In the Garden: June…Rains?

Summer, here, tends to be quite predictable. It is dry. Much of the time, it’s overcast and foggy, and sometimes muggy, but there’s not actually that much water getting its way to plants, so everything dries out and turns rather miserable. That changed this year, when the forecast at the end of the month said there would be rain, and I frowned in perplexity, not believing it even as we got closer and closer to the start of the alleged ‘rain event.’ I didn’t really put any credence to the threat of rain until the evening when I stepped out onto the porch and felt that warm breeze from the south that presages rainfall, and then we proceeded to get over an inch over several days.

Which is fantastic news. I actually love rain, but more than that, we’ve had a very dry year, and could use any rain we could get. This rain came without the ominous threat of lightning, which could have turned into vicious forest fires. It was just rain, steady, wet, and drizzly, and it was delightful, and the garden basked in it. I could see things getting ready to put out new growth the second the sun peeped out.

June also marked an important and seemingly unrelated event: massive changes at Flickr.

I’ve been a Flickr user since 2006, with a pro account to boot. But when I logged in to Flickr on 2 June, I was utterly dismayed. The easily-navigated, clean, relatively fast-loading site had been replaced by a bloated, inaccessible nightmare. The wall to wall image style might be what’s ‘trendy,’ but it doesn’t actually look good for displaying and navigating photographs, and it’s a nightmare for slow connections. The bloated nature of the underlying code (combined with the noxious decision to implement endless scrolling) freezes up all but the fastest computers. Everything about the new changes is utterly loathsome and the Flickr staff are showing no interest in responding to feedback from users who are angry about the changes to a once truly great photo uploading and sharing service.

So I’ve started using Instagram almost exclusively for my images, since Flickr obviously doesn’t want my paid business, and while Instagram has its flaws as a service, one thing it has going for it is a clean, minimalist navigation style that’s accessible, easy to work with, and, critically, great for displaying photos. Which is why you’re going to see some changes in my garden photography; rather than using my images hosted on Flickr, I’ll be experimenting with my Instagram images.

Flickr’s decision reminds me that at any time, sites we rely on and love could be abruptly rendered totally unusable by design changes, and their administrators couldn’t care less about their actual users. So, goodbye, Flickr. We had a good run, didn’t we?

In happier news, let’s talk about things that bloomed in June, because that’s what you’re really here for. Like my Freesia, which actually really took off while I was at WisCon in May, but at least they saved a few stalks for me. Freesia, for those who haven’t been around it, has this incredibly intoxicating smell that’s just delicious.

A white freesia in bloom.

These Asiatic lilies are looking splendid and growing like gangbusters.

Deep red Asiatic lilies in full bloom

I used to know the name of this plant, which was a gift from my landlady. It took a year to really get going, but once it decided to get its bloom on, it did not mess around. Next year, I’ll stake the stalks so they don’t bend over under the weight of the huge blooms.

Purple bell-shaped flowers pulling a stem down with their weight.

This is the first year I’ve been able to get sweet peas to actually get their thing together and grow, so I’m inordinately pleased. Because I love sweet peas; like Freesia, they have a great scent, and there’s something very cheerful about them. Even if they are toxic.

Dark red and pink sweet peas climbing up a chickenwire fence.

Pale pink sweet peas in a photo that captures buds, full blooms, and fading flowers.

Gardening, for me, is often haphazard. I often joke that my landlords can tell when I’m on deadline because my beds are weeded (like many writers, I’m notorious for deflecting work responsibilities into unrelated tasks), and sometimes I’m filled with bursts of energy that result in most things looking neat and trimmed and great, followed by two months of ignoring the garden altogether except for dragging myself out to water. But even though I criminally neglect it sometimes, I really do love my garden. I love stepping outside and seeing plants. I love smelling things in bloom. I love digging my hands around in the earth. And I love the thought of rooting myself to the ground here, of knowing that I will be here long enough to see these plants grow up into a delightful and complex tangle of maturity.