Tale of Woe

It looks pretty good from this angle, but when you get closer, you see how bad it is.

What’s there to say? Today’s temperature so far is 109F (42.7C.) No rain in my garden since June, and with few exceptions, the temperature has been over 100F. This week has been anywhere from 107F to 114F. That’s not a typo. According to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, it is the second driest year since 1936. The real estate section of the newspaper showed a photo of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl with the headline, “It could be worse.”

Roses dried from the heat.

Maybe. If this continues much longer, it will be worse. I’ve gardened extensively since I was nineteen, and this is the worst year I’ve ever seen.

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (hummingbird shrub), a very drought tolerant shrub, is at its limits.

I wait until late at night and water all the containers. If I forget, I get up very early and water them. I soak the soil around the roots and try not to get much water on the leaves. Water droplets on leaves become a magnifying glass for this kind of heat.

Phlox paniculata 'Mt. Fuji' is about to die. I can't save everything.

I make a trip up to the barn and check on the chickens. They have continuous water, but I always fear for them. I give them fresh food with moisture like extra vegetable and fruit scraps too. We have water everywhere for the dogs. No worry of mosquitoes now because the water doesn’t last long. One tub is big enough for the Labradors to get in and stand. We also have the spring-fed pond for them to swim.

The section in shade looks a lot better because it can get away from the horrible sun.

I am fortunate because I live in the countryside. I have a good, deep well and don’t pay for water. I am unfortunate because I live in the country, and there have been fires all around us. We rely on volunteer fire departments out here, courageous men and women who are willing to spend all their time fighting brush fires. My part of Oklahoma had two years of good rain before this so we have a lot of dry vegetation. One of the reasons I keep my area watered is to make it more resistant to fire.

While out taking pictures, my nostrils were filled with acrid smoke. There is a fire about five miles away. Remember the tornadoes earlier this spring? I fear fire much more than tornadoes. You can get in the safe room and escape the tornado, but fire sweeps the world clean.

'Ogon' Spirea with burnt foliage

If I lived in town, the sheer expense of watering would be cost prohibitive. When I go to Oklahoma City, I drive past brown lawns where people have already given up.

I understand why.

Dwarf zebra grass with lots of brown

I now feel bad for leaving my daughter to water all of this while I was out of town because I am finding it exhausting. Writing a story on pests and diseases, I went out this morning to take photos. I also watered the plants. I was probably outdoors twenty minutes. In that time, I already had a splitting headache. I was writing, and Diva came and touched my head. She said it felt hot to her touch.

I was surprised, but no wonder. The temperature was already 104F. We are hotter than much of Texas.

If it doesn’t rain soon and cool off temperatures, I’m not sure what I’ll do. I’ve already given up on the containers in front of the house. I may give up on the containers on the deck, but not yet. I’ve pulled most of them up against the house where they will get some shade during the day.

I have very few vegetables because of the heat, and I don’t feel like working out there. It never gets below 85F most nights. The soil is hard and cracked. Things are desperate for ranchers and farmers. I heard thunder, and some cloud cover came over my garden this afternoon. Even if I get no rain, the clouds are welcome.

This is my tale of woe. I hesitate telling you it because it is so maudlin, but it is what it is.



  1. VP says:

    Oh Dee – I came over to wish you well, only to find your tale of woe 🙁 I do hope you’re getting some relief from all that heat at last and are safe from the dreaded fires.

    It was so lovely to meet you in Seattle at last, you are every bit as charming as I thought you’d be. My only regret is that we didn’t have more time for a really good chat (or chinwag as we say over here).

    I would have come over sooner but we’ve had lots of family matters (a falling down ceiling at my mum’s and a broken hip for my mother in law) to deal with since returning to England.

    Take care and hugs to you.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi VP, you’ve been a busy girl this summer and in your part of the world. We have gotten a bit of rain lately. I’m hoping it all continues. I leave my garden bucket outside with tools to lure it in.

