When I was about sixteen, one hot summer day in Buffalo, I saw Grandma pour herself a beer. I know your eyebrows just shot up. Mine did, too at the time. “Gram–I don’t remember ever seeing you drink a beer.” She replied, “I like one when it’s hot after I’ve been working outside. Back when I was a young married woman, we lived on the second floor of Buscia’s house.” (“Buscia” was my great-grandmother.) “Mondays were wash days,” Grandma continued, “and on Tuesdays, I would iron–starch and press everything. It was so hot sometimes on the second floor that before I started with the ironing, I would take my clay jug down the block to Wojcik’s Tavern for them to fill. I would iron and drink cold beer. Kept me cool and refreshed while I was ironing.” I don’t know about you, but if I drank a jug of beer over the course of an afternoon there would be some very sloppy ironing for one thing, probably some burnt fingers and scorched clothing as well, if I even was able to manage the task at all.
Nothing slowed Grandma down: she was one of the most industrious people I have ever known. She completed more in one day than most people could in a week and she went about all her work with such vigor as if it were a kind of worship. I suppose in many ways it was. Sometimes she would call me up and say, “What did you accomplish today?” I was about ten when this started (no performance pressure in our house…) She also had this expression, “Plenty of time for rest in the grave.” Woah. How’s that for a motivating statement?
The last few weeks in the garden have been awful, awful hot. According to NOAA Weather, we had the hottest July in global terms on record. August was probably right behind. Leaves have started to drop from trees from the heat and many plants have scorch (check this week’s “Garden Crimes Investigator” on my Facebook page for more on this. Link at the bottom of this newsletter.) I hope we are past that heat and can move more comfortably into the autumn garden season.
What I want to say, though, is that plants that are hanging in, despite this heat, are some real garden heroes. Blooming beauty under fire-like conditions and better for them. Grandma plants: they don’t let some heat get in the way of what they need to do; roots established deep and strong. This has much to do with when and how they were planted and the gardener’s watering methods. In other words, the extent to which you plan for these hot spells has direct correlation to how the garden will look when hard times and challenges come along. Dahlias, Flowering Tobacco, all the Hydrangeas had big and generous blooms and the ornamental grasses. If you don’t have any of these plants in your garden, plan on them for next year. You can plant Hydrangeas and the grasses this fall and get a jump on next year–you might find some on sale at the garden center, too. Dahlias and Flowering Tobacco are annuals, so plant May of next year for them.
After a day of in the garden that was so hot I could have wrung out my work clothes, I cleaned myself up, opened the fridge and a Blue Moon, toasting Grandma and the work ethic she inspired that I managed to “accomplish” a work day in the heat. Clothes, though, into the front-loading washer.