Gardening GlimpsesBy MRS. HERMAN MCKENZIE,
Waking up early has its own routine. Being hungry, since I don’t eat anything after the supper dessert, makes me cherish Vicki’s set pattern of two half-cups of hot coffee, ready when I get to my armchair in the living room, with a dish of bananas ready, once I’ve finished my coffee.
Vicki, who knows how to handle the pair of remote controls needed to program the morning’s television, has the programming set from 5 to 7 a.m. on the Weather Channel, the real weather. So that is a ready accompaniment to my breakfast.
Then, once I’ve finished whatever I’m eating now, inevitably I begin to wonder if anybody on my need-to-call-this-morning list is likely to be awake. And inevitably the first name on that list is my longtime daffodil growing friend in Gettysburg, PA, Richard Ezell.
One unique quality of the Ezells, Richard and Rebecca, is that they do not have a television set. They said they never watched it, so why give it space. They do have a radio, which gives them access in the kitchen in the busy morning hours for a fragment of local weather.
So Richard is ideal to talk to, as he is always up and cooking something good for breakfast, and usually at the beck and call of the various animals which demand attention, and indeed need to be walked early. I can tell him what I have learned about the weather in their northeastern location, and he tells me what it is really like exactly where they are.
He’s always curious about our weather, also, as he grew up in the Pine Bluff, Arkansas area, and has visited us at least five or six times.
And he’s been surprised to discover that, unlike every other Southern state, we haven’t had the rainy downpours on a steady basis, all day. The Gulf Coast gets probably a heavy hour’s rain every afternoon, and that’s it.
So he has been an ideal authority for a serious question I am searching for the answer to: is this unusually heavy and persistent rainfall all over the United States, now going into its second year, going to prove things different about growing daffodils?
He has a purely academic interest, but has on his regular line of communication a pair of friends, Mitch and Kate Carney, who live in the general Baltimore area, have a vested interest in the question, as they grow daffodils for sale, really fine rare ones, have been in a much wetter area, and never have their television off - it’s either on the Weather Channel or one of the cooking channels. But they are up and going to work very early, so their phone time is late afternoon, when I am not consistently in a thinking mood.
All of this explanation of lifestyles is background for a serious question I’ve been wanting to ask Richard: Is our seeming change in precipitation going to cause a difference in what we expect of our daffodils and how we look at our seasons?
Here, almost to the Gulf Coast, or at least in 7b, we have long believed that we could rely on this bulb schedule: we can plant in late October or early November and fully expect the winter rains to come, and keep the ground cool until the earliest daffodils bloom in February; we could depend on cold weather through our local show season, ending about April l, then we’d have moderate May weather and a dry June and July, to dig bulbs and hang up to dry, with few losses, through August and September.
Richard’s schedule is much the same, backing up a couple of weeks for cool weather, bringing the cool weather for planting time back to December. He’s probably factoring in a longer growth period, as he’s given to ordering new bulbs, some from overseas, and also counts on going to competitive shows on a national level into mid-May.
I asked him, tentatively, if he expected any difference in bulbs subjected to a different schedule. And he, just as tentatively, has said, “I don’t know. I don’t think so. But maybe…”
And when I talk to him, the next early-morning session, with the background, my visual observation of the pouring rain continuing in his area, and mostly in mine, though not altogether (as you may have noticed, if you too watch the weather channel, from Meridian over to the Florida coast, the jet stream dumps excessive moisture everywhere, and news articles appear in great depth about the vastly increasing amounts of rainfall all around the world.
…..anyhow, I am coming to the conclusion and I imagine he will, also, that serious gardeners need to be keeping our own records, which is going to take several years of documenting rainfall, at least on a weekly basis, and planting records, and what bulbs survive and thrive in, say, the last three years of the second decade of the 20th century.
And some of us, at least, ought to be willing, by perhaps 2020, to write specifically about the results of what we’ve found to be true. Is the rainfall pattern truly changing the best way to grow daffodils?