Wellesley got a whopping 9″ of rain in July, which was altogether too much wet weather for most of my heat-loving summer-blooming perennials and shrubs. The gentle ferns didn’t like it either, and the new rhododendron registered bitter complaints about wet feet. Even the crimson barberry shrub, considered an invasive species by the plants police, and normally indestructible in my yard, suffered.
The lawn, however, looks like it’s made a deal with the devil. I see no hint of the late-July dormancy that usually affects wide swathes of my suburban sprawl. All I see is grass with the look of early-spring youth, the kind of vibrancy that can’t be achieved in mid-summer without some sort of soul exchange. Hey, we all want to be young again, grass, but didn’t anyone ever warn you about dabbling in the dark arts? It appears that in exchange for youth, my lawn agreed to give up a pound of flesh—about 10% of the lawn is gone forever, turned by pounding rains and weeks-long puddling into a mud slick that will need reseeding in the fall. So the lawn makes the deal with the devil, and I have to fix the mess. Just another day in the garden.
Other plants thrived with all the rain. The inkberry, a once half-dead find years ago from the Wellesley Recycling and Disposal Facility, hasn’t minded the wet one bit. In fact it’s thrown up impressive new growth and then asked for a good pruning, but we haven’t been able to schedule an appointment. The last time I was in that part of the yard, the rain had weighed down the shrub’s thin branches. I couldn’t get a true read on how best to trim, so my visiting salon services had to wait. The next time I was passing through with the clippers I still couldn’t prune. At that time, the inkberry was covered with the most darling teeny-tiny white flowers which were being worked over by the most darling teeny-tiny bees. The inkberry and I agreed that pollinators come before primping. I’ll be back another time, inkberry, and we’ll get that haircut taken care of, promise.
The hardy hibiscus I got last year from Wilson’s Farm in Lexington couldn’t be happier with the rain. All it asks for is well-drained soil kept evenly moist, and a sunny spot. I explained to the newcomer that “evenly moist” is certainly not one of the services provided in my Wellesley garden. The hibiscus rose to the challenge and and from season one produced dozens of buds, which popped open, one by one, to salad-plate sized flowers. A single hibiscus flower blooms for only one glorious day, but then passes the torch to the next bud, which carries on the showy tradition, and so on and so on through summer. The hibiscus with its flashy ways has become a family favorite, and I may find room for another somewhere in the garden.
Buzzing about 9″ of rain
There’s a bumper crop of mosquitoes out there in the yard. They break right through the DEET I spray all over myself, and treat me like dinner. The tarp that covers my mulch pile had standing water in parts, which is as good as starting a mosquito farm. So there I was, part of the problem. Must make way through cloud of insects. Must lift tarp and spill out water. Must save neighborhood (from my own mistakes). Done. “Curse you, super-gardener,” wailed the foiled mosquito larvae.
After my hour in the garden—time mostly spent playing with mosquitoes—I head inside sporting a couple of itchy welts on my arms. The mosquito bites bring back the long summer nights of my childhood playing Ghost in the Graveyard with the neighborhood kids. There wasn’t a bug repellent in the land that could have stayed on that sweaty band of troublemakers. Only a gardener can romanticize mosquito bites of the past. The mosquito bites of today are damned dangerous, what with West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis. I’ll try to be more careful out there. But first, it’s gotta stop raining.