Beaten Down and Bedraggled
I have long considered late June the best part of the Maine summer, characterized by dry air, sunny skies, soft breezes, and high temperatures in the mid-upper seventies – my idea of perfect. So I was disappointed in this year’s late June weather; it has rained every day for the past week. And these have not been gentle garden-nourishing rains. They have been hard, driving rains, often accompanied by thunder and lightning and sometimes by hail. The rain has washed a gully in my dirt road, left local streams and rivers running high and fast, and left my garden looking sad.
I have found other plants that normally don’t need support lying on the ground and have picked them up and given them stakes to lean on. The blooms of Spirea ‘Magic Carpet’ droop over the retaining wall, and I can see that many of their flowers are turning to brown mush before I have ever had a chance to enjoy them.
|Plants like this goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus), which would normally be flowering at this time of year, seem to be in a state of suspended animation, waiting for sunshine to encourage them into bloom.|
The Serenity Garden has fared better. Plants in this flower bed are sheltered by the branches of the large pine trees that grow high above them. The trees break the force of the rain, collect the raindrops, and continue to shake them down gently onto the plants below after the rain has stopped.
I had been thinking of this weather as a weird aberration until the local television meteorologist presented data about the 10 wettest Junes in recorded weather history for southern Maine and I realized that three of the ten were in the past five years. Then it hit me; this weather is our new normal, brought to us courtesy of the same carbon emissions and climate change that have brought searing heat and raging wildfires to the west and a year of record drought followed by a year of record floods to much of the midwest. This realization leaves me feeling as discouraged and dispirited as many of my plants look.
But I find it hard to stay downhearted very long. Even in a garden that is looking bedraggled, there are signs of hope. Yesterday, when I came home after several hours away – hours in which it hadn’t rained, and the sun had come out for a while – I found that the Lady’s mantle had shaken off the raindrops and sprung upright again (even if only to be beaten back down a couple of hours later), and some of the Astilbe had opened a few tentative flowers. And all around me are ripening buds just waiting for a sunny day.
Somehow my garden and I will adapt to climate change. Sooner or later, I’ll let go of the idea that late June ought to be deliciously dry, sunny and mild and discover that the best part of the Maine summer is now in early June or late May or August. If our summers become generally wetter, maybe I’ll be able to grow some of those plants (like hydrangea!) that I love but that need more moisture than I’ve been able to provide.
For now, though, I really would just be grateful for a dry, sunny day.