by Nancy Oakes
In the years to come, I think many of us will look back on 2000 as a year to forget. It certainly started out well. In April I found myself out there poking around to see what the season would bring and was thrilled to find green growing tips just below the soil's surface. I happily left on my annual jaunt to the US, already looking forward to seeing the garden upon my return. But May was more like what April should have been and my homecoming found a sodden, cold garden. Artemisia `Guizhou' was now nowhere to be found and where were those little green nubs I'd seen on Hemerocallis Wildest Dreams-my priciest purchase of the previous year?
When the rain and cold finally gave way to somewhat more reasonable weather, it didn't seem to last that long and then those few days where many feared frost, made the memory of those warm days, just that. August gave way to a few days of true summer only to be brought to an abrupt halt by the scent of fall in the air.
Ah, what would we gardeners do if we couldn't complain about the weather and this year's season gave us ample opportunity to do just that. Sometimes we didn't even have to wait the requisite five minutes! But there's always a silver lining in the clouds of a gardener. With the constant supply of moisture, the shade garden looked its lushest in years and the cooler temperatures seemed to keep many things, especially the Columbines, hardy Geraniums and Ligularias, blooming much longer than I recall in recent years. Of course the slugs loved it as well, but the abundance of growth made them easy to ignore. I know I'll pay for that next year, just like I paid this year for the decision to stop weeding during last year's drought.
But now the fall garden is making up for the frustration of the summer. Rudbeckia `Herbstsonne' at over 2 metres is undoubtedly the star with its bright yellow, slightly drooping rays. Lobelia siphilitica's spires of light blue are a wonderful counterpoint to the fall colours. Easy from seed, this should definitely be grown in more gardens. Sedum `Matrona,' my only new purchase this year, is a welcome change from `Autumn Joy.' It looked great all summer with its succulent purple foliage, but now it's pink flowers only add to its appeal. The foliage of Eupatorium `Chocolate' continues to stand out and although its flowers are not as conspicuous as the species, it nonetheless will always have a strong supporting role as a backdrop to all the green. And despite the late start to the season, even some Daylilies are starting to rebloom.
Last week I saw clumps of a tall purple Aster in a friend's garden and I remember promising myself last year that I would add Asters to the garden this year. That didn't happen, but in the true spirit of gardeners everywhere- `There's always next year!'