At a conservative estimate, it is about a million degrees out right now.
This is actually down a bit from two weeks ago, when it was a billion degrees out. It’s not usually that hot around here—we broke records right and left for “Hottest Day Since Humans Have Occupied North America”—and people engaged in all the usual amusements of Really Hot Days, like putting baking sheets full of cookies in the back windows of their cars to cook. (I used to live in Arizona, where we have largely exhausted the entertainment value of this sort of thing, but do not begrudge those who have not.)
The downside is that it is too hot to go outside and do anything, too hot to weed, too hot to plant, certainly too hot to dig or move mulch. I can, with copious amounts of iced tea, sit on the front porch as long as I don’t move much.
The upside is…um. Not sure there is one.
It’s times like these, when I mostly just dash out to turn on the soaker hose and yank down a few ripe tomatoes, that I realize how much I need the garden. It’s not just that my weight creeps back up when I am not slinging mulch for an hour every morning (although hey, my weight creeps up when I’m not slinging mulch for an hour every morning, and how obnoxious is that?) It’s also that being a gardener is part of my identity, and when I look out and see plants gasping in the heat, wilting or even dying back to the roots, and generally looking miserable, I feel like a total fraud.
If I were a real gardener, I’d put on SPF 800 and go out and hand-water all those plants. If I were a real gardener, I would not glare out at the dwarf iris turning brown in the heat and think “I could just tear everything out and put in sedums. Sedums are awesome. And yucca. You don’t hear that yucca complaining.”
(Then I remember that the one yucca died from repeated exposed to beagle urine. Damn. Another brilliant plan, foiled.)
If I were a real gardener I’d figure out how to prune everything into those gentle mounds so it looks like a bowlful of tribbles, instead of lots of single pokey things, like a porcupine covered in green nail polish. And I would have staked the starry rosinweed before it fell over and mulched the foundation planting months ago and I would dump enough iron on that section of the bed to head off highly localized chelosis once and for all. I bet real gardeners don’t get chelosis. (Or if they do, they identify it as soon as a leaf goes yellow and veiny and don’t accidentally trip over that in a chart and go “Oh, hey, I guess that plant wasn’t just variegated after all!”)
None of which are tasks I am willing to undertake when it is a million degrees out. This leaves me feeling less like a gardener and more like a serial plant abuser.
Still, there’s not much you can do. I watch the goosegrass pop up in the pathways and lack the energy to yank out more than the occasional strand that comes to my attention. Systematic, careful weeding has gone by the wayside. I don’t know where the weeds are getting the energy, frankly. The rest of the plants look exhausted, but the weeds come up fantastically every time.
But the bees are happy. This is what I cling to as I sit on the front steps. The bees are delirious with joy and the dragonflies are out in force—blue dashers have been joined by pondhawks and twelve-spots—and the silver spotted skippers are mobbing the flowers. Single Female Hummingbird’s brood continue to squabble over the Agastache. The lone pipevine swallowtail that hatched out on my spindly pipevine cruises the garden, apparently unwilling to venture too far from home. Baby blue-tailed skinks (one of any number of possible species of skink with bright blue tails) have hatched out recently, and are teeny tiny streaks of color against the deck railing.
Thank god I’m a wildlife gardener. If I had nothing but generic foundation plantings and a couple of petunias, the state of the garden in high summer could get pretty depressing. Even in the miserable heat, when no mammal is willing to get out and about (even the squirrels lay on the ground, panting) the garden is humming and buzzing and fluttering. So that’s something.
And in a couple of months, when the heat finally breaks—or my sanity does—I’ll be ready to get out there and be the gardener once again.
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