      It was simply lovely meeting you too. I wish we’d had more time to chat. Ah, but when I visit your fair country, we’ll have a long chinwag then.

  2. Rhonda says:

    After reading your “Tale of Woe”, my little troubles pale in comparison. Thanks.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Rhonda, almost everyone in the U.S. has a tale of woe this summer. It was a bad one. Yours doesn’t pale in comparison I promise.

  3. Laurrie says:

    Tonight the news led with the fact that July in OK was the hottest on record, ever, for any state in the US since recordkeeping began. I can’t even imagine, and seeing your garden disappear in all the heat and drought must be so discouraging. I feel for you.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      It’s been a rough year. Many people have gardens which are much worse than mine. Thank you Laurrie for your kind words.

  4. Lynde says:

    Hope you got some rain up there this evening…

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Lynde, very little. Just spitting.

  5. Ginny says:

    Whenever I think of complaining about the heat here – heat indexes in the 100s but actual temps in the upper 90s – I think of how hot and dry it has been for weeks on end in other states and I hold my tongue. I hope the heat will come to an end and the rains will come.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      It’s okay Ginny. I think everyone is having a difficult gardening season of some kind. Yes, the rains will come again. We must hold out and hope.

  6. Jennie Brooks says:

    I’m sorry to hear your discouragement. If I had as many plants to lose as you do, I’d feel the same way. Not to mention the fires! Hang in there and stay safe.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Jennie, thanks. It is nothing but discouragement gardenwise. Luckily, my garden isn’t my life. 🙂

  7. debsgarden says:

    My heart aches for you. We have endured a 3 month drought before, but I don’t think we had real temps as high as yours, though the heat index was up there. We lost a lot of plants, including some big trees to that drought. I hope the rains will soon return to you. Gardening teaches us to persevere; a better tomorrow will come.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Yes, it’s the temps with the drought which are making all of us in Oklahoma very cranky.

  8. Not maudlin, just the truth. I’m trying to teach my mind to see the resting thru summer drought garden, as like a winter garden frosted. When your weather turns, cooler, and the rains come, you can cut back. Your sage will sprout again from the roots won’t it? And our roses battle thru summer, that’s why I always pick as much as I can.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      EE, I love that idea. Many things will be okay once summer is over. I worry more about the young trees I’ve planted.

  9. Layanee says:

    I hope you have some relief from the heat soon. Come visit. It is warm but much cooler than OK.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Me too dear. I wish I could. When the children are grown. 🙂

  10. Rose says:

    Oh Dee, I do feel for you. I have been complaining about the heat and lack of rain, but it is nothing here compared to what you are going through. Whenever I watch the national weather lately, Oklahoma always seems to have the highest temperatures. The threat of fire especially sounds frightening. I pray that you will get some relief soon.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Rose, me too. I didn’t know it at the time, but there were three fires throughout the state. Thirteen homes were lost to fire. It was very, very sad. We need a long break in the weather.

  11. Kim Smith says:

    …We hit 114 at least once this past week, breaking records left and right. An overnight shower gave us 1/3 of an inch of rain this weekend, which provides relief for maybe a day; now the soil is bone dry again. I’m part of the founding group of gardeners for my little town’s first community garden, and our plots there are a sad sight.

    I just try to remember that a few short years ago, we had a gloriously mild summer, with just a handful of these hot days… and have faith that we’ll cycle back to something much easier to handle next year. It is interesting how downright pleasant 90 degrees feels in the mornings after living so much in 110+.

    We went down to the White River last night, just below Table Rock dam, and gasped aloud at the chilled breezes coming off the cold water. It’s hard to imagine it being that cold ever again… but we’re only a month away from the beginnings of lovely crisp autumn weather. I think I might cry the first day I can see my breath!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Kim, I understand exactly what you mean. It rained her night before last, but it won’t do much other than the cloud cover gave everything a respite. My garden is full of spider mites. It’s hot, and I’m a weary red dirt girl.

