In spite of drought, heat, and relentless animal assaults, there will be no quarter asked or given this weekend, when thousands of walkers fan out among the gardens of Buffalo. They’re not going to understand or appreciate beds and containers filled with wilting plants and/or chewed-up plants, or the bare dirt left by long-dead plants.

I came back from vacation to find three recently-planted hay-scented ferns croaked for no reason that I could see. They were well watered, and in shade—guess they just hated my garden. There are two colocasia that appear to be the exact same size as when they arrived via mail order in May, and now have been thoroughly overtaken by the plants they were supposed to be their foils. And then we have the damage—rose shoots eaten by … mites?, buddleia stalks broken off by … a groundhog?, and the holes left by drought-loving slugs.

Finally, as we’ve all experienced, everything is at least a week ahead, so that many floral displays counted on for the end of July have already bloomed their heads off. No matter. If I were the gardener I should be, everything would still look good enough, if not exactly at peak. Fortunately, even if I’m not that expert a gardener, I have made some choices that are going to get me through this weekend, like:


Hydrangeas
. My loyalty to old-fashioned macrophyllas pays off every year. Their colors are still bright, and, thanks to a mild winter, their blooms are numerous. As for the other types, I’m rethinking Limelight—its sprawling habit doesn’t seem quite worth it. The equally ambitious Annabelle ought to have been cut back early in the season, but it is still a magnificent shrub.

Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Golden Glow’. This tall heirloom may be commonplace, but it’s splendidly vertical in a plant market increasingly dominated by dwarfs.

L. Scheherazade and l. Black Beauty. The deep reds of these orienpet hybrids are still glowing, with more buds yet to open.

Colocasia. With giant specimens surrounding the pond and in containers throughout, these give just the correct touch of Victorian exoticism.

None of these plants are particularly special, but they have been the saving grace of my midsummer garden for many seasons.