Sunday, August 5, 2007

Summer Gardening....

I spent most of Saturday in my garden. August is not the prettiest month for my poor garden -- the heat has wilted many a plant, and the majority of the flowers are past their first blooms. August is the time for dead-heading cosmos (above), roses, snapdragons, lavender, shasta daisies, and dianthus. August is the time for pulling out spent pansies and stocks. August is the time when the sweet alyssum takes over my front beds (I don't plant it; it just reseeds) and when the roses and poppies go through a second bloom cycle.

August is the glory-time for hollyhocks, but not for much else. Some flowers are barely hanging on; others have given up the ghost and won't reappear until next April. August is the time for the herbs to wilt a bit, with the parsley and cilantro yellow and fade and even the mints look a bit weather-weary. The tomato plants look abused while they put all their energy into the production of delectably red grape tomatoes rather than green leaves.

I spent yesterday with my great-grandmother's clippers in hand, cutting dead blooms off a great many plants as well as sitting in a shady spot, weeding my new bed for the first time since we put it in. Why does grass flourish there so beautifully yet refuse to grow in the lawn area nearby?????? A few milkweeds have remain hidden in my beds and are now rearing their ugly heads, mocking me, daring me to pull them out without gloves and pierce myself on their wickedly barbed stalks.

At one point I stopped plucking weeds from between my salvias and sat there, appreciating the beauty around me. The sky was a lovely blue, studded with the occasional white cloud. The pine tops in the neighbor's yard bent slightly with the breeze, the same breeze that brought me the scents of pine and of vanilla. I closed my eyes, tilted my chin, and allowed the sun warm my face (probably adding a few freckles, too). My bare toes dug into the cool earth, and I wrapped my arms around my knees, drinking it all in.

This summer has been unseasonably reasonable. Usually the temperatures in July and August top out near 110 each day, with the usual accompanying misery. And, no, it's not a "dry heat" as we often receive afternoon showers which lower the temps by twenty degrees but also bring stifling humidity. But this summer the thermometer has remained in the high eighties to low nineties for the most part, a most enjoyable change. Yes, sweat still trickles down my back, down my face which I swipe somewhat dry with my old black gardening skirt.

But it's still fairly comfortable, this gardening work. A work done by my great-grandmother with the same clippers I grasp in my right hand. I think of her lovely little garden behind her miniscule house that I remember exploring as a child, with the long row of climbing roses separating her yard from the next. I think of my grandmother proudly tending her camellias and gardenias, asking us kids to pick the plums that she magically turned into the palest pink plum jelly. I think of my mother who still loves gardening, digging her gardening fork around the shasta daisies, turning the damp earth beneath her fingers, handing me the scissors to gather roses to decorate the dinner table. Gardening is part of my heritage, part of my soul, part of who I am and whom I desire to be. It's far more than a simple chore, I think, as I sit in the dirt, my face upheld to the sun.

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