Waiting For The Rain

September 16, 2010

I waited for rain today. The forecasters said rain at midnight, followed by a day of rain today and it looked that way, with temperatures dropping and the smell of a storm in the air. I foresaw sodden earth, shiny puddles and happy plants.

So I didn’t water the hydrangeas. I waited for the rain.

The window was open in my office today to let in that nibble of cool air, bracing and mind-clearing. The clematis just feet from the window perfumed my space all day and when breezes blew, I got a renewed gust of fragrance, heavy with honey. The clematis hangs seemingly airy and diaphanous on the arbor; in reality it is substantial and momentous. It reminds me of a bridal train – white and shining and effortless while being huge and heavy.

The impatiens are leggy now, with flowers at the very top and bare stems running to the ground. Leggy impatiens remind me of Twiggy. They also scold me about my lack of pinching. There are two schools of thought. Do you pinch back to get a bushier bunch, or just let them rip and get the huge, tall mounds? I like the huge tall mounds. Bigger show and, really, less work! Very soon, they’ll need to be cut down, ripped out and thrown in the compost bin to rot there all winter instead of in the flower beds. In the bin, they’ll be beneficial. In the beds, they can cause disease.

The gaillardia is well and truly gone, the party over, with nothing but ecru tissue petals and wilted leaves left behind. It is fast becoming sticks instead of a bush, but I hope to divide this to move some of it to the front between the newly planted iris. I have Division Angst about this; you just never know how it’s going to go down next spring. Will the original plant recover and still give you the show you had last year, or will it lose its momentum and be just ordinary?

A burst of rain at about 10 o’clock gave me hope for a good soak and for happy hydrangeas. When it ceased in 10 minutes, the ground barely damp, I became cynical.

The eupatorium are just a hot mess, looking burned out, dried up and just ragged. I grow these because they are a native plant, not so much for astonishing beauty. They look very much like weeds, or what we consider to be weeds. The blooms are full and pink, like a young debutante, but they fade quickly, like a Jane Austen governess and you’re left with a bitter-looking frump that still dominates the garden (insert your own mental reference here – a relative or neighbor perhaps?)

Speaking of debs and frumps, those perky garlic chives, once the youngster of the garden, a burst of new among the already established, are now drooping, falling across each other and losing their starry eyes. The phlox have just a few bits of pink still left, like afterthoughts of confetti.

The sedum is glorious both in front and in back, softball sized clusters of pink stars drawing bees and smaller butterflies.

The sky is slate, clouds so heavy and dark that it seems you can almost reach out and hold all that water, chilly and solid in your hand. The hydrangeas still slump and droop, causing me more worry than a newborn baby, and it is late afternoon. I am still waiting for rain.

The peppers still bloom and form, bigger and sweeter all the time. The tomatoes continue to grow, but with a forecast of cooler weather continuing well into next week, I think we’ll be having fried green tomatoes instead of summer salad. Damn that zucchini. The brussel sprouts are confusing me. They’ve been in this bed since May and are just now growing any edible size head. My neighbor mentioned he doesn’t plant his until later in the season, to get a little more crisp into the taste. Well, how late are these things going to grow? I’m seeing that you should get a harvest in 3 months and it’s been at least a month longer than that and I certainly can’t harvest anything yet. Damn watermelon.

I have learned alot about leaf size of neighboring plants in the veggie garden this year.

I’m becoming a horror story of watering. Monday night, I turned on the soaker hose in the veggie garden. Tuesday morning at 6 am, I sat straight up in bed, ran down the stairs and out the door in my pajamas to turn the hose off. Maybe that’s why the peppers are doing so well. And my neighbor’s grass.

We lived in Harvey when I was growing up and our property abutted an alley. My mother had the most gorgeous rose garden that grew in the backyard, purple and red and white and yellow and pink. Beautiful, high-maintenance princesses that needed a tangy-smelling white powder sprinkled, very careful and strategic pruning and watering at the roots only. They didn’t like wet leaves. One summer, there was a substantial span of days when the alley was always soaked, just puddles and puddles and inches of water when it hadn’t rained for awhile. “Hmm….” said my parents on the first day. “That’s weird.” The second day seemed stranger and so did the third. I think it was the fourth day that my mom finally realized she had left the hose running.

It runs (get it?) in the family.

I waited and waited, but we got no rain. I turned the hose onto the hydrangea. And then I set a very loud timer.


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