And I am the Mad Keeper of the Madness
I think it is safe to say the inmates have escaped and are now at large and in charge.
Weather created this garden asylum. You have to believe me. This was none of my doing, I can assure you. (Except maybe setting plants a tad too close, but that’s because they looked lost in a saner garden. . .who could guess they would take over like an army.)
During two weeks in May and June we had ten inches of rain. A couple of days later I stepped outside and, aha, I surprised the inmates in their crack-brained insanity.
Oh, the gleeful high fives that never came down. The poking and the pushing and the jockeying for prime positions, then the lolling when they got drunk on all those nutrients in the compost we so lovingly applied.
I freely admit that I am grinning. Many of these plants have taken years to look happy.
No doubt the spring that dripped blossoms (my last garden post), the spring we assumed would drown the garden but instead managed to crown it with blooms was an early perpetrator.
But here’s the rub. Late April and most of May we hardly saw a drop of rain with blasts of hot sun that shriveled tender new growth. A few plants even got sunstroke and died. We had to dicker with sprinklers and coddle the water hogs.
(Sprinkling is my least favorite garden task, way below weeding briar and thistle, because I have to be alert at all times to avoid getting soaked. At least the birds get to preen and play.)
After a month or so of these dry sunny days, there was talk of drought.
Drought? Drought? That’s what casual friends in Montana have every summer. They tell about watching the sky and seeing rain evaporate before it hits the ground. And still they try. And still they are optimistic when that mail order stuff doesn’t grow properly, or doesn’t grow at all. I would take up beading.
Drought is what’s going on out west for years now, isn’t it? Drought caused the Dust Bowl, didn’t it?’ Drought finished off civilizations. So quitchyerbellyachin’ over a month or so without rain, I tell myself as I finesse the aim of a sprinkler one more time and a truant breeze splats the spray in my face.
It took me a while living in east-coast crop country to understand that drought is relative. When farmers look to the sky, what they want to know is if they will have a crop this year to pay the bills and cover the loans. So drought is measured here in inches below normal, not decades dry as hard tack in a mess kit.
Drought is not only relative, it’s spotty here. Last I looked, the climate map said our area was dry. Our garden tells us we are not. Are we under unique and repeating bands of rainstorms?
It goes the other way, too. A decade or more ago, the rest of the area was well watered, but we were watching the sky and waiting for rain. The squalls came but they stopped less than a mile from us.
That pattern lasted a couple of years.
Oh, how the ground cracked and the plants struggled. I couldn’t grow a lenten rose or a decent daylily. Established shrubs held on but they were not full and happy. We had forgotten what rainy days and mud puddles looked like.
So I am not complaining about that month of dry weather. I know what it is like to watch the sky — and I am not growing food needed for the table or crops to pay the rent.
And I know that next year I may be watching the sky. I wish I could share this year’s gifts, but it doesn’t work that way.
The sun is out but the air is dripping on me. This will be a good time to sneak inside and reread that lovely sixty-year-old book, The Plant Sitter, about a little boy who was babysitting plants that got out of hand. Maybe I will get some plant tips (no pun intended).
Another five inches fell last night and this morning is threatening. Can I justify leaving the inmates to their madcap frolics and delay the clipping and staking to bring them to order?
You bet I can!
And finally, the lovely crepe-papery pomegranate bloom, from a cutting several years ago recently planted. The old flowering pomegranate is gone now; I can’t remember why it left us, but I’m glad it gave us heirs. It’s a precarious life in this garden, and I must confess I would miss the merry madcaps of the carousers.