The exceptional prolonged heat of this quarantine summer has taken its toll, perhaps more on the gardener than the garden. Many plants thrive in the humid heat of Virginia and our droughty beginning lapsed thankfully into regular rainfall. Tithonia, Zinnia, Rudbeckia, Cleome and Four-O’Clocks love the heat and moisture, feeding hungry butterflies, bees, moths and hummingbirds from morning til dusk while brightening the house inside.
Yet July saw record-breaking sustained temps of 90 degrees and above. This is not the climate I knew when I first came to the hollow decades ago. The AC runs all day. The house is shut up. Tempers flare. But the Earth keeps turning and inevitably the weather breaks. Days become shorter and remind us, along with the compost pile, that all things change.
Nothing remains the same except the garden’s seasons and the gardener’s blessed tasks. Now is harvest time in the hollow for tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, zinnias (which must be cut regularly to forestall seed-set) and basil (which likes to be pinched). Even the bad gardener’s weedy domain provides abundance.
A nice mid-summer hatching of yellow and black swallowtails made up for the meager spring crop this spring. So far no sighting of the great Monarch but it’s still early for the migration and one hopes.
Growing the classic ‘Genovese’ basil as well as ‘Thai Siam Queen’, which I have learned to like. Seedling-grown ‘Cut and Come Again’, ‘Oklahoma’ and Dahlia type zinnias remind me of the old days at Monticello when we would grow the old varieties under Peggy Cornett’s kind and knowledgeable supervision and dear Joan Veliquette taught me how to pick cut flowers for the great arranger Dawn Woltz. I still strip them of their leaves and plunge stalks neck-deep into water as I cut.
August is the time to order bulbs (you cannot have enough Snowdrops, Galanthus varieties, nor daffodils, Narcissus var., both of which are deer-proof), and sow or purchase starts of autumn/winter vegetables like collards, kale, spinach, turnips and the like. In the Charlottesville area, Eltzroth-Thompson, Southern States, Ivy Corner, Ivy Nursery and 5th Season all offer fine plants. www.vanengelen.com and www.BrentandBeckys.com have any bulb you could fancy and the garden centers will have their bins full later in the fall.
Our patch of Naked Ladies, Amaryllis squamigera, in front of the dark Beech is a perennial favorite and has flourished this fecund season.