Famed poet James Russell Lowell allowed that no days are as near perfect as those of June.
“What is so rare as a day in June?” he penned in the 19th century. There is, however, a caveat meticulously hidden in that poem, in that he actually did not say June days are always perfect, by any means, but if any days are perfect, they occur in June.
For the claim to bear full fruit, it must be noted that Lowell made his observation from the generally comfortable climate of Connecticut, where he joined with other pallid poets to form a group quaintly named the “Fireside Poets” or School Room or Household Poets, because of their New England style of writing that was said to rival the best British efforts.
I doubt his feet ever touched any part of the Tennessee Valley in June. For your information, the hottest temperature ever recorded in Paris, Tenn., was 110 degrees in June of 1951. That is, if I remember correctly which is an indistinct probability. I was there and we did not hesitate to play cowboys and Indians in full dress, that is, blue jeans and flannel shirts. That, following a record low for all time, Feb. 2, the same year, at 21.5 degrees below zero. And no, we did not play cowboys and Indians that day. We hunkered down over a Warm Morning stove fed by coal and ate oatmeal, which my mother demanded.
The year is nearly half over, and what have I (and you) accomplished? On my end of that is a formative planting year, mostly replacing deads of the late winter, which as we have already said last week, was an anomaly to the extreme, no pun intended. My woody replacements passed 40 or so weeks ago, following removal of their predecessors. That is no big problem with young of the year, which most of them were. They are easily ejected with just one hand. But no, that didn’t satisfy enough. Even at my stage of gardening at the same place for 46 years, I determined I had to remove some of my most troublesome plants in order to reduce maintenance. Yes, I know, most gardens of quality are high maintenance.
Color equates, for the most part, herbaceous things, which are, on average, far more demanding, but with the years the equation must be modified so as to relieve aching bones and sore muscles.
For instance, not even counting the stinking sycamore that has haunted me for almost all the mentioned 46 years, there are other woody plants that have grown to be monsters, wolves in sheep’s clothing, as the years wore on. At our northwest corner there is a planting of Manhattan euonymus that has served yeoman duty as a screening from the street. It, however, turned miraculously into deer candy after a few years, and the burgeoning population of horned rats have feasted for years on their leaves and even stems. And not a single deer got run over getting to the smorgasbord.
I proceeded to dig out three of them a few weeks ago, and it turned into a horror of a nightmare. The roots, some as big as your leg, had delved far and wide into hard red clay. It took a razor shovel and a double-bit axe to wrench them out. The ordeal ran into days and left me a pitiful, moaning sweated-out example of humanity.
There are numerous other examples I could cite, but I have run out of room. Check back in a few weeks if I am still alive.
What is so rare as a 100-degree day in June?
JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.