The rain that seemed to fall unceasingly through April and May was bad for picnics, parades, parties - and hollyhocks.
A fungus with the unattractive name, Pucchinia malvacearum, spends the winter lurking in plant debris. Spring rains, with their splashes, send the fungus up onto new leaves as they emerge from the ground.
The plant then develops the disease known as rust. Yellow and brown spots appear on new leaves, with brown blisters developing on the undersides. Severely infected leaves turn gray, hang down and eventually die.
To protect new foliage, spray both sides of healthy leaves with a fungicide containing chlorothalonil. Once the rust spots appear, the only thing to do is to remove those leaves and dispose of them away from other vegetation.
Damp conditions also contribute to other infestations and diseases.
Of course, slugs revel in cool, wet weather because their bodies need to be moist all the time. I have collected some enormous specimens during the past few weeks.
I go outside armed with a flashlight, a trowel and a large spoon before I go to bed, and scoop up slugs from the sidewalk and porch. They then get their final swim in a jar of salt water.
Another fungus, Sclerotium rolfsii, attacks ajuga and iris in particular, causing crown rot. Again, it is soil-borne and is encouraged by damp conditions.
If your iris did not do well this year, look for brown rotted places where the leaves emerge from the rhizomes, and white threads around the base of the stems. You should remove the infected parts and drench the soil with a fungicide containing PCNB.
Standing water is attractive to many kinds of fungi that can cause root and stem rots in a wide variety of plants.
If you have low areas that hold puddles after a rain, dig a channel to move the water along. Roots cannot absorb water and nutrients unless oxygen is available to them, and the top of a plant can wilt from lack of moisture while the roots are standing in water.
Geraniums may be affected by excessive water, which can cause oedema when the soil remains wet for a considerable time and the weather is cool. Water accumulates in the leaves and stems and is not lost to the air fast enough. The excess water causes cells to burst and brown spots will form before the leaves turn yellow and drop off.
There is no cure except for improved drainage.
All this talk of fungus, rot and blight is very depressing. Did all that rain bring any benefits?
Well, I don't think I have ever seen the grass such a bright green, the rain barrels are full to overflowing, and there are some trees, shrubs and perennials that flourish in wet soil. Most maples love damp conditions, and holly, alder and willow thrive. A number of berry-bearing bushes such as winterberry, bayberry and the cranberry bush tolerate wet feet, and asters, forget-me-nots, violets, calla and members of the fern family enjoy the rain.
Looking at flowers and vegetables flattened by storms is depressing, and I am the first to whine about how nice my garden looked a few days ago, and how unkempt it is now. Actually, that darn daffodil foliage seems to be lasting a lot longer than usual this summer, and I pull off a few leaves here and there as I pass by, taking care the daffodil police are not on the lookout for those breaking the cardinal rule to let bulb foliage alone until it turns brown.
And then as I complain, I think about those thousands of people who have lost their entire gardens along with their homes to the storms and tornadoes of the past weeks.
It is impossible to imagine losing everything in that way, all the things collected over a lifetime. And it puts my complaints about a little too much rain back into proportion. I should be ashamed.