Rain provides the perfect homecoming

Phlox flowers are covered in raindrops after a good summer rain. Photos by Doug Oster Tribune Review

Phlox flowers are covered in raindrops after a good summer rain. Photos by Doug Oster Tribune Review

At 5:30 in the morning, I woke to a pounding headache from jet lag and the sound of thunder in the distance. The night before, I had flown in from Paris, where I guided a group through a weeklong tour of the beautiful gardens in and around the city.

This spiderweb in the vegetable garden is covered in raindrops after the first good rain in quite a while.

This spiderweb in the vegetable garden is covered in raindrops after the first good rain in quite a while.

It was great to be home, and after a soft kiss from my wife, I doled out the obligatory gifts to the family — fancy chocolates, a pretty scarf adorned with 100 Eiffel Towers and a black, long-sleeved shirt covered in bling for my daughter. Two out of three were bought at the airport 10 hours earlier.

Then, it was time to get reacquainted with the garden. I missed it almost as much as my family. It’s the place to sit quietly and watch nature’s amazing show. Like most gardeners, it’s a respite from our busy lives. No phones or devices, just my camera at the ready in case the garden has a gift to give that day.

I was greeted first by two very sad-looking hydrangeas. They were finishing up blooming when I left, but now the flowers hung their heads, looking at the ground, surrounded by tired, wilting foliage. If they could talk, they would meekly whisper, “water, water,” as if they were lost in the desert, slowly crawling toward an oasis.

Hosta leaves drooped, many turning deep yellow and then brown. Containers shouted from the edges of the garden for help. The vines in the vegetable garden were barely hanging on, but, ironically, the tomatoes stood tall, filled with fruit, laughing off a week without water. Maybe these will taste like “real” tomatoes, not the watery early-season versions.

As the light faded, I closed the garden gate knowing I’d be getting up early to make all the plants happy again, but I wasn’t looking forward to it. There’s nothing worse than battling with that heavy, long, dirty hose. When pulled out to its full length, it never fails to get caught on a rock, tip over my favorite container or simply kink two or three times after being unkinked four times.

The hose turns therapeutic time in the garden into a slow burn, usually culminating with me cursing under my breath with teeth clenched and fists balled tight. Pulling it back to the house hand over hand is like pulling a 300-pound mountain climber to safety. After being neatly coiled outside of the sun porch, the hose covered my hands and clothes with everything it was dragged through on the way back from the garden.

That night, I passed out around 9 p.m., briefly waking up at 11:30, and was so disoriented I could not find my way out of a bedroom I’ve slept in for 17 years, until I turned the light on to get my bearings.

As morning broke, I laid there in the dark, the thunder got louder and louder, and then gentle rain began to fall. It wasn’t long until the clouds unleashed with a deafening downpour, which was music to my ears. What followed was even better, slow, steady rain for a couple more hours. I drifted in and out of sleep and, between weird dreams, the sweet sound of raindrops kept me company, along with two dogs who laid tightly against my legs, glad to be together again.

All gardeners think differently about rain this time of the year. When “normal” people lament cloudy days and wet weather, we rejoice.

Even though I did get up early, I took comfort in the fact I didn’t have to wrestle with that hose. There’s simply nothing better for the garden — or gardener — than a good summer rain.

The hydrangeas had perked up, hanging baskets filled with caladiums held on to the raindrops, a bumblebee was (literally) dripping wet under a Mexican sunflower blossom and old-fashioned, purple phlox flowers were dripping wet.

It was the perfect homecoming.

Doug Oster is the Home and Garden Editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at doster@tribweb.com.

After the first good rain in a week or so, this bumblebee is soaked in the morning with water dripping off its thorax.

After the first good rain in a week or so, this bumblebee is soaked in the morning with water dripping off its thorax.

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