Friday, July 20, 2012

View from above

Some second floor pruning of the "New Dawn" climbing rose affords a few views from above. I think that I've got the Japanese garden design principle of borrowed scenery (shakkei) down, thanks to my neighbors' mad skills, and there's even a hint of the hill and pond (chisen-kaiyu-skiki) style, courtesy of the rain garden.

Of course, even from these lofty heights, what I mostly see is overdue deadheading, pruning that's calling out, and an urgent need for staking. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ferns: big deal, little deal, or no deal?

I'm not a big fan of ferns.  It's hard to understand how anyone can get too worked up over a plant whose major contribution seems to be . . .  what?  It's green.  It takes up space.  Big deal.

That said, I have found ferns helpful--in a "they also serve who only stand and wait" kind of way--in different areas of the garden.  Several marsh ferns (Thelypteris palustris) anchor  the damp and sunny end of the raingarden. Their foliage plays off the surrounding spiky iris leaves and decorative grasses.

A few Japanese painted ferns (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) are nestled in the dry deep shade of an eastern red cedar. Note to self: since you actually paid good money for these ferns, move them out from the shadows and into a spot where they can actually be seen!

But most of the ferns found their own way into the garden.  There are plenty of these common ferns springing up along the edges of shady beds.  I'm not sure what variety they are.  Perhaps since we're in Massachusetts, they're Massachusetts ferns?

A ginormous clump of lady fern--currently bowled over flat on its back from the ravages of drought and heat--has settled itself in between two evergreens along the back property line.  Its red stems and spores are really quite beautiful.

Despite my low regard, I am always pleased to discover ferns growing in out of the way places--beneath hedges, down the backsides of slopes, in those neglected areas removed from sight and mind.  The other evening, I was weeding one of these damp and dreary marginal spaces--the kind of gnarly wasteland where ugly stuff happens and a lot of it--kind of like the vegetative version of the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars. Among the weeds that don't seem to be able to grow anywhere else and the self-sowers that have escaped from their original locations, I was delighted to discover another fern variety--the sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis). 

This cache of four or five plants was growing in an area that is reliably damp and shady. Now that I've pushed some of the habitues of this low-rent district out, perhaps these ferns will be able to become a big deal in their own small way.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Suburban gardening: So different from town and country gardening

Okay, to start with a couple of facts: (1) Everyone knows that the plant pornography of high style horticultural magazines bears no resemblance to the really dirty stuff that happens in the garden and (2) many bloggers have humorously ridiculed the crap that American marketing masters would have you believe that you need in order to attain gardening self-actualization.

Although this turf has been well-trod, I still had a problem when, at the end of a weekend working in the garden, I sat down to relax with an iced drink and the latest edition of Town and Country.  Yes, it was Town and Country, so what should I expect? But, hey already. Between the articles about emerald and sapphire floral brooches and society equestriennes was this page of gardening "inspiration."  So this is what folks enjoy when gardening in a parallel universe. 

In contrast, here are the suburban highlights of my weekend around the back quarter acre.  First, I shoveled rotting compost. It smelled, it was soggy, it was not yet ready to be used.  And yes, that $685 pink silk shirt would look fabulous, darling, polka-dotted with decomposing plant muck.

And I pruned a portion of the climbing rose.  Cue cursing, sweat, and bloody cuts.  Geez, I forgot to focus my mental energy towards attaining the pruned perfection of those lollypop-like boxwood topiaries.  Dang!

Then there was the dead mourning dove that needed to be removed from its impalement on the trellis. Perhaps that set of cute little hand tools could double as surgical implements for the post-mortem extraction?

 I guess that proves that the suburbs are so very different from the town and country.  But we all know that.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Waving the flag

It may be a day before the real flag-waving, local parading, and fireworks launching is celebrated, but there is no holding back these blue flag irises (Iris versicolor).  Last year--after four increasingly exasperating years of watching only foliage--these clumps kicked up a single bloom.  This year, I had about a dozen beautiful blue violet blooms.

These plants are located at one end of the rain garden in an area that captures the downhill flow of water.  Although the clumps of tubers ride high above the level of pooled water, the entire spread remains damp 24/7.  In order to encourage the even and generous distribution of water along the length of the rain garden and to remove the encroachment of other wet-footed plants, I clean out along the borders of this bed about once a month. It's down and dirty work.

But these blooms, they make me feel like all of it--the watching, the waiting, the muck slopping, and the weed pulling--is worth it.  A little quiet flag waving.