To say Mother Nature’s been temperamental this summer would be an understatement. Unprecedented heat all over the US, draughts in the Midwest, deadly forest fires in Maui, a hurricane strike to the California coast…

And then there’s the small drama that’s been playing out in my window box.

A quick search of our website reveals that I’ve subjected you readers to a ridiculous number of window box references over the years.

There was the time my window box fell off the side of my house for no apparent reason. The time Hurricane Matthew crushed my window box and my husband rebuilt it. There was the time I panicked because my mom was coming for a mid-winter visit and my window box was empty. The time I nurtured spring annuals all the way through the winter – in my window box – and the time (or two) a wren built a nest in my window box.

I even wrote a column featuring my window box as a metaphor for the United States of America.

(Hey, I made it work.)

For regaling y’all with way too many window box meditations, I sincerely apologize. Especially since I’m about to do it again.

We have a rotating roster of excellent, informative gardening columnists here at Lowcountry Weekly. This column should never be mistaken for THAT column. My own botanical ruminations always tend to be window box-centric, because – aside from a few potted plants here and there – my window box is the lone setting of all my gardening adventures.

I once confessed – in a column referencing my window box – that I’m a woman of low energy, and easily overwhelmed. The things that many (most?) women tackle with ease, or at least cheerful aplomb, tend to lay me low. Housekeeping, cooking, and, yes, gardening – all the usual domestic stuff? Overwhelming.

“I engage in these activities, sparingly,” I wrote, “because I have a family and a decent sense of shame. But the idea of a Big Project – organizing the closets, for instance, or redecorating, or “spring cleaning” – can actually paralyze me.”

I wrote those words over a decade ago, and unfortunately, I haven’t changed much, which is why my “gardening” remains confined to a window box. I’m not proud, but I’m honest. My window box has always brought me great joy with minimal effort. That’s my jam.

But this summer, things got weird in my window box. Chalk it up to climate change, I suppose. I won’t argue with you. (I don’t argue with anybody about climate change. Nor do I bash myself over the head with a ball peen hammer.)

So, here’s how things typically go down in my window box. I faithfully plant impatiens every spring, then watch them flourish all summer, become leggy in the fall, and finally peter out somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s the routine.

(There was that one year I managed to nurture the impatiens all the way through the winter – but they turned yellowy-brown and croaked the following spring, so I still had to replant. After that, I didn’t bother.)

Anyway, this year, my impatiens, after getting off to a splendid start in late March, were stalky and dull by early July – something that usually doesn’t happen till October or November – and I couldn’t figure out what to do. No amount of dead-heading or pinching back seemed to help.

By mid-July, the impatiens appeared to be dying. The stems were thick, the flowers were splotchy, and the leaves were turning yellow. What?! Was I going to have to replant?! In the mid-summer heat!? Shudder.

(I’m low energy and easily overwhelmed, remember?)

Feeling I had nothing left to lose, I decided to try something drastic. I took the garden shears and cut those impatiens down to nubs. Hacked them to within an inch of their lives. Then I watered them and waited.

For a couple of weeks, I thought I’d made a terrible mistake. My poor window box – usually so effusive and colorful all summer – was sad and forlorn. My once vibrant, extravagant impatiens were now spikey, unsightly little clumps. They seemed lifeless. What had I done?

Finally, tiny green shoots began to appear on the clumps, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Within another week, the clumps were leafing out riotously, and I happily began anticipating flowers.

But there were no flowers. Not one. Not even those little white bulb thingies that turn into flowers. Just leafy-green plants that, frankly, aren’t all that without their peachy-pink blooms.

This went on for weeks. Weeks became a month. I became obsessed.

I was heading outside to inspect my impatiens several times a day. Gazing at them through the living room window while watching the evening news. Wandering around the house muttering, “Where are the flowers?” My husband and daughter began to fear for my sanity.

My impatience with my impatiens drove me to consult The Google. There, I learned that, perhaps, I had traumatized the plants by cutting them back too radically. Seems you’re not supposed to cut more than 1/3 of the plant away. Who knew?

(Okay, most people probably knew.)

I might also have been watering them too frequently. Apparently, that’s a thing, too.

None of the experts could guarantee that my flowers would return, ever. All I could do was wait, ease off on the water, and try to stop obsessing.

Pro tip: A watched window box never blooms.

A couple of years ago, when I wrangled my window box into metaphorical service here, my impatiens plants had been growing up, but failing to grow out. They weren’t spreading and merging and tangling together as they normally do. I determined that I hadn’t planted them deep enough; their root balls were exposed, so there wasn’t enough shared soil between them. They had room to burrow down, but no room to grow sideways.

That’s when I went all metaphorical, comparing plants to people:

“Our current failure to thrive, I think, is similar,” I wrote. “More and more Americans are sinking themselves deep into their respective ‘plots’ – their political tribes, their trusted media sources, their favored narratives – where they have increasingly less contact with those in the other ‘plots.’

“There is simply not enough shared soil – not enough common ground – between us anymore. We have different beliefs and value systems, and they barely overlap. Without this common ground – this shared soil – it’s much harder now to reach out toward one another. It’s harder to stretch beyond our comfort zones, to bridge the spaces between us. It’s harder to mingle and blend and bloom.”

Nothing has changed since I conjured up that metaphor, strained as it is. In fact, I’d say things have only gotten worse.

I think I’ve been using my current window box obsession as a distraction from all the anger, division, and misapprehension in our country – an effort to assert a tiny bit of control, cultivate a tiny bit of beauty, in a world gone horribly haywire.

I’m pleased to report that, in late August, my impatiens finally started blooming and are now quite magnificent. But it was definitely touch and go for a while. By hacking away too much of their substance – their very essence – then giving them too much of a good thing (water), I traumatized the little darlings and almost killed them. All with the best of intentions.

I think there’s another metaphor in there somewhere, but for now, I’m just enjoying my flowers.