Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Unbearable Mugginess of Being

We finally got some (1 measly inch of) rain, which has had a most electrifying effect on our lawn. I really thought the drought had permanently killed our intermittent patches of loathsome Saint Augustine, horseherb, and sandburs (I knew the bermudagrass would come back, of course). But lo, after a smidge of rain and a blissfully overcast week, our "lawn" has not only greened, it's grown to a great, mounding shagginess.

The downside of all this fecundity, of course, is that that miniscule sip of rain somehow translates to days on end of truly stupifying humidity. You have but to step outside to rain sweat. In the morning, this is endurable (if smelly), but by the afternoon it's really too oppressive to think straight. Talking takes too much effort. I abandon all my lovely polysyllables and start talking like E.T.: Yes home now, or No, store first or Where lunch? is the sort of sparkling dialog I come up with after about 30 minutes outside in August.

Meanwhile, our plan to bring a steadier supply of water to our languishing garden is proceeding apace. This morning, Matt laid some PVC line to set up a spigot at the gazebo with another line running out to the baby bur oak (Q. macrocarpa) that Mom & Dad gave us.

Matt's trenches for the new irrigation lines--to the gazebo, pond, and bur oaklette

He'll also send a line + spigot out to the pond, and he talks of installing a "float valve" to keep the pond topped off nicely. How fancy! Fancy and, sadly, necessary. We let the water level get too low a week or two ago and actually killed our equisetum. Equisetum, a plant that watched the extermination of the dinosaurs with equanimity, that has seen ice ages come and go, that didn't even blink when the woolly mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers and giant ground sloths collectively shuffled off this mortal coil, a plant that grows in cement--this plant we killed. I expect A&M to revoke my hort degree any day now.

Rare albumin print of early human-sauropod interaction. The dinosaur is crunching on a giant primordial equisetum. Just trust me on this.

In other mortal news, we're having fungus problem again. What is it with Elgin and fungus? I grew my roses in pots for years, often in too much shade with too little water, and never lost a one. Now they're in the ground in Elgin and they constantly have the vapours. 'Wild Blue Yonder' got the Black Death again, this time low on a stem right by the rootstock. You''ll remember that I sprayed (with Immunox) two or three time in early spring and seemed to pretty well have solved the problem. Apparently, spraying is actually a way of life for this stupid rose. Gross. I'll try to spray every couple of weeks in in September and October, and maybe for a couple of months in the spring--but if that doesn't bring us to a permanent solution, then WBY will have to join the giant ground sloth, the woolly mammoth, and our unfortunate equisetum in eternal oblivion.

Stump of infected stem--fungus has most likely penetrated plant's crown, dagnabit.

'Belinda's Dream,' interestingly enough, has the same leaf discoloration that WBY has (though no sign of any stem infections), so I gave it a shot of the toxic stuff too, while I had the bottle out.

'Belinda's Dream' with diamond-shaped leaf necrosis starting at tip and moving towards base of leaf. Drought stress or Black Death?

Still more distressingly, the twice-transplanted pear isn't doing as well as I thought. a few weeks ago, it developed these cankery-sort of patches on 2 stems. The patches girdled the stems and made the tissue above wilt and wither. This was upsetting, but it was fairly contained, so I just pruned the nasty bits off, making my cuts, naturally, several inches below all visible infection.

Nasty bits on our 'Moonglow' Asian pear

Much to my dismay, however, the same cankery-looking infection recently appeared below the cuts and started creeping down past the next leaf buds on both affected stems. It's possible that this is actually the same pernicious fungus that has plagued my roses (roses and pears are actually members of the same plant familys), or it could be a completely different stem infection. In that case, we've got two nasty stem diseases running amok in Elgin, which isn't a happy thought. Either way, I pruned again and drenched the pear in Immunox. Here's hoping.

Late-Autumn Renaissance
That wee bit of rain plus the cooler temps (in the 80s and 90 rather than then 100s) has allowed a sort of renaissance in my garden. All sorts of things have perked up and popped into bloom. Lots of pix in no particular order:

'Fruit Cocktail' shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana)

'Mutabilis' rose. This is our 1-year-old--it's getting quite big. I bet it'll be 4-1/2 feet tall by next July.

A pleasant surprise--some of the bulbine I planted in late May (a) survived and (b) is actually blooming. Look how fuzzy the stamens are!

'Cramoisi Superieur' rose.

"Blue Butterfly Bush" (Clerodendrum ugandense)--it's been blooming since July, but it recently put on an extra heavy flush of flowers

Society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea)

'The Fairy' rose (was one of the centerpieces at our wedding)

And in the "Hey, how 'bout that!" category, one of the mostly withered Crocosmia has gathered its energies to pop into bloom one more time this late in the season. Thanks, confused Crocosmia!

'Tuscarora' crape myrtle, chugging along as it has been doing for most of the summer

I Claim This Mountain in the Name of Belgium and King Albert II* **
The City is (supposedly) paving over the stretch of 10th that runs on the east side of our house. I think they must have run out of funding or something, because they graded it, put out flags, sprayed some paint, and deposited two pieces of culvert and a mountain of debris in our yard a month ago, and have never returned. Eh, well. It's a big yard--we weren't really using that particular corner anyway.

*Ever since I learned that some of my Cajun ancestors originally hailed from Belgium, I've been subject to (very intermittent) fits of Belgian pride. Vive la Belgique!

**After Abert's death, Queen Victoria put a lot of pressure on her children and grandchildren to name their decendents Albert (and Victoria). She particularly wanted her son, Albert Edward, to take the throne as King Albert I--I think she envisioned, Banquo-like, an interminable line of King Alberts and Queen Victorias stretching towards the historical horizon. That son, who ultimately adopted the name Edward VII, declined that particular honor, as his father and mother had caused him major grief for most of his adult life. And now I don't think there are any first-named Alberts in the British royal family at all, nor can I think of any other Alberts in Victoria's extended European family who ever became kings. So I'm rather tickled for her sake that a couple of Alberts managed to go the distance in Belgium.

1 comment:

Katie said...

The dinosaur caption is totally going in my writing class section on "why captions are so important." Awesome!

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