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

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