It does no good to beef about our climate (a singularly favorable one for gardening) and threaten to move somewhere else.
England, for example, is distinguished by a climate in which nothing at all happens, weather without extremes. It does not get cold in the winter or hot in the summer. Still, John Evelyn lost 2,000 oaks in one night when a storm hit his garden -- oaks that he loved as most people love dogs.
Or Gilbert White, whose garden suffered a freeze in the middle of June that killed off everything tender.
When did we last lose all our old oaks, or have snapdragons die in June?
Still, our climate interferes with a great many things we wish to do. What you do is sneak up on it slyly and defeat it.
I have now given up, for example, my former faith in fall planting for "hardy" annuals such as larkspurs, California poppies, sweet peas and so on.
They should do well here, planted in the fall, but in practice they keep getting frozen to death -- mashed to death by ice -- at my place. So no matter how well they do theoretically (and, as I darkly believe, in everybody else's garden) there is not much point courting disaster every year.
Sweet peas are stronger when they have a good head start and reach two or three inches in height by mid-November. You don't want them lush and soft as winter approaches, but sturdy and "hard-grown." Well, twice now I have had them precisely right in November, and on both occasions they succumbed in February.
I have been forced, against all my inclinations, to sow the seed the first of March and plant them out when they get two or three pairs of leaves. This does fairly well.
Another surprise, we all know that sweet peas keel over when hot weather comes, which is the main reason we want them to get their head start in the previous fall. But in fact, with me, sweet peas have bloomed steadily through September, heat or no heat. And not just the "heat-resistant" kinds (which never did well in my two attempts at them) but the presumably delicate Spencer sorts.
I think you have to do things the way you think is right, then when that doesn't work, you adapt as well as you can.
I do not think June is the right time to plant mullein seeds, and I do not think late May is the time to plant Japanese iris seeds. The best plants I ever had from either, however, came from seeds planted at that unorthodox season. It does not hurt (especially when the right time has escaped you, due to the press of your other affairs) to experiment a little, and to keep on until you find something that works.
My ordinary garden irises have at last begun to send up those tiny offshoots beside the main fan of leaves. They should have done it six weeks ago, by my schedule. Their schedule apparently is different. I always feel much more confident about the spring bloom of new irises if the main fans are kept company by little side growths, even if only half an inch high.
And yet there is no reason to fidget over this, since in any case the worst storm of the entire year will occur just as the iris flowers open. Nature is plain and no-nonsense. If you suffer more from storm damage to your iris blooms than you get pleasure from seeing them flower, then stop growing them.
It's the way it is, so make up your mind whether the irises are worth the agony, and one way or another adapt yourself. All very reasonable, but in many cases (as for me it is with the irises) I do not like the ground rules; I want them in perfection, without storms in May. I know I will keep growing them, but I dread the damage of the weather, and while it is silly to complain about things as they are, try telling that to a man in pain.
The day is past, as you know, in which you got the right kind of wood to achieve a certain purpose in the garden. Now anything goes. I noticed the gun mounts of the bronze cannon at the National Geographic Society are elm wood. Others seemed to admire the bronze guns, but I had eyes only for all that elm that supported them. It brought back the days when for a trifling price you got boxes 20 by 20 by 12 inches made of weathered elm for waterlilies. They looked pretty bad when you got them, all weathered and the corners not exactly fitted, but when you filled them with earth and sank them in a lily pool, they lasted for years and years. Use one-inch-thick elm boards. If you happen to have them sitting around. They do better than oak. Bald cypress would do, but it has to be very old and weathered; otherwise, something such as perhaps the tannic acid of the wood, inhibits the growth of the watery beauties.
No sir, elm is what you want. I briefly hoped, when the elms all started dying, that we'd enter a lovely decade or two of elm boxes for underwater plants, but I never saw any. Massive elm blocks support the cannon. But then in front are some inch-thick boards, exactly right for boxes. Unfortunately they are nailed down with more nails than seems to me right.