A friend of mine, perhaps less precise and gifted in her analysis of weeds than in her judgment for matters of great importance to the American state, recently heard of that terrible affliction of mine, the bindweed, and (not finding any in her own garden) ripped out the first vigorous clematis vine she saw.
I wish, first of all, that I could see no difference between a clematis and a bindweed. How agreeable it would then be, to say my garden is quite overrun with clematis that I really cannot control--they just take over everything.
And I am glad, second of all, that she has had this tragedy. Yes, glad. There is a strain of viciousness and envy in all gardeners I have known, usually brought on by failing with some plant to which one has given the greatest attention, while one's friend (who has given it no care at all) has it running all over the place. The lady in question used to lose no opportunity of exclaiming how the Japanese anemones were running her out of house and home, knowing quite well I had planted them repeatedly without the least success.
Now, of course (for pigheaded stubbornness often pays off in the garden), my Japanese anemones are as good as anybody's, but for years I had trouble, and for years my friend gloated mercilessly. And now that she has yanked out a perfectly good clematis, we see that justice from the heavens may sometimes catch up, heh-heh.
But although I have suffered heavy blows this summer from the bindweed and other disappointments too numerous to bore you with, I looked out my bedroom window this morning with joy. Just below the sill was the finial of the simple garden house, the pyramidal trellis-roof of which is covered with climbers.
The grape 'Monticello' has been heavy with purple clusters, but it soon gives way on the garden house roof to Clematis paniculata, now densely studded with its flower buds and inch-wide white starry flowers scented like almonds, and tangled with it is that good pinkish honeysuckle, Lonicera heckrottii, which has been a mass of flower ever since April. No honeysuckle I know of even touches it.
Just beyond, in my line of vision, so that the water seems to touch the clematis and grape and honeysuckle, though in fact it is 15 feet distant from them, is the pool with pink, yellow and blue water lilies. I promise to say nothing more of them, since I praised them recently.
The rest of the garden is a living mess.
Except the northwestern corner of the house, now decked with the great flower clusters of that hybrid trumpet vine called 'Madame Galen.' It really is a sheet of flower, and I am all the prouder of it since it gets little sun, and everybody knows the trumpet vines need full sun.
Still, this is the place I wanted it to be, and I hoped it would think it was in a hedgerow in Tennessee, where one often sees trumpet vines that get fairly little sun, yet blooming contentedly.
It has surpassed my hopes, though it took a few years longer than I thought it should, and now hummingbirds hover about it and land on its branches so you can get a really good look at them.
I say nothing, of course, of the clouds of sparrows that have taken to roosting in it at night, nor of the complete assortment of bees, wasps, hornets, that come to explore it. Like everything else, if high perfection is the goal, you have to see it the right day and the right time, and ignore other factors like the sparrows at dusk.
Where I walk (or run) every day to catch my bus, I tread on many plants of the beautiful chicory, one of the loveliest of meadow flowers. Here it is mowed down every couple of months, so it grows only a few inches high. Its sky-blue daisies are handsomer than plenty of plants I have grown with some effort.
What would be prettier than a 20-by-50-foot bed of this wild chicory, interspersed here and there with nasturtiums or scarlet hardy carnations and an occasional phlox or some bouncing bet (another beautiful weed) or some sadly mauve cosmos and a few white cleomes (a grand weed that, if whacked back in late June, will branch low and bloom until November).
Such a thing would certainly be handsomer than a solid planting of begonias or geraniums or marigolds, and the only work would be to keep the bindweed out, and in the spring it could be pretty solid with daffodils and tulips that would make way, as they fade, for these lovely summer weeds.
Another tremendous pleasure of the late summer is the sound of locusts, the cicadas and crickets and other melodious creatures whose names I do not know.
They have been chorusing for some weeks now, and nothing in the whole year is more worth waiting for, but all too soon, as fall comes, the chorus will diminish day by day then suddenly stop, and only the crickets will sing for a few days longer.
In downtown Washington you do not get this beautiful chorus, but a few blocks out from the most congested traffic you do. I was outraged to read some idiot government bureaucrat was busy telling people how to kill the cicadas this year, but then there are probably tax-paid bureaucrats in Italy giving directions how you can get that cruddy paint off Leonardo's walls.
Recently, taking the terrier out to Great Falls to gaze at the ducks and slop around in the canal, I saw the first blue-tailed metallic skink I have seen in the capital, though I am not sure whether it was a three-lined or five-lined kind. I wish I knew how to establish a colony of these skinks in my garden.
There was a vigorous colony in my former garden that had lived there more than 60 years. For some decades they lived under an old wisteria and later, when it was taken out, they moved 100 feet to the east to a compost heap, after which it was of course forbidden to use that compost or dig around in it.
These are things you can't just go to the store and buy, and I hope those who have skinks are aware of their privilege and admire them fully throughout the warm season when those brilliant lizards bask on sunny walls and pavements, a splendid sight denied to most of us.