Summer day and a half ...

Hope you weren't out of town on May 14, because we had a summer day that broke all the records. It just kept getting warmer and warmer and warmer. The sidewalks soon filled with late-afternoon strollers and the roads with cyclists. The next day, we all set out to enjoy another beautiful warm day, but by midday the marine air had rushed back into town. It was cold, very cold, by sundown! Since that summer day-and-a-half, nothing but gray skies with some sun breaks, lots of squally wind, just enough rain to make the slugs happy and then the amazing downpour Sunday afternoon. And the experts caution us that it is still too early to plant the tomatoes!

Why did I think this year would be smooth sailing in the vegetable patch? A total memory loss has occurred about the vagaries of May weather. I thought I was so late in seeding out the squashes and beans and sunflowers and cucumbers. They haven't popped yet, and I think I now know why - the soil temperature is still too low. You start to feel the dryness in the air along with 55-to-60-degree afternoon temperatures, and you are sure that the growing season has started. But realistically, the nighttime temperatures fall into the low 40s, and there goes all that soil warmth. Maybe I will do the red mulch thing next year! Instead of a vegetable patch within a garden, I will make the whole place into an urban farm, with rows of red mulch!

So much crabbiness does seem unwarranted when the rest of the garden is in such full glory. The peonies are flowering profusely, and they make such good cut flowers. Their blooming season lasts for just three or four weeks, but what a fine garden plant. Given a full sunny exposure, they can thrive without much irrigation, and just need their seedpods removed after flowering, and their dried foliage removed in late autumn. My idea of a well-behaved plant. I find myself planting more of them each year!

All the different irises are in full bloom. It is good to see that more gardens are including Iris douglasiana varieties. I think they provide a gentle contrast to the sturdiness and overblown blooms of the German iris. Also, Iris graminea has made a return. A few years ago it was almost impossible to find this treasure, but thanks to the Internet, growers have started to stock it due to the number of requests. I believe this iris fell out of favor because of its modest blooms nestled within the leaf blades. But once you breathe its plumlike scent and observe the markings on its bloom, you know that it is a must-have treasure for your garden.

Then there are the early roses, the hedgerows of divinely blue ceanothus, the purple sparklers on the Spanish lavender - our gardens are running amok, even without the warmth of summer days.[[In-content Ad]]