by Paige Patterson
I know that it’s hideous to even mention it, but has anyone else noticed that it feels an awful lot like fall? I feel a little cheated frankly. It’s as if we went straight from June to August and are now heading deep into September. The horrendous parking lot previously known as Montauk Highway proves it’s all just my imagination, but it feels like we got gypped out of a month of summer. It doesn’t help that all the plants are so far ahead of themselves that the crape myrtles are already almost past their prime and that the extremes of July toasted every Nikko Blue out here. Nor do the stressed trees who’ve decided to perhaps start shedding a leaf or two or a dozen help to lower my anxiety. There’s that back to school smell in the air, and the sky just the other night took on another blue for a moment, a blue that I’ve long associated with the beginnings of wanting embers in the fireplace and the wearing of a cardigan after dusk.
I’m not ready. I want more time at the beach. I just started to pick huge bouquets. I haven’t even tasted lobster yet this year.
I know, I know, I might be overreacting a tad, and that fall is not really breathing down my neck, but I’m bummed that my garden is fronting as a harvest landscape and the Pee Gees are already pinking. I want to blame it on climatic change, but I know that even hedging towards those words incites deep arguments, so I’ll veer instead towards the positives of all this heat.
The corn this year is amazing. We had some two nights ago from Pike’s that was spectacular. White, sweet and with a buttery taste that melted on my tongue like whipped cream; it was a revelation. Every year I wonder why no one has even chosen to base a religion on those kernels. I would join that church in a nanosecond.
The crape myrtles put on the most extraordinary show in years. Every summer I get tons of people complaining that their tree isn’t flowering, or asking why they only had three blooms instead of the profusion the pictures in gardening books promise. This year, all I heard was how fantastic these trees are and could they get more. I used to tell people that crape myrtles need a lot of heat to do really well and that we are the farthest zone north to possibly support these loads of August fluff. I lost one of my borderline hardy pinks this winter, but if there were a competition for a flower for the summer of 2010, my vote would be for the crape.
Of course, we got tomatoes earlier than ever. I do confess though that once again my tomatoes, as I predicted, have gotten away from me. This year, I cut down on the number of plants, but when the black cherries started to head past four-feet and laugh at the tomato cages I had thoughtfully provided them, I didn’t build the scaffolding they require. So now I have what appear to be weeping tomato plants that are creating trains swishing five feet out on both sides of their beds and making the harvesting of the small little orbs a challenge that would fit nicely into some strange reality competitive gardening show.
As an aside, my husband wants me to write about the perils of planting too close to the house, an issue raised by the jungle we have to hack through to get to either of our entrances, and he wants me to accompany the piece with a photo of the 8’ tall hydrangea I bondage tied up (as I refused to prune it and lose its flowers) to allow passage. It may also have something to do with the fairly large southern magnolia (planted by an ex boyfriend who gave it to me in lieu of a bouquet one day when I was in a bad mood) that is now eating the front of our house. He’s right of course, in the way that non-plant people are always correct about the placement of greenery when debating with us folks who buy things impulsively without planning for their eventual home first. And so I have promised him that we can move the magnolia when the time is right. I was going to do it this spring, but got overwhelmed by the fact that the season came and went in a fluttering and that summer slammed into us in May. So now we are talking about root pruning the thing so we can move it next year. And yes, Dereyk, I do plant way too many plants, way too close and in all the wrong spots. But long ago I ‘fessed up to being a plantaholic and it doesn’t look like I’m going to change that pattern anytime soon.
For those of you stuck with a gardener like me in your family, don’t be fooled by our promises of transplanting things. There’s a good chance that when spring comes each year, it’s been so long since we brought home something new that there’s little chance we’re going to be digging up old stuff when we can still find new stuff to throw into the back of the car. I am going to try to move a whole bunch of stuff this fall, but with the weather playing such weird games with me, I’m really not sure when I’m going to be able to begin.
Normally I say the best time to transplant is the first or second week of October, but this year, I’m hedging my bets. I saw Mare’s Tails last week and someone said that the fall migration of warblers is already fairly deep so I’m saying I’ll have to keep watching the leaves as they fall to see how the whole thing plays out.
Paige Patterson has to have a book at Marders that plays various bird songs as you look at their pictures. With warblers appearing in her yard early it’s a must buy.