August: Broward County


Desert Rose

I went to the theater last night, a very small venue hosting a show of eight short vignettes. By the end of the fourth one, it was clear that something was wrong. Very, very wrong.

The air conditioner had stopped working — and in zone 10, that can be an issue.

At intermission, the small audience stepped outside into the 90-degree, steamy south Florida night air to cool off — and a sort of camaraderie blossomed among the theatergoers. We were all sweaty soldiers determined to see the end of the play, despite the sauna-like conditions inside.

That’s when I overheard one female audience member say to her friend, “It’s because it’s August. It’s like the worst month.”

Now, I don’t think August wrecked the AC — that would be ridiculous — but I had to wonder: Could August be the actual villain in the play of months? Is this how we should greet August when it steps onto the calendar stage?

I’ve never hidden my disdain for August. No offense Caesar Augustus, for whom the 8th month is named, but who needs it? August is a devious, passive-aggressive, saboteur. It wants you to think of it as a summer month when it’s actually stealing bits and pieces of summer away.

For me, August has always meant the end of summer and the start of school. The angle of the August sunlight is noticeably different than a month ago. August whispers that it’s soon time to cover the pool and to pack up the yard.

Most of all, though, August has always been the time of year when the garden looks its worst. Plants are overgrown, petered out, and just tired. They’re ready for some time off.

Besides, August doesn’t even have a holiday to make it bearable.

Caladium

In Fort Lauderdale, August is a brutal month. Because this has been an especially rainless rainy season, each day of the month has been ultra-hot and humid. Daytime temperatures are into the 90s, and the heat index makes it feel like triple digits. During the peak of the day, the sunlight is blazingly white — an unbearable brightness of being.

Even standing still can reduce a person to a puddle.

Nighttime isn’t much better. While people and plants are given a respite from the sun, the atmosphere at ground level isn’t so quick to cool off. As a reference, I’d like to suggest the Kathleen Turner classic Body Heat — only more oppressive and less sexy.

I know this sort of heat wears a person down, and accommodations need to be made in how to get chores done. Sunscreen and a hat can only do so much. I tend to do my puttering in the early morning, until 10:00 a.m. Then it’s time to retreat inside, until about 6:00 p.m.

Plants, though, can’t retreat. They have to see the day through to the end, much like a group of theater folks having to sweat out a play without air conditioning.

Desert Rose

While many plants are still performing beautifully — bromeliads, bougainvillea, citrus, crinum lily, and desert rose (pictured above and at the top of this post) to name a few — others have seen happier days. Surprisingly, some of the most beaten down plants are tropicals.

In my Long Island garden, I planted canna and caladium each year to delude myself that I was living in a tropical world. By August, these plants always looked exhausted, practically begging me to dig them and store them before the first frost.

In south Florida, it only made sense that I would take advantage of the climate and plant my long-time friends — only now, I wouldn’t have to dig them and store them.

For months, the canna and various caladiums have bathed the beds with full foliage and striking colors. As the month has progressed, though, they seem to have been touched by the doldrums — the August doldrums. The caladiums are duller and fading fast, while canna leaves are browning and calling it quits.

Canna

I know to every thing there is a season — blah, blah, blah — and that this might be a natural cycle for caladium and canna — no different than tulips and daffodils up north.

I just find it odd that canna and caladium would collapse in — of all months — August. Why not September or October? The conspiracy theorist in me is convinced that August is up to no good — again, a dastardly villain tying my garden to the railroad tracks.

August really is the worst month. I know that every great play needs a bad guy, someone to steer the plot to its conclusion, in this case autumn and winter.

Still, I feel the urge to greet August like it’s Glenn Close as the Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons.

I can feel the hiss rising in my throat. I can hear the boos of the anonymous young woman outside of the theater — the start of a chorus to unravel August’s plan for annual and perennial domination.

28 thoughts on “August: Broward County

  1. I hate to tell ya, Kevin, but September is just as bad down here. Good that you noticed the change in the angle of the sun. I do too. Cannas will go dormant here but August does seem a bit early.

