Several green Brandywine tomatoes hang like balls on a Christmas tree. Numerous baby cucumbers hide among the foliage while squash produce proliferous yellow bell flowers but fail to produce fruit. Or, rather, refuse to produce fruit. Another hot spell should speed things along but, instead, dry up once charming lavender-blue petunias in their hanging baskets. Time to perform a Chelsea chop and hope they revive?
I’ve begun to weary of worrying about whether my few vegetables actually will set fruit after abundant blooms. Brandywine tomatoes are a sure bet, right now, but will those baby cucumbers grow bigger? Will the one green bell pepper ripen? Will all those yellow flowers make yellow squash? Maybe I’d best stick to the herbs — they never fail.
Instead, on these hot days, I’d rather sit under my new oversized sunhat and watch the birds perform a song and dance show, and recall the old Broadway song, “It’s gonna be another hot day.” Black-throated sage sparrows frolic in the birdbath before Mister Cock Robin tries to monopolize it, but the sparrows refuse to leave him alone at first, then swoop across the lawn to flutter around the hanging feeder and scatter seed. A lone California ring-neck dove struts up to the feeding ground underneath and eyes me, sitting on the courtyard — I think he’s learned to trust me! — then pecks among spilt seed.
I remember Mama Nedley in her later years as she whiled away summer hours on her corner screened porch. She gazed out over Mother’s gardens and the oak trees beyond. How peaceful she seemed as she rested on her highbacked oak settle, grey paint beginning to crackle. Morning glories climbed up the east side while fern vines spread over the south side screen. I called it “Christmas tree” fern, this asparagus plumosa fern; each delicate frond was shaped like a spruce tree ironed flat.
Beside her stood the old grey oak plant stand holding a large clay pot of her prized Maidenhair fern (adiantumcapillus-veneris), billowing and overflowing the edges like the one pictured below. My own young Maidenhair, bought this past spring, has begun to trail a little like hers.
In the corner hung a variegated spider plant (adiantum capillus-veneris), also known as airplane plant, St. Bernard’s lily, or spider ivy. Sometimes I found a Daddy-Long-Legs spider hiding among the leaves. The actual spider body is hardly bigger than a peanut, but its eight bent legs can reach almost two inches. Completely harmless to humans, Daddy-Long-Legs do not produce venom, nor do they even have fangs. I’m still as fascinated by these “bugs” as I was as a child, but none seem to exist outside the South.
Along a low shelf below the screen grew a row of potted caladiums with a green and white leaf coloring similar to the spider plant. Incidentally, over 1,000 named cultivars of Caladium bicolor exist, from the original South American plant, and come in shades of pink and green as well as the white and green shown here. I don’t recall any of those on Mama Nedley’s porch, however.
Overhead the sun is shining
Not a cloud across the sky
Not a sign on the horizon
And it’s gonna be another hot day
Underneath, the earth is burning
Crops is bad and land is dry
Still the sun
Keeps on returnin?
And it’s gonna be another hot day
~ from the Broadway musical, 110 in the Shade