Stake lilies, prune vines but indulge summer laziness

The warmth and slowness of August has descended upon our gardens and their gardeners. Aside from watering and keeping the crops picked, this mood of summer laziness should be thoroughly indulged. The French got it right when they chose to make this month their national holiday.

But if we can't go to the seashore for the whole month, then set the sprinklers early in the morning or late in the evening, hang up a hammock or find a supremely comfortable lounging chair with a table. Stack the books high, leave room for over-sized long, cool drinks and grab the time to reflect upon your recent frenzied garden-touring/plant buying season.

So, you didn't plant tropicals this year and therefore you are feeling that your garden has no charm. The collection of plants from the garden tours and specialty nursery visits that you tucked in have created a potpourri of confusion that falls completely short of your garden vision. Not to mention the strange weather that has caused all your old favorites to perform in ways never before seen.

With the hot days of summer, growth is rampant and coarse, with the tender expectancy of spring a distant memory. We should stake the toppling lilies or prune the tangling vines out of the shrubbery. Suddenly we spot areas of extreme dryness and wonder aloud how, after so much rain all spring, the soil could become so parched so fast. While setting the sprinkler we try to remember where we put the folder with all the information about pruning and insect control.

Easy livin'

Reflect on the wise lyrics: "Summertime and the livin' is easy." In our current over-hyped and frenetic culture, too much information bombards us and we are easily swept away into believing that we can first take it all in and then secondly act upon it. You might just want to stop reading right here for that matter. Or you could go and make a fresh batch of homemade lemonade, silence the phone and come with me on a gentle journey about letting the summertime seep into your bones and psyche.

Trees have always played key roles in the summer, for shade and as places in our youth to climb and hide out in. So often now, due to urban density, we only plant small trees. Yet I think we are missing our large trees and we should probably reflect on where we can fit them in again. Sharing a tree on the property line certainly allows for greater scale. It also requires a neighborly dialogue which in many ways has become as lost as our grand trees.

While reflecting on trees and childhood, consider the areas that your children have been given in the garden. I see a lot of play structures surrounded by lawn but I rarely see the homemade scarecrow. Are we going to just give our children the predictability and cleanliness of the mall experience within their home garden? While working with the Hawthorne Elementary School children during a tree planting ceremony, the loudest squeal of delight came from? - yes, the exciting discovery of a worm. The delight in the child's eyes was worth the world.

As adults we also need to let the heat of the summer days quiet us from within. Reading a book, rather than trying to plow through that huge stack of unread magazines, can bring a calming, yet exhilarating sense of letting time pass through us rather than controlling us. Remember those summers when you read until it got too dark? Barry Lopez has written: "No one can fathom what happens between a human being and written language."

The book I continue to chew on, re-reading, savoring, not wanting to reach the end is "The Wild Braid: A Poet reflects on a Century in the Garden." This book is a collaborative effort among Stanley Kunitz (the poet), Genine Lentine (a poet, teacher and student of Kunitz's garden) and Marnie Crawford Samuelson, a photographer. Quoting from the jacket flap: "From his celebrated seaside garden, a beloved poet - in his 100th year - speaks about life, poetry, and the kindred spirit in all living things."

The gifts from the August garden

My hope is that with this column I have evoked some of your summertime memories that will bring you pleasure. If we can pause long enough for these memories, then the richness of the smell from the lavender being picked or that quintessential smell from touching the tomato leaves will reside within us with a greater pleasure than the worries about our non-tropical looking garden.

So forget those tropicals.

The garden, the rich scent of the earth, the birdsong, the incredible complexities and colors of the flowers and the produce to be brought to our tables are the gifts we receive every day from the August garden.

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