August 24, 2013 @ 3:07 PM

 August 24 ~

In what can only be described as my worst gardening year--ever, I want to try and look on the positive side and pass on to you, the silver lining aspects of this challenging spite of the fact that "half full glasses" are not my thing!

Typically, early August finds the gardens going full tilt--some things passing, but many things coming on to replace them---hollyhocks, chicory, foxgloves, daisies, chamomile all spent, but gorgeous black eyed susans, Joe Pye weed, elecampagne, asters, coming on strong. That is sort of happening, but the hollyhocks were really sub par  and had  some form of rust the entire summer, as does the elecampagne. Everything else is coming along, but not as tall or blooming as robustly as usual. I am having a hard time seeing the gardens transistion, because what has come before each stage has  just been disappointing. Where was the usually invasive feverfew? My sage died off.....In fact, I lost a lot of plants last winter (lavenders, southernwood, monkshood, lobelia, borage, etc)....things that have been growing here for almost 20 years or annuals that always reseeded easily. My calendulas have JUST begun to bloom, the lady's mantle looked pretty dismal and my display garden of poisonous  annual plants died almost as soon as I planted it.

Aside from poor growth--and contributing to it, has been a destructive weather pattern that began very beneficially by protecting spring flowers from random frosts----which only led many of us to think this was going to be a great garden year--(as it will end up being for most fruits) ---but then we were  hit with constant heavy, flooding rains, lack of any sun, high  humidity and then 2 weeks of extreme heat---none of which is typical for our area. I had to teach classes without the usual amounts of herbal plants to harvest. I had to change the date for a salve making class because of humidity!!! It is really impossible to work with herbs under those conditions--too wet and humid can lead to blight or other diseases, the plants are too waterlogged to be of real medicinal use and are less flavorful, they will not dry well or make good oils and the bees had trouble getting out to pollinate many plants at the right time. I have found myself on several occasions in the past few weeks as the weather has improved, fighting with bees to get to certain plants--especially hyssop. They are desperate to make up for lost time, as am I.

The dismal weather has fostered the growth of certain plants, sort of a backhanded compliment, sort of way.grape leaves and hyssop I have had an abundance of all the plants that are good for fighting infectious diseases--ground ivy, echinacea, wild ginger, roses, elderberry (and berries of all kinds), hyssop, thyme, grapes, oregano, tomatoes (the flower essence of tomato is a wonderful immune booster), heal all, we are being set up for  a long, harsh cold/flu season, but are being provided with the help we need to get through it.

Some years, I have no Saint John's Wort at all, this year is not my best, but close and I have spent a lot of time tincturing and making oils.Saint John's Wort It seems to be one  of the plants that is the most amazing to students as well, so I am always glad when it present itself  to them.

Fewer bugs!!! Even they didn't want to be out in the rain and heat this year. I totally missed the early bean  and cuke beetles. The flea beetles that try to devastate little pepper/eggplant seedlings were nowhere to be found and the Japanese beetles are late (but trying to catch up on what they missed).

Flowers seemed to be longer lasting and lent themselves to a variety of experimentation with making Elixirs--a delightful combo of plant, brandy and honey--used for medicinal and/or culinary purposes. Roses, lavender, lilacs, elder and beebalm flowers all made their way into one of these yummy concoctions. Using flower petals as "monster claws"!!Plenty of flowers to play with too! Next on my agenda is to harvest the gorgeous Staghorn Sumac flower heads to dry and save for making winter "lemonade"--full of vit. C. They are forming during a time when it has not been rainy, so they are not getting laden down with little insects.

So, while I search for some good ears of corn in a disappointing patch and have already accepted the lack of pumpkins and squash for a second year in a row, the act of lowered expectations...or just downright giving up, has allowed me more time to play and use some plants differently. I am salvaging what I can from our already short CNY growing season, enjoying different aspects of plants... but,  already, with the typical gardener's short memory of failure and huge capacity for hope, am looking forward to next year.