Friday, July 10, 2020


It is Friday, 10 July 2020, and time to get our minds off the troubles besetting us these days. If we do not take breaks once in awhile, we may too easily be overwhelmed by the gravity of it all. This is a dark hour of crisis upon crisis. We cannot make the dangers go away but we can put them in a larger setting. A good way to do that is to enjoy the beauty and wonder of nature all around us. For me, it is my botanical garden.

We have had an unusually rainy last few months. Normally, summers in the south are hot and humid with the occasional afternoon thundershower. The weeks of almost daily rain we have had made the whole garden lush, more than is typical in a high summer of the south. Of course, the rain has also brought an abundance of weeds and insects but every gardener knows how to deal with them. I'll take the rain any day.

So, strolling around my garden this week we see:

Crepe myrtle. It is one of the most common flowering shrubs of the south, and for good reason. It is the colorful glory of a southern summer. This is "Tuscarora." a large bush with red blossoms. The big green shrub is Spartan Juniper, a good selection for an upright evergreen. The palmetto is Sabal minor.  This part of the garden, the street side, has a semi-circular walk path going from trellis to trellis.

Inexpensive decorative pieces dot the garden to add interest. This Greek maiden in a shady alcove is about to be devoured by the Spartan Juniper behind her. Windmill palm is on one side, Francis Mason Abelia on the other.

The roses continue to bloom until frost although they are not as prolific after the first flush of flowering in May. This is a shrub rose called "Magic Blanket." It puts out a profusion of pure white flowers. 

Every southern yard/garden should have banana tree(s). They are easy to grow and add good interest and texture to the landscape. The large one produced a stalk of thumb-sized bananas last year but has not bloomed so far this year.

Butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii "Harlequin"). If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, give them the plants they love and a source of water low on the ground. This plant is a favorite. It puts out numerous purple flower stalks and blooms a long time. Easy to grow perennial shrub.

Althaea, aka Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus). Flowering shrub ubiquitous in the south. Prefers full sun. This one is getting too much shade but still blooms beautifully.

Abelia x chinensis, "Rose Creek." The abelia family of shrubs is one of the best for southern gardens. I have many examples in my garden. They are easy to grow and may be pruned or left to grown naturally, as this one. They are often used for hedges. I like them as specimen plants. 

Red Delicious Apple. I have two dwarf apple trees but I never get to enjoy the apples. I learned after I planted them that apples are a favorite snack of deer. I live near a wilderness area called the Talladega National Forest. It abounds in deer, black bear, wild turkeys and the like. For some reason, unknown to me, the deer have not touched my apple trees this year although I have seen deer in the garden. These apples are about half grown.

The other apple tree in my garden is Golden Delicious. Apple trees will not grow in tropical climates because they require long winter chills. They will grow in the upper south. I happen to live in an area that allows me to have both some tropical and some northern plants. Plant Zones 7b and 8a overlap here. It's a gardener's paradise. In fact, the Anniston Museum of Natural History, in my county, has the largest collection of palms in the state of Alabama. Yet, not far up the road are commercial apple orchards.

I hope you enjoyed our little stroll around my garden now in its summer glory. If you were here in person, you would enjoy the butterflies and the birds. I provide both lots of natural food and they reward me richly with color and song. I have large blueberry bushes but I do not even try to collect the berries. I leave them to the birds. They reward me with wonderful music, all day every day. How fortunate am I to be surrounded by such wonders of God's work.

Even if you do not have a garden as large as mine, and I know few people who do, you can still get out and enjoy the wonders of the world all around us. Plant flowers in your yard, maybe in a planter. Go for a walk in your neighborhood. Have a stroll in the park. Ride a bicycle. Take a leisurely car ride around a state park. Bask by the lake or beach. It will do you good (as long as you remember social distancing and face coverings).

We are in a dark hour; and let's not try to pretend otherwise. It is best to face reality. This is a hard time. We will get through it. One way we can get through it is by putting things in perspective. One way we can put things in perspective is to remind ourselves we are part of a grand order of the universe that has purpose and meaning from a power greater than ourselves. Whatever happens in our lives cannot change this. The presence of God is always with us. It is all around us if we but open our eyes and see it.

Let us keep in mind we are here for the living of this hour. Peace.