Gardening makes one pay close attention to the weather. I keep a rain gauge and check the levels after each rain, then average those values over the week to determine whether I need to water. I never imagined caring that much about rainfall. Weather changes receive the same attention. I know the first and last frost dates and where the sunlight hits at various times of the day. How gardeners mind the weather–being attentive to any changes–is similar to how new parents learn to watch toddlers. I used to call the plants my kids, but my daughter forbade that practice. Anyway, when new patterns arise, they raise an alarm.
This year the weather, which is usually somewhat fickle, has been odder than any time since I began gardening. For example, I planted verbena in the sidewalk strip, and those closest to the street were drowned this summer. Yes, they drowned! Typically, summer rain comes from pop-up showers lasting an hour or so, dropping maybe 0.25 inches of rain in one event. This past summer, pop-up showers still provided rain, but with much heavier downpours– the tropical storms did not help either. Often, the rain came in torrents, with water sweeping over the sidewalk, washing away mulch, and killing the scarlet verbena. I never thought I would dread summer rain.
Fall arrived, and things seemed to get back to normal. However, the cold did not come when expected. Usually, the salvia is dead by Thanksgiving and everything else by the first week of December. This year, I had blooms in January that did not disappear until the middle of the month. Flowers are wonderful, but they are even better when they have had a rest. Rest is becoming rare.
Today, February 15th, even though the blooms are finally gone, I still have coneflowers that are green and six inches high, as if winter never happened. I don’t know what to make of this—heavy rain in summer and winter warmth. Looking back, I suppose both the rain and the warmth help to explain why annuals such as Mexican heather and lantana are now perennials.
I guess I’ll buy extra mulch and try to learn the new rules.