Spring in my garden is wonderful. New things bloom, everything is such a welcome relief from the colorless greys and browns and and white of winter. Seeing color appear – daffodils, bluebells, tulips – is exciting as new romance. Then the days get hot again, and I’d greatly prefer to leave the garden alone to do its own thing. I do not enjoy getting sweaty and mosquito-bitten and having dirt in my shoes. I would much rather sit in an air-conditioned house and drink tea (iced, now) and knit.

But the house isn’t air-conditioned, and nobody has made iced tea, and every time I walk to the mailbox or pull in the driveway I see the weeds, and it gets so I can’t tell what’s supposed to be growing and what isn’t.

The weeds, actually, grow more quickly and vigorously than the perennials. They often bloom earlier and more often as well. Also, there are a number of perennials which we planted in one area of the garden, which now have taken it upon themselves to self-sow everywhere. I’m looking at you, aster, and you too, milkweed and hollyhock. Joe Pye Weed, you’re elbowing your way right to the front of that line as well. I used to have clustered bellflowers, I swear it. Now it’s asters and milkweed everywhere. The wild geraniums are barely holding their own.

The summer garden is a different creature than the spring garden. Nothing blooms as vigorously in summer. There are long stretches of plain green in between bursts of color and fruit. The early bloomers, so eagerly anticipated, die back. My beloved daffodils and tulips and bluebells leave yellowed, rotting carcasses behind. Cornflowers and Iris bloom and wither, so there is death and wilt and decay intermingled with the bloom and color. This goes on all season now, until finally everything will die back in winter.

Caring for the summer garden is hot, sticky, uncomfortable work. Physical work of pulling out weeds; decision work as to what stays and what gets pulled or moved. Do I let the asters take over? If I leave them this year, will I have anything besides asters next year? How much do I hate the creeping charlie groundcover?

and what are these little things? Did we plant them? Are they weeds? Pull, or let them grow? Decide now, or wait and see?

Always, there are surprises. This pot held a tomato plant last year. This year, it is inexplicably bursting with black-eyed susans. Next to it, springing up out of the weedy dirt beside the steps: Cilantro.

And this rose almost got pulled and trashed two years ago. Because it was dead.

Summer work is not so joyful, nor enticing. It is (perhaps I’ve mentioned) hot and sticky and itchy and uncomfortable and best followed by rest and a shower.
But if you’ll pardon me a moment, I’m going to go clip some roses for my kitchen window, and in a little while some of that cilantro is going in a salad to share with friends.