  12. Shyrlene says:

    Temperatures that high sound like something that should be on another planet, not in OK. Many garden bloggers across the US have shared ‘garden heat stress’ stories this summer – but none have been as dire as yours (SO sorry to hear it). Hopefully the winds aloft will push the rains your way!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I hope so too Shyrlene. Thanks so much for stopping by and sending good wishes.

  13. Donna says:

    I cannot fathom 109°. I do not believe we ever had it that high. I am wishing you rain and cooler temps. We have only had sprinklings but thunderstorms are predicted. We just came out of our dry spell and here’s hoping OK does the same.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Donna, try 114F. That was the worst day, and I just wanted to cry. I hope better weather comes this way too and soon.

  14. Les says:

    In light of your dire situation, I will not complain about my weather, It is a blessing compared to what you are going through.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Les, you put it right. It is dire. I went out last night, and spider mites are everywhere. In addition to my roses, they are attacking my hollies! I wish I could flash forward to fall.

  15. Cynthia says:

    Brutal, brutal, brutal. As you say, not as hot here outside of Austin. Still sad to see the plants suffering so. Even natives on my land are succumbing to the heat and lack of moisture. We won’t even talk about my garden! My well still provides, but must be used gently. IT WILL RAIN AGAIN (won’t it?)!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Cynthia, you’ve had your fair share anyway. I know, the natives here set seed early. Seems they knew what was to come.

      As for rain, we got a little a night or so ago. I’m off to water again anyway.

  16. It takes a special kind of gardener to keep going in the face of that kind of heat and drought. Hang in there & hope that next summer will be kinder.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I’m beginning to wonder what kind of gardener I am.

  17. My triple digit water bill for last month was half the price of my car payment, even with five rain barrels, and we’re not nearly as hot or dry as you are! It’s heart breaking, though, to see plants die and know you can’t save them all. I hope it rains soon or at least cools off.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Oh my . . . that’s terrible. I don’t pay for water, but my electric bill doubled. I feel your pain, and I’m so sorry.

  18. Tammy says:

    This Oklahoma summer is making me rethink (again) about the kind of plants that suit us best. I have babied plants, called some sissy plants, promised and threatened to let quite a few go. I can’t water enough to help them beat the heat. But everyday I am out there trying. Following a ten day vacation where I thought I had left the garden in good hands, I found on my return that many of my darlings had succumbed to the heat. I sat there wanting to cry and counted the time, effort and dollars behind each lost plant. This one thirty dollars this one five, this one eight and on and on. This gardening stuff is hard! But I love it so! Please make sure you write about those trooper plants that are survivors. This fall and next spring those are the plants I will be putting back into my garden.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Tammy, I’ve thought a lot about what you’re saying, and I think it deserves an entire post. Gardening in Oklahoma is so complicated because we get as hot as Texas and as cold as Missouri. The Texans can grow tender things which love it hot, and we can’t unless we grow them as annuals or bring them indoors. I will be glad to post what did well as soon as I can. Good luck and try not to take this summer too much to heart. It was not the norm.

  19. RobinL says:

    Okay, I’ll be quiet about our hot summer, it’s nothing like yours and we’ve had regular rain. How awful. Praying for relief.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      It’s okay Robin. If you’re having unseasonable weather, it is what it is no matter where you live. It is all what you’re used to. We are used to heat, but not like this. Hope your weather gets better soon too.

  20. I don’t know how you do it. My heart goes out to you. It is such a sad thing to watch plants you’ve bought and nurtured die. Let alone the simple fact that your brain is boiling. May relief come soon….

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Loree, I don’t know either. It’s been a horrible year.

  21. Dee, my heart goes out to you. It’s been so unrelenting for all of you out there and its just not fair. I pray you get a break soon. I can only imagine how depressing and maddening it is not only to live day to day with that sort of suppressive heat, but to see your precious plants wither up and die. Please know that this shall pass and that so many of us around the country are praying for you!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Rebecca, we finally got a bit of rain last night. That thunder turned into a shower which helped put out the fire. Not much, but we will take it. Yes, this too shall pass.

