Goodbye, Summer, Goodbye!
Goodbye, Summer! It was a shock to my inner-gardener when I stepped out onto the terrace this morning to find the straw-hat season packing up and moving on. Without so much as a 'by your leave.' How did this happen?
It seems that only yesterday we were celebrating the Fourth of July, anticipating a bounty of Long Island corn, the sweetest corn in all the world. Looking forward to plucking a few juicy New Jersey beefsteak tomatoes off the vine, cracking open a batch of Maryland crabs, turning a humble breakfast into a feast with a Connecticut cantaloupe, and tossing a couple of Maine lobsters on the grill for an easy dinner.
Now it's time to say goodbye to all that. Goodbye to the coach-lamps that cast a magical glow over the table in the evening. Those lamps are a perennial reminder of the old adage: One man's trash is an other man's treasure. When a neighbor tossed them out years ago, we rescued them to give them a new life. An outdoorsy life! One surrounded by white lace hydrangea, variegated hosta marginata, and hot-pink mandevilla with a habit of scampering to the top of the trellis. But wait a second, are we rushing things?
Au contraire! For on the north side of the terrace, the gnarled and woody kiwi vines, a bellwether in the world of gardening, are telling another story. Half the yellowed leaves lie scattered on the ground, the hangers-on fading fast. I remind myself that these vines are the first to sally forth each spring, to leaf out in late March when all the world is half-frozen, and the first to leave the party. At which I notice the moss growing atop the roots of the vines. A moss that browns out in the summertime, is now a bright green—as bright a green as any seen in the rock-strewn fields of County Clare—and as velvety as a caterpillar’s back.
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The black-eyed Susans, so headstrong in July and August, have lost their buttery blondness, if not their dark eyes. And two monumental coleuses—plants that spent the summer on the terrace after being quietly removed from the entrance to the building—are changing from a deep burgundy to a fiery crimson. Along the parapet overlooking the street, the Carefree roses are doing their very best to live up to their name. And look at the astonishing wall of hydrangea. What had been a mass of creamy-white blooms has magically transformed itself to a dusty rose. What’s remarkable and endearing about the hydrangea is that they've managed to thrive for three years under conditions that have proved fatal to any number of plants.
Plants that live year-round on a New York City terrace need to withstand frigid Arctic winds that sneak down across the Canadian border, heavy soakings from a Nor’easter, and the blistering heat radiating off the terra cotta tiles on summer afternoons. In a word, the plant must be hardy in all seasons.
You've Gotta' Love It
What’s still going gangbusters is the lantana, a shrub that loves sunshine, can go dry without suffering damage, and blooms for months on end. Besides adding bright splashes of color to the garden, the vertical lantana that grow four to five feet high on supports are beloved by the butterflies and bees. It’s the color! As for the scent, it’s love it or hate it. I love it, love its minty fragrance when I crush the leaves between my fingers. Others will tell you lantana smells like gasoline, but as someone who loves the promise of the open road, I rather like the smell of gasoline.
But this is all so sudden! I’m not quite prepared, not quite ready to say goodbye. Not quite willing to stash the throw pillows—pillows that soften the wood benches and remind us of the important things in life—in the bin.
At which a few lines from “Reluctance,” a poem by the bard of rural life, Robert Frost, spring to mind:
Ah, when to the heart of man was it ever less than a treason, to go with the drift of things, to yield with a grace to reason, and to bow and accept the end of a love or a season ?
Le Petit Jardin dans le Ciel
By the way, I should tell you that le petit jardin dans le ciel, the little garden in the sky, is a wee bit French in that the landscape designer lined up the planters to form a mini-allée, a path. And it's even more French when we bring up a basket of croissants and a carafe of coffee in the morning or une bouteille de vin rosé in the evening. It's then that we drink to your health: à votre santé and to that of Missing Mother and our good friends at Harper Collins Canada! A-men.
Thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you next week when I'll have the coffee and croissants ready. Weather permitting, we'll catch up with one another in the garden.
And remember... sharing is caring. Merci beaucoup mes amis.