Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The survivors

Gardening season in the Northeast has once again ended. This closure is usually marked by the first hard frost but also in general by the calendar. Nonetheless, certain plants hang on long after they should, providing a bonus of delight and color.

Looking back on the season, I have to say it was the worst I've experienced in 10+ years of gardening. I'm not alone -- the trouble was region wide, and I daresay many areas of the nation suffered similar disappointment, owing to extreme weather. In effect, our Vermont summer was three weeks long instead of three months!

But the late warm, sunny spell revived many tender annuals. My morning glories, for example. Back in May, I planted an entire seed pack; only 10 germinated; of these, only 5 survived to climb. By early September they had achieved waist height. I was therefore astonished when these feeble yet heroic vines one day produced a single trumpet of Heavenly Blue. Then another, one a day for two weeks. After the first frost (when I optimistically protected them with a sheet), the blossoms turned dark blue, almost purple, a color I'd never seen before. They have since survived two uncovered frosts (owing to proximity to the house), and a coronet of buds is in the queue.

Far from the house, near the now-frost-blasted vegetable garden, I planted half a dozen Mammoth Giant sunflowers. Just 4 of those germinated, and only 2 survived. I had to transplant them away from some perennials that were overtaking them. But the only free location was in poor soil. I amended it best I could, and the pair endured. Now, instead of the 12-15 feet they're supposed to grow, they have achieved chest height and each produced a big, sunny flower. The bees have been on them daily ever since.

The bees themselves staged a comeback. Early season, we saw so few of them that we worried that the bee plague we've read about had truly decimated the population. But by end-August, it seemed they were everywhere, merrily pollinating the thriving perennials and rallying annuals. The bees, too, have made it through several frosts. Although the migratory birds have moved on, the bees are still abundant in the clouds of blue and purple asters that peak about the same time the fall foliage does.

A big temperature drop is due later in the week, so this might be the last hurrah. But I'm betting something will keep blooming until the first snow.

Carolyn Haley
Author: Open Your Heart with Gardens
First-year blog archives at www.dreamtimepublishing.com

Green can be mean

With all today's hype by corporations, individuals, and governments about "going green," you wouldn't expect to get penalized for recycling cardboard, would you? But that's what happened to me: I lost $50 because I brought a box to the transfer station.

It was the box our new cell phone came in. I'll skip the story about why we wanted to return this phone during the 30-day trial period; what matters is, we couldn't, because we didn't have the box. We did have reams of all the right papers with all the necessary account numbers, dates, sources, and fine print, and were inside the 30-day window. But the box carried a bar code, without which the phone could not be returned or exchanged, and a $50 rebate could not be processed.

I nearly burst a blood vessel!

Worse, both the salesman and my spouse had told me, "Be sure to keep the box." I heard those messages, but the first got lost in the flood of TMI (Too Much Information) involved in our purchase, which made my eyes glaze over; and the second got lost in the distraction of sorting and filing all the paperwork, plus the usual troubles of getting any new electronic device to do what you want it to do. So the box landed in the recycling bin and was duly sent where it could never be retrieved the day before we decided to exchange the phone.

Worse again, everyone I told this story to became an owl of wisdom before I finished telling. "Ohhhhh..." they said sagely, knowing what was coming. Somehow they had learned about the Box Thing, unlike poor little naive me. And none of them offered their own story of making a similar mistake. After a few noises of sympathy, they retreated from the conversation to avoid commenting on my carelessness.

Pah! I remain militantly convinced that this situation proves the hypocrisy of modern consumer culture. There are a dozen ways that anyone could lose a box; yet companies rely on boxes to be retained for future customer transactions then blame the customer when boxes go astray. Can you say "s-t-u-p-i-d"?

It can't be good business to create a situation that creates angry customers. I griped my way up the food chain but even the managers just shrugged and apologized, claimed there was nothing they could do. Unfortunately, we need to have a cell phone for various reasons, so I couldn't shove this one up multiple people's orifices. Now we're stuck with the same crummy phone, plus out $50, and will have to spend at least that much to get a decent unit.

All because I was trying to be a good green citizen and reduce, reuse, recycle.

Carolyn Haley
Author: Open Your Heart with Gardens
First-year blog archives at www.dreamtimepublishing.com