The cool July should have your garden in fine fettle
Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 8:01 pm
An event that occurs only two or three times a century demands considerable note. I know we talked briefly here last week about the late, and certainly not lamented, July, the coolest since 1971, but it was so outstanding it beggars further consideration.
Believe it or not, only four days in July saw temperatures over 90 degrees. Some years virtually every day reaches that mark. The mean day-night temperature in July was some five degrees below long-term average. That doesn’t sound like much, but when global warming, at the alleged rate of one degree per century, gets all the Chicken Littles in a fitful stew, then a five-degree variation in a single month is stupendous.
And a stupendous month it was, for those closely attuned to weather, say us gardeners, and farmers and sportsmen.
They say the fishing has been outstanding, with anglers actually being able to stay on the lake all day without frying. Crappie, bass, catfish — you name it — all have been biting.
Farm fields are green — almost black — with maturing corn, the nitrogen uptake deeply coloring the stalks and leaves and filling out plump “roastin’ ears.” Fried field corn prepared by my country grandmother is a sweet memory from long past.
Barring some calamity of disability or illness, your garden should be the best it has ever been, or you haven’t done your homework. July rain, while not excessive in these parts, was adequate. We had more than four inches in our gauge, following a June of less than average. With the many cool days and overcast skies in July, this added up to almost perfect growing conditions.
Most weather talk ensues when conditions are abysmal. That’s human nature. But we have heard an awful lot about our wonderful July, and I haven’t heard anybody complaining.
Enough perhaps — and perhaps not; it was a thing of legends born — about July weather. August blew in Saturday with the same conditions and, to this early point, seems inclined to stay in that genre.
An outstanding feature of August is the Formosa lily. Lilium formosanum. I’ve mentioned it before, but, like July’s weather, it deserves more.
This lily (not a daylily) is from Taiwan. Blooming later than most lilies, it is easily grown and not subject to the various ills that beset some of the others. It is long lived in gardens, building into enormous clumps over several years.
The stiff stems of Formosa lily can rear to fully seven feet, with narrow leaves from top to bottom. The flowers are deep narrow funnels, white with a purple stripe on the back of each petal. They are fragrant, as are most lilies, but the aroma isn’t as heavy and funereal as with some others.
The white flowers on those enormous stems, lord it over anything else in a mixed border in August, and late evening brings an ethereal effect of giant white moths hovering over all that greenery below.
Formosa lily is said to seed madly, but that hasn’t been the case with mine; I have depended on slow increase of bulbs. At the University of Tennessee Extension Service gardens in Jackson there are clumps of Formosa lilies fully three feet across with huge numbers of stems. They are a sight to see.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 8.11.09
Jimmy Williams, The Garden Path