WHEN IT SIZZLES
The last Casablanca lilies of the season.
The dog days of summer have no gentleness, no civility, no middle of the roadness. They fry plants, frizzle hair, fray tempers. For all that gardening is an attempt to tame nature and reorder the universe, the wise gardener knows better than to fight the heat. The thing to do, under the circumstances, is to get a copy of Pliny the Younger's letters, shut the door on the oppressive weather and think of the icy spring in that flows in the writer's farmlet, in his native Lake Como country.
There is civility galore in Pliny. There is gentleness, generosity and gatherings of friends who discuss literature the way most of us discuss the most important things in our lives. Pliny talks of law, harvest, wine, the giving of gifts and praise and he does so elegantly. All this, the gardener reminds herself, before central air. True, Roman's of his time had recourse to the frigidarium in their baths, but outside, in summer, the world was a tepidarium that could grow hot as blazes.
Did Pliny grow delphiniums, lilies, zinnias, cosmos, buddleia, careopterys--those good old workhorses of high summer? It is doubtful. His was a working farm meant to produce grain and grapes and some of these plants might not have yet reached Europe at the time. No matter, his was a green world, a good place to visit at any time of the year.