Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Small pleasures

Some small pleasures tucked away in my garden are coming into bloom.

This dark-leaved coral bells Heuchera "Chocolate Ruffles" would be almost invisible if not for its fizzy white flowers. Because it's in the shadow of a yew, it's easy to pass by. You have to work a little for this pleasure.

What a delightful surprise to discover this wild columbine growing under the evergreens.

These reclusive blossoms remind me of childhood summer trips to the Chesapeake Bay. While my father was attending board meetings of a YMCA camp, the rest of us would explore the sandy bluffs overlooking the water. At the right time and with the right attention to one's surroundings, these red flowers could be glimpsed. They bring back memories of travelling in our tail-finned station wagon, scooping up sea nettles, and stopping for sherbet at a roadside stand with swinging screen doors and fruit machines.

Another wildflower that blooms without any human intervention is the mayapple. Every spring, a line of them forms along the back fence. I'm glad that they let me share their turf.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial day

On this Memorial Day, I took a rest from my on-going battle against the Japanese knotweed invasion to remember some of the wonderful gardeners, past and present, whose horticultural gifts are flowering in my garden today.

First off, I have from my mother a multitude of lilies of the valley. These grew in an azalea bed next to her house in Maryland. For several years, she allowed me to take a big clump each spring. Now I have so many, they are popping up in my lawn.

Usually, they bloom in early May but this year they are a few weeks late. This woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) hitched a ride with the lilies of the valley and has found a happy home at the front margin of the same bed.

These bluish mauve columbines were a gift from my work colleague and super New England coastal gardener, TRH, who received them from her father in the Midwest.

And from the same source comes the most hearty yellow iris.

My very horticulturally active sister-in-law kindly gave me a host of bi-colored irises. They bloom more lushly every year.

I am so grateful for all of these heirlooms!

Monday, May 21, 2007

The peony and the pea

I planted a row of "Old Spice" sweet peas back on April 1. By May 3, a slightly wobbly line of young plants had appeared.

These sprouts are wedged in tight quarters between a window well, house wall, dianthus, and peony. And there's the squeeze . . . as the peony grows taller, it blocks out light to the peas behind it. By today, the peas were only about four inches high. They have a long stretch in order to tendril up that trellis.

So, as always, I slipped a few nursery plants in at both ends of the line. A bucket of compost was troweled in before three specimens of "Royal Mix" were added. Both varieties should yield a jumble of white, pink, red, and violet blooms, or some portion thereof.

Now that looks better--almost like these plants like it back there!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Because my mother-in-law is such a culinary wizard, Mother's Day means a big pot of chives, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and oregano.

Unfortunately, I am away on business travel this week--missing several glorious days of gardening and Mother's Day celebrations. Sigh.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

War of attrition

Over the past three weeks, I have devoted hours to uprooting this villain.

Name: Japanese knotweed a/k/a elephant ear bamboo a/k/a Mexican bamboo a/k/a fleeceflower a/k/a Polygonum cuspidatum
Identifying marks: bamboo-like hollow stems, reddish new growth, succulant white rhizomes with orange exterior
MO: spreads by underground roots . . . and spreads . . . and spreads

This invasive grows so quickly that it suppresses native species. Its science-fiction monster roots can run 12 feet deep and 20 feet distant from the stalks. Just a half-inch length of rhizome can sprout.

According to this very helpful publication by UC-Davis, control requires constant vigilance. The best eradication results from a combination of digging out the plant roots and applying herbicides. I'm committed to the first option and will be waging a war of attrition--apparently for the next several years.

A close-up of the battlefield: the muddy patch next to the neighbors' new fence. It's on its way to becoming part of a raingarden.

I have grubbed out roots, moved building rubble, added 7.2 cubic feet of peat moss, dug in several buckets of compost, and planted this lonely little forsythia Lynwood Gold. It will be joined in a few weeks by a plethora of clethra.

And, on an all together happier subject, the sunny beds along the back of the house are tearing along. The peonies have buds . . . and the buds have ants. Yay!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Spring sunshine

We are enjoying a welcome string of bright spring days. That yellow sunshine is reflected in some cheerful flowers.

A few Tulipa tarda or wild tulips remain from a batch planted about 10 years ago. The blooms so love the sun that they don't bother to open on overcast days.

A line of Narcissus poeticus, interplanted with daylilies, edges one side of the house.

After the reticulata have departed, a few later-blooming irises appear in my front garden. I think these are Iris bucharica.

And this weekend, I'm planning to begin planting my new side hedge with this Forsythia x intermedia "Lynwood Gold." This variety, with an upright habit, is nothing special, but I hope it will serve as a good landscape anchor--and I'm looking forward to forcing flowers indoors next winter.

Time to get busy outside!