    • Hi Mary. Funny that you mention that about September. At the theater that night, the young woman mentioned that we just have to get through to September. I remember thinking — “I have my eyes on November 1.” At least that brings us to the end of hurricane season, and that means a break in the extreme heat. By the way, I’m also hoping for a cold snap to rein in the iguana population — but that’s fodder for another post. Hope all is well.

  2. I am not liking the sound of August in Florida Kevin. Heat and humidity are my idea of hell. The only consolation is that you know what you are getting. Here on Saturday it was 30 degrees, today at times it was about 15 and raining. The plants don’t know if it’s summer or autumn and I have soggy espadrilles!

    • Hi Daniel. Soggy espadrilles! Well, I will take barefoot in the Florida sand any day! 🙂 Seriously, I think there are many gardeners here who are ready for what’s coming — winter weather that rivals a northern spring. I will think of you when it’s snowing and cold by you — unless you make it to South Florida for a vacation — in which case, I’d meet you for a beachside cocktail. 🙂

  3. I couldn’t agree more about the August doldrums! My garden looks bedraggled, I’m stressed watching plants suffer, and it’s just time to move on! It’s not a very forgiving month, that’s for sure, and I hold no particular love for it myself. Your tropical paradise needs a margarita and some shade!

    • Hi Brenda. August does take it’s toll — and I’m thrilled to know I’m not alone. Maybe we could add some days to July and September, and just do away with August completely. Just a thought.

  4. Great post Kevin. I visited Florida in early September and felt ill most of the time I was there due to the soaring temperatures and the humidity. That standing still to form a puddle is an abiding memory for me. Nope I couldn’t cope with that, it’s a wonder the cannas lasted as long as they did!

  5. I haven’t been around for a while and am catching up on some blogging friends. and your post just reminds me of what I’ve been missing out on – great writing, stories, photos, humour, and a villain! A pure joy to read.
    Now our Augusts are VERY different from yours! But we wondering where our august’s of yesteryear have gone…. weather patterns seem to be changing. On the up side my cannas like August in England, in fact they only start to flower in August 🙂

    • CLAIRE!!! On Long Island, cannas would bloom in July and through August. But they would also look a bit bedraggled by then. I do agree with your point about the Augusts of yesteryear. Speaking with locals here, everyone has remarked about how hot the month has been — even for South Florida! In fact, the heat began early this year — April, and it hasn’t let up. There was, though, one thunderstorm a few weeks ago. As it approached, a cold breeze blew down from the upper atmosphere and it felt delicious. Then it poured. Then the sun came out. Then it became steamy. 🙂 Many thanks for your kind words. Hope all is well!

  6. I am ambivalent about August. On the one hand, summer is so short in Maine that i want to hang onto it as long as possible. On the other hand, the garden is looking bedraggled and tired, which makes me long for the crisp fresh air (and fall blooming plants) of autumn. At least I’m not having to deal with tropical heat. We’ve got the humidity thing going on right now, but temps are only in the 70s.

    • Hello Jean. Interesting point of view since your summer is so short. It’s interesting that your garden is also tired looking at this time of year. As much as I do love the heat, there is something so special about crisp air, fall colors and plants, and apples. When crisp air arrives here, I’ll let you know. 🙂

  7. Isn’t August against the Geneva Convention or something? Well… other than in Canada. 😉

    That said, it hasn’t been too bad here thus far, except for a week of 90s back in… July? But now They Say the rest of this week will be in that category. I have a friend who lives in California and doesn’t see less than 3 digits in the daytime after mid-June; could never deal with that! You are a brave soul. 🙂

    • Hello M’Lady. I know the Northeast has had stretches of hot weather, and the west’s heat is complicated by the drought. I think that would be the hardest for me, particularly when faced with a drought that is years long. That being said, it’s easy to adapt to the heat — and far better than adapting to weeks of frigid cold and ice. Brrrr. 🙂

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