In Zone 7 

The seasons in Memphis vary greatly often in the same day.

(Editor's Note: Now that the local weather has turned tropical, this lament from last month may actually arouse nostalgic remembrances.)

One of the sayings about Memphis is "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute." We get it all -- heat and drought, rain and flood, snow and ice, wind and more wind. Sometimes in the same day.

Gardening is never boring here. If you like excitement and think gardening is boring, try it in Memphis. We don't call it the "Zone of Death" for nothing. You risk life and limb (no pun intended) whenever you step out into your yard.

It's probably a warm, sunny day. You are wearing your shorts, T-shirt, and a baseball cap to avoid that sunburn on your nose. You start to dig in your flowerbed. You plant that beautiful little flower you just bought at the garden store, covering its roots lovingly and patting it a couple of times for good luck. You sit back, feeling very satisfied, and look up at the sky.

It's getting cloudy. A few wisps of gray move quickly across the sky. The wind starts to pick up a little. The flower you just planted is nodding gently in the breeze. You smile. Life is good.

You stand up and stretch, take off your gloves, and head for the watering can to give your new plant a little drink of water. The sky is grayer now, a few drops of rain splat on your head; you think, Good, I don't have to water the flower. It's going to rain a little.

As you step back into your house, the wind picks up a little more. The sky is now darkening quickly, and it is raining harder. The flower seems to be waiting for this lovely spring rain. Suddenly, it is pouring, the wind is whipping through the trees in your yard. There's lightning and thunder, the ground is shaking, and so are you.

The tornado siren down the street starts to blare. You race inside and go to the closet and cower there until the wind seems to let up a little. You venture out of the closet to peek outside, and as you pull back your curtains and look out your window, you see the flower lying flat on the ground, seeming to hold on for dear life so it won't be washed away.

It's now hailing and raining at the same time, and it's so windy, it's raining sideways.

After 30 minutes, you notice the sun is starting to peek from behind the clouds. You get up and look outside. Hmm, it's starting to clear up, the raindrops are glistening on the little flower, and it is looking, well, satisfied that it survived its first storm.

You put on your gloves and baseball cap and head back outside. It's sunny now, the rainwater is rising from the ground in steamy trails of mist. It's heating up. In fact, it's hot.

You are feeling droopy from the steamy heat, and when you look at the flower, it is feeling droopy too.

You go inside to get a drink of water and turn on the TV to catch the weather so you won't miss anything. Information on the Zone of Death awaits. The weatherman is smiling and pointing at the map. A front is coming in tonight. It will get down to 30 degrees and might snow. But by tomorrow, it will be clear and back up to 70 degrees.

You go to the window and look at your flower. You hope it's hardy and strong -- and you hope you are too, because you are gardening in Zone 7, the Zone of Death. n

Peggy McKnight is a coordinator in the UT Vascular Biology Center and an avid Zone 7 gardener.


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