  22. rock rose says:

    117, Yikes. That is as hot a death Valley. So depressing to see plants wither. You really are making me terribly nervous about going home. I hope they manage to control the fires around your area.. A fire raged through our property in the 50s when they had a terrible drought in Texas. I am sure it was in Oklahoma too. We have burnt tree stumps everywhere. I keep thinking that this was before the road was built and that today the road would act as a barrier but when we drove through a fire ravaged area in NM as few weeks ago I could see that the road was no barrier to the fire. You are lucky to be on a well so that you can give you plants some relief. I am sure is they live they will spring back. Did I hear October!!!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Jenny, I think it is bad in Austin too, but not as bad as here believe it or not. Our temperatures have been higher than Texas although only since June. Roads don’t make very good fire breaks unfortunately. This fire jumped a four-lane highway and ended up on our side. Scary stuff. Yes, I’m praying for a cool September.

  23. Dear Dee, I am so very sorry, and hope you have some real relief soon. I just hate watching the news anymore to hear of the suffering in the midwest. July broke records here in PA too, but not as bad as OK. Wishing you a beautiful, lush garden in 2012. P. x

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Pam, the news has been all bad news lately hasn’t it? I watched a couple of nights and stopped. Praying for the soldiers who were killed this week in Afghanistan.

  24. Diana says:

    It’s just so sad, isn’t it? All the plants and trees that are dying and all the animals that are suffering. I’m glad you have a well, but even with enough water, sometimes even water isn’t enough. You’re ahead of us at 109. We had several 107s this week. No forcast under 103 for the next 3 days. 22 days straight over 100 and 52 or so on the year. These are not records I want to be breaking. I just pray for rain – just once, for now.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Diana, I am so sorry for you too. You put it perfectly when you wrote, “I’m glad you have a well, but even with enough water, sometimes even water isn’t enough.” So true. I’ve watered until I want to scream.

      When I heard we were hotter than Austin, I knew we were in trouble.

  25. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Oh Dee, I think of you every time OK is mentioned on the Weather Channel. With your weather being what it is it is mentioned often. I hope and pray that the drought is broken soon. It must be heart breaking watching your garden slowly dry up. You work so hard and your garden is so beautiful. It is just a shame to see it drying up. Big hugs to you. Take care of yourself.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you Lisa. I’ve heard we’re all over the national news. Gardeners are a hopeful lot, aren’t we? It will be all right once fall comes.

  26. I sympathize and empathize and feel your frustration. Same boat here — albeit, a dry docked boat. I say any plant that survived the record-breaking winter of 2010 and the record-breaking summer of 2011 is a keeper. Just scrap the rest. It is depressing. It’s like getting the wind taken out of your sails (you know that dry-docked sailboat) . We will all need a T-shirt that says, “I’m a gardener, and I survived the Summer of 2011.” I am about to give up on my container plants. Seems silly to keep nursing them along just to watch them fry a little more each day. We have to try to keep things in perspective through this. This too shall pass. Hang in there.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Toni, the dry-docked boat reference made me smile. I guess I should give up on my containers too, but I just can’t make myself yet.

  27. Carol says:

    What Jo Ellen said, I see a new dead plant everyday, but I know I have it better than you do right now. You have my sympathies. If this drought continues, Hallmark will probably put a line of sympathy cards for it….

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I’m afraid I’m going to lose my blue spruce I planted which makes me very sad. Yes, I’ve been moving dripping water to all the trees. Hang in there.

  28. It is beyond imagining for me, that heat. I am glad you have air conditioning, which is not considered standard here. We had almost as long a dry spell one year, and our well did go dry, but it was not as hot. Hotter than normal for us. Weather like this reminds us that we are at God’s mercy.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Kathy, it’s beyond imagining for me, and I live here. LOL! Yes, we would all die without air conditioning. Have never had the well go dry, but you never know.

