THE YOUNG catbirds perch on the twisted trunks of the grape vines here, awaiting the magical day on which the fruit reaches a 15 percent sugar content, or so I am told by a grape person.
Whatever the figure is, the catbirds and mockingbirds find grapes edible well before September, when grapes seem right to us. In recent years cardinals have learned to eat grapes too. Thus we see progress everywhere.
It finally occurred to me I do not like grapes much, except the dessert types from California, and although I have been exposed to 'Concord' and its usual cousins for nigh on a century (a trifle less) I have never learned to like them in anything except grape juice and jelly. So why (it dawned) spray and carry on like a fiend from March until July with sprays to insure flawless clusters?
Now I just let them carry on as Nature intended -- that is to say, haphazardly -- and there are still plenty for the birds, the wasps, the hound and me. The hound doesn't like them much, preferring 'Thompson Seedless' and 'Ribier,' but perhaps that is beside the point.
You never know just when a gladiolus is going to bloom, to get on with July meditations, and I noticed several that I planted on May 20 were blooming on the Fourth of July weekend, about three weeks earlier than was expected (or counted on). Others from the same planting were not expected to bloom until late August, but I suspect they are not going to take the 95 days they are supposed to.
It depends a bit on how warm the nights are, probably, and how much water they get, and these things are all chancy. Beyond doubt, gardners in general have dutifully planted gladioli every two weeks from March 25 onward, as instructed in this space months ago, and they will have flowers from late June until mid-October.
The question often arises in our summers (when gardeners discover they have bitten off more than they can chew) whether pots are good?
Everybody knows that around the Mediterranean basin the gardens are dry, and there you see many things grown in pots that we would never think of growing in that way.
This year I thought I'd see how much bother it was to water pots, and whether the results justified watering them every day or sometimes twice a day.
I planted a few marigolds, petunias, verbenas and cucumbers in pots, mostly 4-inch or 6-inch pots, except the cucumbers that were allowed 10 or 12-inch domiciles.
It did not seem to me likely that marigold plants, larger than the pot that holds them, would be happy, but thus far I hear no protest from them.Nor from petunias. I have a rich purple one, called 'Blue Magic,' probably on the grounds that gardeners think they like blue better than purple. It is strongly scented. It gawks about a little, like a small giraffe, but I cannot complain of its floral energy. I have a couple of raw pink ones too, since we have all learned that shocking colors (preferably in small doses) are good for us.
They rather show off the deep purples. Ten pots of purple and two pots of pink.It takes five minutes a day to keep these (including 10 pots of verbena and six pots of cucumbers) watered. I dip a watering can in the lily pool and proceed casually along the walk (the pots sit on a brick walk, largely negating its width, but no matter) letting the steady shower fall from the rose (which is what you call that sprinkler gadget on a watering can).
I dip up two buckets and that's that for the day. It is vastly easier than weeding around an equal number of annuals planted in a border.
The border in any case tends to fill up with large hostas, bulky roses, yews, day lilies and other creatures that largely smother weeds, sort of.
A surprisingly good plant for a large pot, by the way, is the basil. If you have a concrete slab for a garden (as can happen in cities) you can some times make the most of it be setting down a four-foot horse trough with a water lily, right on the pavement, and growing a 12-inch pot full of basil right out in the blazing sun.
The effect will be better, possibly, if the concrete is coated with a mortar wash of yellow oxide of iron. A vine or two on the wall, maybe a grape in a half-barrel, and a sturdy chair or two of teak (or a bench made oneself of two-inch lumber) and there you are.Not one of the world's great gardens, but a garden for all that.