SOME THINGS love the 90 percent humidity and the reasonable warmth of our high summer, which at least feels warm despite the fact that temperatures are low, rarely reaching 90.Lord Byron used to complain of the English winter, ending in July to recommence in August, and had the good sense to go elsewhere.
Increasingly our winter also seems to end in July, and the only two reasonable complaints we may hold against our fine climate is that April is too chilly and June is too rainy and not warm enough. The other months behave well.
The papyrus has finally started to grow briskly.
It is such a grand sedge. The "bullrushes" in which the infant Moses was hidden was the papyrus, and of course our word "paper" comes from it. I once tried pounding the stems in an approved way to make some paper but did not succeed.
It is planted outdoors in June; and if all goes well, it will reach 6 to 10 feet high by September. There is a small puzzle how to winter it. One year I dried off the clump and put it in the basement, which was wrong. It will die if it is dried off. I suppose the best thing is to root a new plant in September and keep it growing in a sunny window.
Another tropical beast I love is the violet-stem taro. This makes elephant ears of blue-green held aloft on stems of soft gray-red-violet. It can be dug up with a bucket of dirt left on the roots and tubers and kept in a large dishpan. Every two or three weeks it can be given a pitcher of water.
It dislikes this treatment and regularly threatens to die. It also develops mealy bugs. Now as a rule mealy bugs can be got rid of by any diligent gardener, and the great taro is the only plant I have ever had in the house that I could not keep the bugs off of. They get down inside the leaf buds where you cannot reach.
Anyhow, by spring the taro has sulked down to its tubers. These are planted outdoors in a great tub of mud and kept soaked all summer. June is sadly lacking in warmth, so the taro puts up a few leaves and sits there. But in July it decided life is worth living and starts to grow at a surprising rate. Also, the mealy bugs disappear thanks to their many natural predators.
By late September it is on the glorious side, and then you dig it up and take it in for another bout of general dispair.
I have found that things like the taro are easily forgotten during their winter resting period. This is corrected by keeping the dishpan with the semi-dormant taro in the bathroom, either on the floor by the shoeshine box or (after the fifth fractured shin from stumbling into it) on top of the former sewing table under the bathroom window, which in most houses, I believe, is used to keep book matches in three main drawers plus the hound's ear ointment.
It may take a few seasons before the gardener falls easily into the rhythm of maintaining the papyrus and taro and so on, but it all becomes clear in time. In July-August, the bathroom is easy to move about in. CAPTION: Picture, no caption, Metropolitan Museum of Art