Two weeks ago I got a haircut-just this side of a military buzz cut. I was reacting to the intense heat and the lack of electricity. I just needed to get that hair off my face, and my neck. This past week, that reactionary buzz cut was still soaking wet, every day, all day long. My point? Reacting to the conditions of the moment sometimes solves a problem. But not always. No matter the length or style of my hair, I perspire-copiously. I cannot wait for the temperatures to cool down, but cutting my hair won’t make this happen any faster. No matter the season, I have a point of view about the landscape. My point of view is not so much different than my propensity to sweat. It is God given, ingrained, instinctive-and above all, stubbornly reactive. But my expected reaction is not always the best way to cope. The heat shouldn’t make me throw up my hands in disgust. It should only make me shower and find a way to cool off more often. It should make me garden early and late, and not so much the middle of the day. It should make me watch the need for water, better.
Our high heat and lack of rain has been stubbornly persistent. This is not Georgia, Alabama, Florida, or Texas-I live in Michigan. Typical July weather in Michigan is hot, but not mid to high 90’s hot. Tropically high heat has made every gardeners life tough. Every gardener I know is sweating buckets, and reacting. None of my plants like being subjected to this blast furnace style weather either. They react-dramatically. They shed green leaves. The leaves on my lindens yellow, and drop. My dogwoods are in a sustained wilt, no matter how much I water. They just don’t like this heat. My magnolias are rife with fungus. They have been barraged by inclement weather since the April. My grass is panting. My roses contracted black spot instantly-those long leafless stalks are not so good looking. I water a section of them-every night. My stands of Monarda Claire Grace have lost all of their lower leaves to mildew. I have flowers and sticks to look at.
I have seen a lot of over watered plants. Though a dip in my fountain makes me feel better and cooler, water does not mitigate the heat. Dahlias wilt from intense heat, even when they do not need water. Begonias will rot in an instant, should the water be stepped up in the heat. A sure sign of overwater in a landscape-yellowing yews. You can smell ground that is overwatered. Unlike the fresh pungent smell of compost, over watered soil smells rotten-which it is.
My good friend Julia has thrown in the towel. She tells me that the romance the over. This season is a wash. She cannot wait for the 2013 gardening season. I understand her frustration. She has a large garden without any in ground irrigation. She has been dragging hoses around for weeks. She must feel like she has a hose duct taped to both hands. Never mind her efforts-she tells me her garden looks terrible. Exhausting, this. The work involved in attempting to intervene in a drought and high heat summer is considerable. Daunting. However I recognize that this is her reaction, and no more.
World weather cycles span more time than a human lifetime, though I remember a season in the late 80’s-intense heat, and drought. I could not sleep for weeks-no air conditioning then. I was planting gardens and landscapes. There was a ban on watering. I worried all night long about what I had planted-would those plants survive. Reactionary, my initial response. In retrospect, there was little loss, but lots of worry.
Given over 30 years gardening at home, and professionally, I am inclined to ascribe the particulars of this particular season to a bigger picture. This is just one year of many, with its own particular circumstance. As much as I am inclined to react to the moment, I know better than to do so. As much as I would like to think that my lifetime establishes weather parameters, and thus defines nature-I know this is foolishness. It varies over a time period much longer than a human life. My reaction to our untoward weather only makes me perspire more. My patience, in spite of my perspiration, is more useful than my reaction.
This gardening season is not so much my favorite. But is it what we have. What we have-I have no plans to react. My plan is to live, and garden.