True blue, rare in flowers, is easily obtainable in bog sage

Jimmy Williams

Just a couple of adjectives will not suffice, but I am going to use them anyway. The Year of Our Lord 2020 was remarkable and catastrophic. We can all agree, unless you are more than 102 years old, that we’ve never seen another year like this. Way back in 1918 there occurred a pandemic of remarkable and catastrophic proportions, but here we are talking about this current year, 2020, that is teetering, as we speak, on the brink of leaving us for the annals of history. Not to wish my life away, understand, but good riddance. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the lives of thousands — in fact, nearly 1.8 million — of loved ones all over the earth, and left holes in people’s hearts that can never be filled. Now, listen, this is a garden column, not a treatise on death and dying, so let us rate the year just on how it rated as a gardening year. In a word, unlike other factors that made up the year, it was just about as good as it gets. 

Yes, we live in a climate that is uncomfortable, to say the least, but 2020 never dealt us any temperature below zero nor any above 100, something quite out of the ordinary for our neck of the woods. Most days were comfortable, particularly in spring and fall, for outside work, sowing or growing. 

Then, too, the summer and fall that sometimes is prone to drought … well, the drought, at least of much consequence, never materialized. Our irrigation system was turned on rarely. 

So, then, how do we (I) rate the closing year? Well, I will follow a  particular chemistry teacher I once had who refused to give anybody an A. A-minus was the best you could get. His axiom was that nobody is perfect, and on that score he was right. And, unless Mom Nature throws us a curve on our one remaining day of this year, we will wind it up tomorrow as that A-minus right the way throughout. 

Weather controls much of the success, or lack thereof, of any gardener’s efforts. The droughts of years past have torn our gardens to shreds. Some years since the turn of the century have dealt such damage as to almost destroy a year’s effort, or more. 

The only thing more serious than them was, on our place, the tornado of 2019 that ripped out century-old oaks and poplars and much of the understory of dogwoods, azaleas and redbuds underneath. You’ve heard enough of it, so we won’t go there now. 

So, then, rainfall over the year was more or less “normal.” Average, rather, there is no such thing as normal weather. 

The upshot of all this was that the losses of woody plants on our place was less than in any recent years, and thus more effort was put into planting even more stuff. My total of new woody plants put into the ground this year will come to 60-something. If that sounds like a lot, let me say my average in the past 10 years has been about 100. That means that there should be 1,000 more woody plants on our place than there were 10 years ago. 

But don’t forget the annual death factor, running at more than 50%. In other words, it would be a surprise if more than 500 of those plants were still here. 

Anyhow, as Frank Sinatra would (did) say: “It was a very good year.”


 From Poor Willie’s Almanack — Message to old Mother Nature: Do it again.


JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.

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