Wednesday, December 30, 2009

German statice (limonium tataricum) is not the most talked about perennial in the garden. It isn't the tallest and it certainly isn't the showiest, yet it brings forth a small, white fountain of flowers in midsummer. These dry, either before or after picking, into a burst of little white stars that are beautiful, but next to impossible to use for a bouquet or in an arrangement because they are so tough and springy. When put into vases, they topple out. In baskets, they snag on any passing person, pet or dust cloth and shed their brittle little white flowers all over the floor.

My 2009 German statice crop consisted of four large fountain-shaped stalks, enough for me to do some experimenting. Instead of leaving them whole, I broke them up into small, user-friendly parts and found that--voila--they were just the thing for our Christmas tree. I tucked the small sprigs into the ends of branches, places not quite sturdy enough to carry the weight of an ornament. The statice added a wonderful airy quality to the Fraser's famous two-toned needles, but even more important for me was that it brought the garden into the house during one of the snowiest Decembers we have ever had. Not all the flowers grown last summer are out there under the drifts. Some are inside, bringing delight (occasionally falling off from the tree, but then, what else are tree skirts for?) and giving us something to talk about, after all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Each year, the digging and drying and storing of bulbs is a huge autumn job for me. Each year I look for ways to make it easier. This year I decided that spreading the bulbs out in the back of my trusty Ford Ranger and leaving them there to dry would be a great thing. After an October when it rained nearly every day, I rushed to dig the bulbs as soon as the ground dried just a little. (It had not dried a lot, as you can see from my shovel handle.) I drove the pickup down to the garden, dug bulbs by the wheel barrow full, pushed load after load to the truck and set them in there in groups so as to keep the dahlias separate from the cannas from the callas from the glads, etc. Every clump of bulbs weighed as much as a bowling ball. They were going to require considerable drying, and the back of the truck seemed just the place. When I finished, I drove the truck into the shed, pleased that I wouldn't have to unload the bulbs to dry on newspapers on the floor. I planned to leave them in the truck for a couple of weeks. At least.

Two days later, my husband wanted to use the truck. He did not see the humor in driving down the road with a bunch of muddy bulbs on board. I tried to persuade him that driving down the road at high speed would be great for drying the bulbs, but still no sale. The bad news: I had to unload all of the bulbs. The good news: he helped me. He even cut and disposed of the remaining stems. He helped me haul all of the boxes into the garage for unloading. The whole job took about a half an hour instead of half a day. And that is how this year I actually found an easier way of dealing with bulbs in autumn. I recommend it.