On hot mornings like this one, I start early when it’s still (relatively) cool. Last weekend, I planted the vegetable garden, and later, morning glories on the porch posts. I need to keep these well watered, at least for their first week, and more if the heat continues. I only have one faucet, which is on the west side of this big old house and my gardens are scattered about in all directions so I’ve devised a system that works pretty well. I hitch the trailer to the tractor, put two 20 gallon buckets into the trailer (these purple buckets are handy but they are advertised in the sales brochures as “party buckets,” and I believe folks pack them with ice and cans of beer for their parties), fill the buckets from the hose and then drive slowly around to the various gardens where I dip the watering can into the vats of water and quench my seedlings. I’ve come to look forward to this chore as it is still cool in the mornings, even the hottest ones, and the water is cold from the well. There is usually a breeze and the birds are very vocal all around me. From the pond come the red-wing blackbirds, swooping and trilling and carrying on. They are bold and feisty as I saw one yesterday, furiously chasing a crow a long ways to the tallest tree. In the meadow, the bobolinks chirp and squawk while they loft themselves out of the grasses and then sink. It’s no wonder they nest in the fields. I am not sure they can lift themselves high enough to reach the trees. And then there are the rest of them, the mourning doves providing a soothing counterpoint to all the busy chatter, in all, a big masterwork chorus accompanying me as I work.
I especially worry about the morning glories as they begin in such a frail state, the stems at the root seeming almost strangled by the earth. My mother was not much of a gardener, or at least I never think of her that way. She never belonged to a garden club or read gardening magazines or anything of that nature. But she always planted ageratums and nasturtiums, bachelor’s buttons and marigolds. Nothing showy or fancy, but she liked blues and yellows and oranges, a bit of color around the house foundation and sometimes in the window boxes. My father planted these from seeds he bought at the lumber store, placing one or two seeds into each paper cup and setting them on a tray in the dining room window. When the seedlings were ready, my parents would go out together and plant the little starts in the same places they had been the year before.
The best, though, were the morning glories. Now, this was in New Jersey, a state about which you might have lots of things to say but one thing you can’t take away from New Jersey is its growing climate. Living here in the north country, I have never even tried to equal the beauty and abundance possible down there. If my mother took pride in anything she grew, it would have been her morning glories, Heavenly Blues, which, it seems to me was the only color of morning glories back in those days. She planted them at the base of a the big bird feeder in the middle of the lawn, something my father made before I was born, a house big enough to be a doll house fastened to the top of a tall post. The vines grew fast and vigorously, circling, clutching the post, and soon enough the big blue trumpets were bursting from the dense cloud of heart-shaped foliage. The feeder at the top of all this looked like it was sitting on top of the stairway to heaven. In particularly good years, my father took my mother’s picture, dwarfed as she was by this billowing show of blue and green.
Though I aspire to this, I know it’s not possible here. Still, I search high and low for the Heavenly Blues. To the other purples and reds they have come up with for the new world of morning glories, I say bah humbug The only morning glory in my book is a Heavenly Blue, so I give these little ones the best I’ve got, providing a climbing trellis and often manually attaching the shoots so that they will grow in the right direction. I get them started as early as I dare, though here it is usually foolish to plant before Memorial Day as we do get late frosts. And early ones in fall. I simply do everything I can to reach that grail of memory.
When I finished the watering this morning, I went inside the screened porch and sat there for a while, planning the day. Even during the worst heat waves, the porch, in the morning, with its cold stone floor, cool breezes and satisfying shade, is a certain kind of heaven. As I sat there, a little bird fluttered onto the clothesline. I saw its blue back and then the sweet pink throat — a bluebird, solidly perched, looking at me. I think it might be a good year for the morning glories.