  29. Gail says:

    My dear it’s just too awful to imagine~I am so sorry that you are having to live through it. You know I am sending hugs and praying that this weather break~xxoogail

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you. I can feel them.

  30. Cindy, MCOK says:

    You know I feel for you, Dee. We’d both like to be disqualified from the contest for blogger with the worst weather … it’s not a distinction either of us would choose!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Indeed, we are both having quite the summer Cindy. Yuck.

  31. Greggo says:

    Sorry to add to your misery. We got 1.5 two nights ago. My in-laws in western Oklahoma got a 1/4″. It’s still hot though. Now hot and humid. But life goes on with tired plants. Makes me want to plant a desert garden. Maybe a little humor?

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Greggo, it doesn’t add to my misery. I rejoice for you. You need the rain almost as much as I do. How about a dessert garden instead?

  32. Stephen says:

    The last few weeks have made me question my decision to buy land to build here next year. A full third of the daylilies that I planted, in the last bed, this past spring have just roasted and have been lost. Don’t worry though, Dee, your ‘Banana Pepper Spider’ fans should be ready for you next month!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Stephen, I’m sorry to hear you say that. You know Oklahoma is normally a beautiful place, and I would miss you if you left. I’m excited about ‘Banana Pepper Spider’ though. The rains will return one day.

  33. Kathryn/plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com says:

    Ohhhhhhhh, phooey! This is so unbearably sad. Darn it all anyway. I know how much you love those plants, Dee. They are like your children. You take such good care of them and it’s just heartbreaking to watch them wither. Must ask. Since you have a “deep well” could you just water more to get them through it? And a pond, to boot? Or is there something I would not know about? But I hear you on how debilitating the hot sun is. Having spent two years in Arizona, I get it. And that was “a dry heat.” Wishing you rain, rain, rain. Soon! xoxo

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Kathryn, I’ve been watering a great deal, but the heat is so merciless, it is hard to keep everything from burning up. Those plants on the irrigation system are doing okay, but I must remember to water other things too. It is a difficult year, and I guess we are as dry as AZ this year. (LOL)

  34. Paula says:

    Oh, the mail carrier was lamenting about her tomatoes today. Mine are cracked and have bad spots. The sweet potatoes look OK. That is all we have in the garden this year. Basil of course is flourishing. I cut all the bad parts off the maters and make sauce!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Paul, yes, no tomatoes here. I did find an eggplant among the weeds yesterday. It seems to be the only crop which will grow. I saw your tomato sauce on your blog. You are one busy girl. I admire you.

  35. It’s definitely been hotter where you are than where we are, but we’re ordering up cooler temps (rain or no rain) for GWA later this month. Our best chance of rain was today, 50 percent, a spit and that was it. We have volunteer lawn watering restrictions here. This week I watered some of the trees and shrubs, which are a lot more expensive to replace than perennials and they went through a drought last summer, so many are stressed, if not dead. Since last year, with the drought and colder than normal winter, I’ve lost a fothergilla, viburnum trilobum, beautybush and half of a v. nudum. Grass has not been watered, though. Crispy for a second summer in a row.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Jo Ellen, I’m so sorry to hear of your losses. I can’t make a total until next spring, and by then, I and the land will be refreshed I hope.

      Can’t wait to come to Indy in a few weeks. Thanks for all your hard work to make the GWA symposium a success.

  36. Rhonda says:

    Even garden bloggers get the blues, Dee. I posted a maudlin blog of sorts this week too. I think we should just write it all off this summer and wait for next year. I remember the heat from when I lived in Kansas, all those continuous days over 100 are brutal. Here’s hoping for a cool breeze and a soaking rain for you and your garden.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Rhonda, thanks for understanding. I’ve never had such a cruel year, and I’ve gardened a long time. You hang in there too okay?

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