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Summer is here

Spring flowers, autumn moon;
   summer breezes, winter snow:
With mind uncluttered,
   this is the finest season.

      –Wumen Huikai

 

Summer is, in some respects, the most interesting season. Its entrance is “the end of the beginning”—a turning where, just as the sun rests in its ascent and prepares to depart the zenith, the skyward reach of stem and bloom turns and energies shift from extension to consolidation. Petals drop in favor of ripening seed; as leaves thicken and send rich syrups back along phloemy pathways, greenwood hardens off and trunks gain in girth and vines grow like—well, vines.

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Schizophragma hydrangeoides

This is a good time to loosen belts in advance of the zucchini flood, and plant tags before they embed in swelling sapwood.

We rejoice in perennials, which in the main show for a few days or weeks at most: the last azaleas

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and kalmias

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and, where chance and habitat permit, spectacular and sometimes deliciously fragrant native rhododendron and magnolia

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R. viscosum?

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M. virginiana, sweetbay

and other-worldly spiderwort:

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Biennials and annuals, meanwhile, show themselves for a much longer season; with one life to live, they live it in full, bringing pleasure to us and sustenance to all kinds of small winged creatures

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Herbs of augury and Derby

 

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as well as others that find among the foragers their own preferred nourishment:

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This is a good time to extirpate unwanted invasives, when they are easiest to identify, and well before they set seed. It is likewise an opportunity to transform high-maintenance turf- or crabgrass lawn into the eco-haven of a wildflower meadow, mowing or string-trimming what isn’t wanted and leaving patches of diverse desirable species to naturalize into an effortless quilt of many and changing colors.

Some trees and shrubs show promise of fruit to come, like exotic beach rose

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and domestic persimmon,

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our own implausibly native cactus

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and, likewise delicious to ourselves and other creatures, staghorn sumac:

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 Seeds a-ripening depend from Eastern redbud

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bubble up from viburnum

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or condense in the haze of a smoke-tree:

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 Neither flesh nor fowl nor good red herring, slime molds of several kinds creep forth, when food runs thin or the weather just right, pulling  a dispersed society into a slow-seething mass

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that in part will differentiate again into spores, sent on the wind to new homes of humus and duff.

Just-weaned mammals may be cautious and timid

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Marmot Sinatra

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accepting but watchful

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or (at least when young) insouciant and bold

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and, in the main, ever-inquisitive:

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 The solstice brings the last turtle nestings, most of which end badly for the eggs but bounteously for predators of all sizes,

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and a rainbow of snake species slithering forth in search of crickets and the like:

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 Their winged cousins keep busier with regeneration; the eggs of March and April

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April 27th

 

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sometimes laid in awkward places

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have hatched

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grown

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and fledged;

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where food and mood align, second (or, rarely, third) nestings may help give voice to the heavens:

June 20th

June 20th

 

Nor are the skies themselves still: with maximum insolation come the greatest differentials of temperature and humidity, strong winds and fast-changing weather. Though the passing torrent may be sometimes a bit extreme, the result, at the end of the day, is very often the most elegant of transient illuminations:

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Old pine, young sycamores

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Gold above; perhaps below?

 

And even the rocks are growing