Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Longest Day ... A summer reflection

So here we are, nearing the end of the longest day of the year, and from here on out, they start getting shorter and shorter ... It seems somewhat anticlimactic to me that we eagerly build up our hopes for the solstice, only to secretly rue the fact that after this crucial day, the very sun and warmth we so anticipated has already begun its gradual waning. Oh, that doesn't mean there aren't still plenty of sunny, hot and indeed miserable days ahead, but they inexorably become shorter ... by seconds at first, then minutes, and then the next thing you know, it's fall.

But the good thing is, we can count on at least a good three more months (maybe more) of growing time to watch everything work through its cycle, bloom, bear fruit and complete its mission for the year. Whether those be the tomatoes who will sustain us deliciously in August and September, or the peppers ... or any of the myriad flowers we have planted, they all have their own distinct mission and role in the garden. And I suppose that is the great joy and motivation of gardening ... watching each step of that mission proceed, wondering at the tenacity each plant displays in order to complete its work ... and taking delight in the remarkable results.

I guess that's what's in it for me, the sense of wonder and the satisfaction of having tended something to the point where it can accomplish what it set out to do. I think of it less as me nurturing nature than nature nurturing me. It's a rewarding symbiotic relationship for both of us. So, as any seasoned garderner will likely tell you, you work with and through the cycle, tracing the steps and learning the lessons along the way so that the next cycle can be even more productive. The winter months are long, cold and sometimes oppressive, but the memory of spring and summer sustains us until we can once again contemplate and observe the cycle play itself out again.

Tonight's picture is of Zebrina Mallow, a plant we started a few years ago from seeds. It's supposed to be an annual mallow, but it has performed more as a perennial for us, though it hasn't gotten very big in previous years, and only bloomed a bit. This year I discovered (while weeding of course) that it had spread a bit and now there are at least five new plants close to the parent, all of which are poised to really shine this year. We're glad they have staked out their territory and look forward to even more from them. Mallows, by the way, are a large family of plants that include Hollyhocks, Hibiscus and numerous other relatives. Some are annuals, some bienniel (Hollyhocks) and some are perennial (Hibiscus moscheutos, Prairie Mallow), but all share the same basic flower shape ... five petals elegantly arranged and displayed in an amazing range of hues. We love this one particularly for the simple purple striping and its unobtrusive habit. You do have to work to see the flowers on the lower end of the plant, but are amply rewarded when you do take the effort to do so. (By the way, in last night's post of the Calendula, if you look in the background behind the plant, you can see this plant. Just to give a bit of perspective there for my friends who like to see things growing in situ.)

Oh, and yes, there is indeed a plant called a Marsh Mallow, and it does apparently have some obscure connection to a confection. If I recall correctly, the roots are the edible parts, but how on earth those puffy white sugary things in bags ever got to be called Marshmallows, I remain clueless. I'll put C on the mission to trace that story out and get back to you if anyone's really interested!


Family Man said...

Hi IVG. I'm learning something all the time coming here. You might, and I say might, be turning me into a plant enthusiast. :)

olivia said...

That is a gorgeous mallow! Looks good enough to eat ... :) Do you find that time goes by faster b/c you are so attuned to the seasons and are aware of dates for planting times and daytime highs etc. Sometimes it seems to me that all of that makes the time fly by. Except in winter -- winter always seems to drag on. :-)

Great post IVG. I'm glad you started writing here, b/c you are really giving us a lot to think about and your lovely photos to look at as well.

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