A Gardening Season

APRIL

It snowed last night, and now there’s a thin layer of white on plants that should never know white. Tomorrow will be 70, Wednesday close to 80, and Friday down to 50. Officially, April has lost its mind. So I wait patiently to plant the thousands of seeds I collected last year, and a much-coveted trip to the garden center may not happen for weeks. Patience is the lesson of spring.

JUNE

June is quite lovely. Every day is like Christmas, watching the flowers bloom. I waited excitedly for the hosta to bloom at the end of the side garden, like waiting for a child to take her first step, snapping photographs at every stage.

But, if these flower beds are the same as last year, it escapes my attention. I’d forgotten that the seeds we planted last spring left us with a straight row of lupines with no natural flare to their placement whatsoever. Likewise, I had forgotten entirely about the new coneflowers we put beside the bee balm smack dab in the middle of center field. But now, a wave of pinkish-purple color has swept across the garden, a nice surprise for absentminded minds.

AUGUST

The zinnias failed to impress anyone last summer, but they have finally figured things out. One spot or another becomes the newly assigned ‘garden experiment’ each year – this year it was the flower bed at the end of the driveway. It seemed to take the zinnias months to germinate, before which I gave up and planted marigold seeds, and now we have an overstuffed bed full of flowers.

And there was no warning that last year’s lackluster Amaranthus caudatus were quietly self-seeding their little hearts out, giving us baby amaranths everywhere. I’m not certain how they came to own the nickname of love-lies-bleeding, but now that I know them, I could offer a guess. Nonetheless, these volunteer beauties have earned a good standing in the garden as a sturdier version of their earlier selves. Equally jarring then, red has emerged as the ‘color of the month,’ a surprisingly beautiful development. So, with great pleasure, I will announce that the plants are happy with themselves and intent on making their neighbors look good too.

Each amaranth stem contains thousands of seeds (I have learned).

SEPTEMBER

Coneflowers and Bee Balm have long past died back, and yet I was reluctant to cut them down. Maybe I would save the seeds, but I couldn’t find the urge until the last of the seed-laden coneflowers tempted me beyond my control. So I cut those beautifully ugly heads off and set them aside to collect their treasures. But leaving the zinnia’s spent flowers on the stems longer than I should have was a catastrophe down by the drive. The full stem died and their leaves are rotten and awful. The same was true of the rudbeckia in the back garden, and no amount of pampering can right this wrong. September is the month of controlled chaos.

It’s as if the garden wants to continue flourishing, but it’s losing its energy. We’re tired, not of each other but of giving everything we can. Luckily, the season will end soon enough, allowing us that much-needed break to catch our breaths or to finally clean the dirt from under our nails. Meanwhile, there are fall blooms just beginning their journey. Maybe they get the brunt end of the deal since we have nearly lost our spirit by the time they dream of being seen in all their glory.

One last amaranth in the front garden looks like a court jester showing off for the mums.

OCTOBER

After three twenty-degree nights, most of the flowers have taken leave for the year. The gigantic Hardy banana leaves that reached for the heavens only days earlier dangle blithely toward the ground. The dahlias are a crumpled heap of black yuck. Meanwhile, October must have talked to April and agreed on some unknown benefit to both losing their minds, and now we’ll have a full week of summery days. But of course, the only value of unseasonably warm temperatures this late in the season is that it won’t be so cold as we clean up the mess.

It’s been a hard-working season for plants and gardener.

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