Sunday, August 13, 2006

Drops in a bucket

I returned home from a week on the road to find the garden essentially unchanged. It must not have rained a single day! Now drought, before flood.

This was a challenging year for container plants. The sedums have happily survived the summer's fluctuations in rainfall, thanks to a well-drained clay pot.

However, an iron planter of Salvia farinacea "Blue Victoria" never had an opportunity to flaunt its drought tolerance, being totally flooded out in early summer. Wetter and wiser, I switched to clay pots, just in time for this change in the weather.

Surviving on the front step is this pot of purple fountain grass Pennisetum setaceum "Rubrum," assorted coleus, fuchsia "Gartenmeister Bonstedt," and the barely in control sweet potato vine Ipomoea batatas "Margarita."

I have very strong opinions about what plants belong in containers--no, nyet, nein to the cliche of red geraniums or big blossom petunias. Don't get me started. The growing season is too short!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

And what about rose pruning?

Although the climbing rose "New Dawn" finished blooming last month--except for the on-going dribble of blossoms that earns this variety its "repeat bloomer" status--I pruned the faded flowers and swelling hips only last weekend.

When my mother was alive, she willingly undertook my rose pruning during her summer visit. An expert rosarian, her own bed of hybrid teas ran in a lazy curve along the back fence of her Maryland yard; ramblers were trellised up the sides of the house. In the summer heat, the scent of cut roses filled her house. Although restrained in her own personal habits, my mother relished fearlessly colorful varieties like "Tropicana," "Blaze," and "Mr. Lincoln."

My mother's cold-blooded conviction with the pruning shears was breath-taking. She ruthlessly pruned out old canes and weak laterals, commenting brusquely, "that will never amount to anything": all canes were cut at the correct angle one quarter inch above an outward-facing group of five or more leaves and new growth was aligned on the trellis.

During the year before my mother's death, her rose garden was untended. Black spot caused leaves to discolor and drop. Canes sprang up with unruly energy. Blossoms withered, and their petals scattered to the ground. Why, I wondered, did she choose to devote her energies to imperious plants so ill-suited to the Maryland heat and humidity? I could well have asked, why garden?