The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone.
– Natalie Babbitt, American author, from Tuck Everlasting
In August, one hardly expects a garden to expire, to be withered and barren of not only flowers but buds that are already blackened or dried. Taking a look at my garden, especially the side yard, one would think that we are in late September instead of the middle of August. Yes, the drought has impacted our trees and our garden.
In better times, over the summer, you wouldn’t be able to see the neighbor’s duplex from our row of windows in the family room because the magnolia trees would be thick with leaves. But sadly, you can see the dirty-white plaster walls. Yes, the drought is to blame, but I also planted some 20 new dahlia plants in late spring and only two plants gave me a bloom each. Surely, I would have expected them to produce and not be affected by the years of drought.
In my copious free time (not!), I tried to snip off the brown and black leaves to encourage the new growth that I was happily seeing on the dahlia plants. But while some are coming back and producing shiny, healthy green leaves, at some point the buds are mysteriously turning black. I can’t figure out what is happening, as this has never happened in all the years we’ve been at our home – dating back since 1995 – 20 years!
Each week, I wondered if I would be able to eek out two bouquets for the El Cerrito High School and Korematsu Middle School’s auction winners. The blooms got smaller, which, of course, impacted the size of the bouquets. This past week, I was lucky enough to make one small bouquet. Maybe the garden has reached the end of its season, ignoring the calendar, the mild summer with practically zero days of fog, which would have been perfect for the dahlias all season long.
Still, I’m encouraged by the new growth of the dianthus or carnation plants. Some of the dahlias are struggling valiantly to stave off powdery mildew and keep its buds healthy. Maybe, in keeping with our strange weather and garden patterns, the flowers have it in them to push through for one last bloom. A late summer, early autumn garden.
Wouldn’t that be something. I remain as hopeful as spring, even as I myself stave off my mourning. The last of this, the last of that. Perhaps not.