This is, the weather people tell us, the last truly summery day we can expect this year, so I have been busy in the yard -- pruning, mowing the lawn, attending to the somewhat melancholy task of emptying out pots of spent tomatoes. (More on that in a minute.) The wood frogs (rana sylvatica)are particularly abundant outside this afternoon, and I was able to catch one, just for a moment, just long enough to (more or less) take its picture -- as you can see, it wasn't too happy sitting on my hand, and I was able to get a shot of it only about a nanosecond before it sprang off again. Considering the dearth of frogs and toads in many areas -- a symptom of water pollution and, it's thought, an overabundance of ultraviolet light, thanks to what we're doing to our atmosphere -- and considering the strange birth defects the frogs we do have left seem to be manifesting, also as a result of the various environmental insults being inflicted upon them, finding a healthy frog with two eyes and four legs these days is good news. Live long and prosper, li'l buddy.
Meanwhile...as the sunlight dwindles and the gardening season winds down here in the Upper Midwest, I give you a summary of my garden hits and misses:
Best Tomato: A tie between Green Zebra and Garden Peach.
Most Prolific Tomato: Italian Climbing. (These, by the way, for some reason, improved in taste as the summer went on; they got sweeter and more flavorful. I have no idea why this would be.) Runner-up: Yellow Pear. Interestingly, the Red Pear didn't produce nearly as much fruit.
Greatest Disappointment: My two purple tomato varieties, the Black Krim and Purple Cherokee, which were not only rather watery and tasteless, but were also subject to spoiling on the vine just at the point of ripeness. Runner-up: Matt's Wild Cherry, which was initially loaded with tasty little fruit, but pooped out in mid-August. Many years ago I tried currant tomatoes, the unimproved species tomato that's a parent of Matt's Wild Cherry, and I have to say I think I'd rather grow them again -- they yield and yield and yield right until frost.
Best Flowers: My miniature red flowering maple. It has flowered nonstop since I got it, and looked really nice in its pot with red wax begonias and chartreuse coleus. Runner-up: My lavender fuschia, which gets extra credit points for the amazing color, but had a rough time getting going this summer.
Most Disappointing Flowers: My purple-and-orange flower bed under the kitchen window. Early summer heat killed off my Jolly Joker violas, which were supposed to be the unifying flower in the bed, and I also had a hard time keeping the dark purple petunias and salvia happy. On the other hand, I had quite a beautiful lavender petunia, almost iridescent, and some purply-cerise strawflowers and annual verbena that thrived in all kinds of weather...and of course the workhorse marigolds were fine. Oh, well.
Not growing again: Pineapple sage. It smells nice when touched, but this year I couldn't get it to flower...and it's very weedy looking and invasive in a small herbal planting. And despite some diligent Googling, I couldn't find any good recipes for it.
So there you have it -- another garden season passes in Outer Podunk.
Say hello to my squirmy little friend.