wondering why I haven't cut down the iris stalks yet, even as the seed pods grow larger, sucking more energy from the plant every moment. I notice the swarm of red ants that have taken up residence here, wondering if they bite, and not caring much. I see the Japanese beetles, having no roses to eat here, chomping on my climbing petunia. Why don't I go get a container of soapy water and get those guys? Instead I just stare at them. My felcos are so dull they won't slice a daisy stem, I sharpening them...? No. I realize I've let the back field almost completely revert to forest mode, which I didn't want, but now there are too many saplings and huge wild roses, and it's too late for anything but a major renovation. So that's out. Rather than get out there and attack the flower bed with gusto, I take a nap and wait until the bed is in shade til I mosy on out there. I do nothing more ambitious than weed the moss. I find a white slimy mold on some of the moss that is grosser than anything, even slug slime. But it all makes sense in August, when All Things In the Garden Go South. I can grasp that once peony poppy and iris season passes, I become listless...I am concluding, as I do every year about this time, that I am not a real gardener. Wouldn't I have kept my precious weeping pear pruned if I were? Wouldn't I care that deer eat the leaves off every year? What do I do about it? Is my tough love policy really just neglect? If I were a real gardener, wouldn't I have kept the lilacs clear of the imposing weeds, which now includes poison ivy? Would I have stood by and watched goldenrod take over the tigerlily bed[ at least I hope it's goldenrod, and not something worse]? Wouldn't I keep the weeds out of the cracks? Wouldn't I be dying to plant all sorts of new plants found in out of the way garden centers or catalogs? Would I really have a flowerbed filled with only the easiest plants to grow, those that really don't mind total abandonment? Wouldn't I have a gorgeous climbing rose around my door? And, everytime I get up from a crouch, the pain in my back reminds me not only am I not much of a gardener, I'm also getting creakier every season. If I were a real gardener, wouldn't I have tons of containers adorning my deck? [I used to, but this year there is only one, and that one doesn't look too hot, either.] I had a dead tree taken down two years ago, and have let all weeds fill in the space. It looks horrible, but I follow my main gardening motto, "If it looks bad, direct your attention elsewhere." I think that instead of modeling my gardening self on V. Sackville-West, I am channeling the Beales of Grey Gardens. All the seedlings I started last spring went south, and the hastily-bought substitute nicotiana alatas just aren't the same, so I don't care much for them. The doldrums go on and on. And yet....and yet....and yet....
Just in time to save me from the noose is Joe Pye, the weed I love most. I scan the roadsides and fields for it, and squeal with delight upon spotting it. I tromped through [doubtless, tick-laden] weeds to cut three stalks to bring home, and all is salved. With mood cheered, I get down to weeding that moss, and ignore the shooting pains in my lower back. As I pull out the intruders, earthworms literally pop out of the moss, and take off for a safer spot. I always say hello to them, and then if I glance away for even a split second, they disappear. Who knew wormies could travel so fast?! The rudbeckias are glorious this year, and the globe thistles did well, too. Is it that I was so lazy that instead of fertilizing the garden, I just threw a mulch of manure atop? This must be the silver lining to neglect, I guess. I'm still waiting for the Heavenly Blues to bloom, what's taking them so long? But having them still in store is like a good mood in the bank, so necessary during the month when I am becalmed in the garden. Maybe that wisp of sweet autumn clematis will bloom if the yard guy didn't completely kill it with his weed whacker...I decide to hope for that, too. And the anemones are coming on, too. So maybe things aren't so bad. The humidity's been low, something to be truly grateful for. That's a real upper in the dog days. Hmm...I begin to feel strangely better now...
There, doc, I just did all my own horticultural therapy, so who needs you? August!