Letter from Birdland | Time to enjoy old favorites and garden surprises

Letter from Birdland | Time to enjoy old favorites and garden surprises

We are looking for rain in Birdland, but the forecast keeps getting pushed ahead like the clouds crossing the prairie that don't have time to stop. First, the rain was supposed to come Friday, then today, and now they're saying Tuesday.

We try to keep most of the yard in native plants, which don't need extra water, but the tomatoes will want a drink tonight. The corn is tasseling, and grandma would say that this is where the rain counts. Growing green cornstalks is fine, but if we want a crop, the tassels need moisture for the pollen to do its magic.

Despite the drought, new blooms are coming. The calendula, marigold and dill I dug from Megan's flower farm are all doing well in my spiral rock garden. Calendula has bloomed and grows taller, sending up another few blossoms. Marigold has bushed out some and has firm buds on top. The Asian basil I bought in the Chicago grocery is coming up strong, but I never found anything that looks like any of the cabbages I planted, neither napa nor bok choy.

Something has come up with a straight, tall stem, heart-shaped leaves and small white flowers on top. I'm thinking it might be the peppers, but it looks more like buckwheat, which could have hitchhiked from Megan's garden, since she uses it for a cover crop, but why would it grow in a row? We'll see what develops.

I love garden surprises like the allium that came up in the circle of tame day lilies Michael is trying to get started. A few seasons ago, my husband discovered that the wild day lilies that have been spreading in our yard for the past 30 years are considered invasive. He dug them all up and planted some tame ones. Now the bed has some friendly blossoms, like white top and spiderwort, growing among the new day lilies that are just beginning to bloom.

Next to a large bush of the tiny asters of white top came a flower I have never seen before. At first, I thought it was a giant red clover, with flowers of the deepest purple, but on closer look, I discovered it is an allium. I think it is the wild onion that grows abundantly in our yard, invisible in the grass.

We find it mostly by smell. Since it gets mowed before it ever flowers, we have never had the chance to see the blossoms, but here, in the newly open space where the day lilies were, it blooms.

The nights are beginning to come just a little earlier each day, and the midsummer song is changing. Just yesterday evening, I noticed the cicadas buzzing, and here on my morning walk I find a cicada shell clinging to the stem of Queen Anne's lace. Below it in the grass is the cicada itself, who has seen me and is burrowing deeper into the blades. I snap a picture, but then leave it alone, not wanting to bother it further.

Michael's been mowing around a circle of thistle. The butterflies like the flowers, and the goldfinches like the seeds. His thistle patch is about the size of a small car, and the plants are taller than he is, with pincushion-shaped buds at the top, ready to open to purple.

But when we walk around the back of the patch, we see that someone has been eating them. I suspect deer come out from Aunt Kate's little woods to munch on them at night. The tall thistles on this side of the circle shield the culprits from our view, so I can't really be sure they are deer. It might be Eeyore, who also loves thistles.

Evening is coming and the sky darkens. Thunderclouds are rolling in. Could the rain be coming despite the forecast? Michael and I take advantage of the sudden coolness to plant some shade-loving ground cover back in our little spinney that sprang up where the granary used to be. Raindrops begin to blot the parched earth. And we welcome the rain.

Drink in beauty; ripple in peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in all the cycles of the seasons. You can follow Birdland on Instagram (@BirdlandLetters) and Twitter (@BirdlandLetters). Mary can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com or via snail mail care of this newspaper.

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