Thursday, July 16, 2009

Water Damage

Our hollyhocks are dead. They are not pining. They have passed on. Ceased to be. Expired. Gone to meet their maker. This afternoon we ripped them out of the earth and consigned them to the big green bin from whence they will somehow find their way into the great waste disposal system in the sky -- or perhaps a local landfill.

I think that they drowned. But I can't prove it except circumstantially.

(1) They are from the desert southwest -- specifically Santa Fe, New Mexico where Mars harvested the seeds from a plant belonging to our daughter-in-law Monica, and another on the land of mutual friends J & J. As far as we know the forebears of these seeds have never resided anywhere other than dry, desolate, waterless, barren areas -- where they flourished.

(2) We have had an abnormally-wet spring and early summer in New England -- highlighted by our town's first ever tornado bookended between pretty much continuous days of heavy rain. Yesterday was the first time in over three weeks when I have been able to walk in my yard and not have standing water slosh up against my ankles and/or mud puddles suck my Muck Boots into the earth. Since early May I have been similarly shut out of my property at least five times. If my yard were a golf course it would have lost its designation as "casual water".

We planted our annuals the weekend after Memorial Day, and yesterday (July 13) was the first time that I had to hand-water any of them

My efforts to research our actual rainfall totals, in inches, have proven fruitless so take my word for it -- it has rained really, really hard, very, very often.

(3) They look like they have been drowned. Just examine Mars' digital evidence -- Exhibits A, B, and C. You can see, step-by-step, the results of that colorless, transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid insinuating itself into these helpless plants -- first diluting, then ultimately completely supplanting their vital fluids with a toxic mixture of hydrogen, oxygen and other "beneficial" vitamins and minerals.

(Exhibit A)

(Exhibit B)

(Exhibit C)

Never having experienced it, the hollyhocks just never knew what hit them.

(4) Or they could have died from second-hand water. Hollyhock websites list the plants hydration requirements as "normal watering". In New Mexico they received their modest H2O allotment from whatever meager desert rain happened. Here I would have watered them by hand, using a gently flowing hose placed at the base of the plant.

However we never really got to do that -- even once. Instead, because of the incessant precipitation, they received an almost daily head-and-shoulder pulsating shower of down-pouring rain -- similar to, and worse than, the following scenario.

The spray from lawn sprinklers continually wetting the foliage can cause rust disease to develop on the leaves. For this reason, overhead watering isn't recommended.

Rust is the most common disease affecting the hollyhock. All green parts of the plant are susceptible to infection. Death rarely occurs though severe infection causes yellowing and premature defoliation of the leaves. If early signs of the characteristic rust-colored pustules go unnoticed, the plant will soon be entirely infected; unless properly controlled, the fungal disease will survive year to year.

Apparently at the first sign of rust we could have removed the effected leaves -- by hand so as not to spread the disease on the blades of our cutting tool -- and trashed them. However, with the continuous rains, that would have resulted in a daily denuding exercise the end result of which would have been one dead leaf on top of a totally naked hollyhock stalk.

So we ended up deep-sixing them.

They could spontaneously reappear next year, or the year after -- they are considered a biennial/short term perennial. But I am pretty sure we have removed their entire infrastructure from our soil. It is unlikely that any seeds dropped during the plant's brief flurry of life. Instead we will return to the same southwest sources for another handful of reproductive kernels.

Then we will pray for drought.

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