Sunday, April 17, 2011


Am I blue? Am I bah-lue-ooh?
Ain’t these tears in my eyes tellin’ you?
Was I gay? ’Till to-day-ay?
When each plan with my gar-dan
Done fell through.
(With apologies to Harry Akst, Grant Clarke, Billie Holliday, Ethel Waters, Diane Schuur and the Spelling Police)

            Damn springtime thunderstorms. Not only do they destroy property, devastate vegetation and kill the unwary, unprepared and/or unlucky: they prevent me from working in the garden, which in turn plays havoc with the neat schedule of future posts outlined in my blog-notebook.

            It’s all about me, isn’t it?

            Actually, we got off easy. Storms blowing in from the west lose a lot of their oomph before hitting the coast. We suffer more damage when they come from the south or east. After three days of advance billing for severe weather (50% on Wednesday to 70% on Thursday to 90% chance by Friday evening), Tim and I decided the better part of valor would be to plan on indoor activities for the weekend.

Saturday morning dawned overcast and breezy (a “fresh breeze” according to the Beaufort Scale), but patchily sunny and mild. Underneath the calm, that waiting-sensation lump roiled in my stomach. Something’s going to happen, I thought. The newspaper’s front-page headline attributed nine deaths in Arkansas to the storm system heading our way.

            The day wore on, warm, humid, and with long periods of brilliant sunshine. I resisted temptation and continued cleaning the house, certain the apocalypse—first forecast to arrive in the wee hours of Saturday morning, then early Saturday afternoon, then around dinnertime—was imminent. By 4:30 p.m., the gavel-to-gavel television coverage started. Lots of tornadic activity reported in the counties to our immediate west and north, the first storm-related death in Bladen County, footage of a twister-devastated trailer park. We hit the mute button, and monitored the front’s progress and watch-boxes without the constant commentary.

            Around 7:30 p.m., there was one resonating clap of thunder that sent the cats scurrying to safety under the bed. The rain started, and pelted down for a half-hour or so, only amounting to .09 inches in the end. Locally, an anticlimax. On a wider scale, a disaster for many. If I ever write my autobiography, I shall title it Lucky.

            Didn’t weather used to be more local? Didn’t everything used to be more local? I’m not positive it’s a good thing that we all can learn about everybody’s business practically as soon as it happens. Our tabloid-ruled culture, tending as it does to extremes of shallowness, overloads our brains with too much unimportant information. “Where is the wisdom in information?” T.S. Eliot asks.

            Anyway, I started out griping about not getting out in the yard Saturday because of the Great Storm. Gardening doesn’t count as one of the best activities for those who are addicted to instant gratification. Frequent disruptions, detours and distractions make it an ambling sort of process, despite our best intentions.

Sweet-scented Styrax blossoms

            Take today, for instance. Read the paper (Sunday is the only day I get to peruse the entire newspaper before getting dressed); did the crossword with Tim (between us, we have one really awesome brain); had lunch; then headed out into the beautiful afternoon that often follows a big storm. Had made a list of what I wanted to accomplish—feed the birds, take the recyclables and garbage to the curb, run the south-side and drip irrigation zones, deadhead the pansies, clear out the Styrax seedlings from around the tree, start whacking away at the eleagnus hedge, deadhead daffs, and shuffle my seedlings around and plant some new ones. Hey, I had about three hours to play with.

            Apparently that wasn’t enough. I only made it to the Styrax interlopers. The first three items I ran through in about 15 minutes. Removing the dead and dying flowers from all the potted pansies across the front of the house took longer than I’d thought it would, reminding me why I like violas better: no deadheading required. Then I approached the Styrax.

Styrax japonicus
Japanese snowbell
(note snow-like fallen flowers
and mass of vegetation at its base)

            Styrax japonicus, or Japanese snowbell, is a lovely tree. Its picture is the only one I’m sharing, as the post before this one put me off photos for a while. Small, pure-white bell flowers dangle in sweet-scented profusion in May. Each bloom produces a Skittle-sized fruit that will fall in the, er, fall. All of which germinate. Every damn spring. The area around the tree—under which I cleverly planted hundreds of five different types of bulbs, plus variegated liriope, plus rain lilies, plus a bee balm (Monarda didyma)—is by this time of year a jungle of bulb and liriope and rain lily foliage with little bee balms, looking amazingly like Styrax shoots, coming up. Interspersed through this lush growth is a blanket of tree seedlings. Because of the monotony of the task, I count as I pull. Two hours later, the 1665th infant snowbell lands in my overflowing joint-compound bucket. No, I’m not exaggerating.

            The eleagnus, etc., will have to wait until another day.

            That’s okay. Tim and I have a plan. The day after we finish our current job (with luck, on Monday: no later than Tuesday, surely, says Ms. Time Optimist), we’ll pick up supplies and 1) run drip irrigation to all my planting beds because paying Oak Island for watering the grass is so not gonna happen this year; 2) fill the new raised beds; 3) build trellises for said new beds and an easy (haha) arbor to shade the path running through the big new bed out front; 4) plant the buckeye and the Euscaphis and hyacinth-bean vines at the new arbor in said big new bed out front; 5) bring the eleagnus under some semblance of control; and 6) do all the jobs I didn’t get to today.

            Uh-huh. Make that Ms. Cockeyed Optimist, with knobs on.

            Well, hope springs eternal. Especially in gardens. Thanks for dropping by, and stay tuned.