Monday, August 26, 2013

When Decline Is a Blessing

Last Wednesday, as Turfman was watching the local weather report, I overheard the weatherman say something that gave me such relief. He said that historically, 21 August was, on average, the hottest day of the year, and that we would soon begin the slow decline in temperatures. It seemed he uttered it as a lament, but I was overjoyed. That sentiment signaled that I have survived yet another Florida summer, and I can look forward to my favorite season (in the South) of fall.

Summer in Florida, to me, is a time of great stress. I don't mean that it creates anxiety for me. Rather, I mean that my body feels almost perpetually taxed by the extreme heat. I do not like to rise early, which means that I have little to no time in which I can exercise. I can see the effects the heat has on my garden, too. My plants have been enduring a significant amount of stress. Everything seems as if its clinging desperately to life. But as the temperatures begin to cool, the plants really do seem to be relaxing, exhaling in relief just as I do. Some, however, are simply coming to an end.

The chlorophyll is slowly leaking out
from top to bottom

The Kew Red Lavender is dying, so I took emergency
 cuttings in the hopes of having new plants for next year
The cooler days spell hope for me, just as the warmer days in Michigan assured me that I had survived another winter. I do not enjoy living in extremes.

In this season of decline, I can now look forward to spending full days out in the garden, rather than limiting myself to the early morning half hour in summer. Even in that short amount of time, I was drenched in sweat and felt light-headed. Full days of work are coming. Full days of exercise.

The tall branches of the Mexican sage are thinning,
but new shoots are emerging below.
I get to look forward to something else as the summer draws to a close. I get another chance to try and realize my dream of a truly productive garden. I get to wipe the slate clean and begin again. I can apply the lessons I learned from all the gardening mistakes I've made in the past. I have new seed varieties to try. It's all on the verge of beginning.

As far as I can see, this decline is all about redemption and rebirth.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Garden View from Indoors

The weather in Orlando for the last several weeks has reminded me of a Victorian joke I once read:

What does the English weather have in common with Queen Victoria?
It rains [reigns] and rains and never gives the sun [son] a chance.

Of course, it's not exactly the same here. The sun does get a chance, quite a lot, in fact. It breaks through the blinds in the morning and brings with it intense heat. Invariably, I step out of the house with Tippy for our morning walk, and I think that it's not so bad, almost pleasant. Within 5 minutes, I am sweating profusely, my air-conditioned skin finally registering just how oppressively hot and humid it really is.

And then, at some point in the day, it rains, in torrential downpours. The rain barrels are in a persistent state of overflowing. The mounting pressure inside them sends the rainwater back up through the downspout, and it shoots out several feet into the air. There is a hole in the yard now where the water finally lands.While I type this post, I'm draining the pool, as last night's crashing storm (the third of the day) brought the water level within an inch of overflowing.

The rain hole. A foot & a half wide, and 6 inches deep.
Ankle breaking potential is high.
I've traded the miserably cold winters of Michigan for the miserably hot summers of Florida. Rather than jumping from the frying pan into the fire, I've gone from the freezer to the fire, which may make me a lobster. I'm not sure. And with all the rain, it's possible I'll need to start swimming for my life.

This is the time of year when I must surrender to the power of nature. The weeds in the vegetable garden path are gargantuan and widespread, but I just can't get up at 5 am to pull them. Any other time of the day may induce heat stroke. My views of the gardens are increasingly limited to this perspective.

Viewing the garden from the comfort of air-conditioning.
It's almost like visiting an aquarium.

So I spend my time indoors with inspirational books, and I plot, plan, prepare for the cooler days to come.

Some not-so-light reading

Getting ready for the fall planting season.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Plague on All My Gardens

It's been ridiculously soggy around here for the past few weeks. I remember the afternoon showers that we had the last time we lived in Florida, but they tended to last 15 minutes or less. This summer, we've had full days of rain. Day after day after day of rain. In fact, as I type this, it is pouring rain, the second rain event of the day. While some plants have thoroughly enjoyed the showers, many others look as if one more drop of rain will be the last insult. This makes me think of Dylan Thomas, oddly enough. I vividly recall that his biographical sketch in the Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume 2 describes the cause of death as "an insult to the brain." I always thought that a curious expression, as if Thomas had taken one last swig of bourbon, and his brain said, "That's IT!" and that was, indeed, it. But I digress.

The only word necessary to describe the situation is fungus. I'm dealing with fungi in all shapes and forms. Most of them seem harmless enough, so long as I don't cook up some homemade mushroom soup. Others, however, are a little more destructive.

Here's a pretty set in the Secret Garden

Here's a cluster in the mint. At least it has fresh breath.

These little guys are visiting with the beans. I've seen some
dinner plate-sized cousins of theirs at a neighbor's.

This one just screams "POISON!" to me...

So I avoid the mushrooms. It's not like when I lived in Michigan and could find morels while out walking the dogs, alas. And we have other fungal issues that are causing some trouble. One of the roses has black spot, which has caused it to defoliate. The plumeria and the fig tree have rust again this year, which is causing them to defoliate. I've done just about everything I can to keep the fig tree from being attacked by the fungus. On the upside, though, I did notice that one of the apple trees had blossoms on it, and I really never expected that. 

An apple blossom (okay, two of them)!

So with the fig, I'm faced with the difficult bit of gardening, but I suspect it's a commentary on life, too. Some things work out better than we had expected. Sometimes they are what we had envisioned. And sometimes they are pretty ugly and difficult. So we celebrate the successes, we (should) celebrate what we expect, and we look at the ugly and difficult and decide what is worth our efforts and what we need to surrender. The fig tree is a bit of an irritation for me, but for now, it hasn't quite insulted me enough, and I'm not quite ready to let it go.