Monday, September 26, 2011

Most of the time, I add plants to the garden for their beautiful color or the wonderful shape of their flower. Sometimes I add them because they are passalongs from friends who have recommended them. Once in a while, I add them because they look so beautiful in a catalog. This one, I added because I loved the name. Astilboides. I wasn't even sure how to pronounce it when I sent for it from White Flower Farm--the first time. Yes, some years back I spent $24 on a bare root that looked sort of like an iris rhizome. I planted it. It didn't come up. I dug it up and replanted it. Nothing. I chalked it up to pilot error and threw in the trowel, so to speak.

A couple of years later, gnawed at by my failure, I ordered another one of these expensive little numbers and tried again, only to fail again. They must not grow in Minnesota, I decided--but then I saw one in a friend's garden. Her dinner-plate leaves looked just like the ones in the catalog! My failure ran deep and complete until last year's White Flower Farm catalog offered the plant for $14, a price obviously intended to attract fools like me who just don't know when to quit. To my great surprise, this one sprouted soon after planting. Then it grew. Now, in year two, it shows the promise of what it may become if the attendant climbing hydrangeas don't overpower it. Will they be friends, or enemies? Does failure lurk ahead? Check Bloom Chronicles next summer--and please, don't encourage me to ever buy another if this one fails, no matter how wonderful the word "Astilboides."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Who can na' love a canna? I never used to like them, much less love them. As a child, I used to see them growing in the middle of great expanses of green lawns, with no other companion plants, and thought them so out of place, so, well, ugly. They were often used to hide something ugly, like pipes sticking up out of the ground, or an unsightly foundation. When a neighbor offered me canna bulbs a few years back, I was hesitant. She was desperate. Canna bulbs, you see, multiply like crazy, and they are BIG, so therefore hard to store: When the next spring comes, you wonder where you are going to plant them all--that's when you start giving them away.

I couldn't turn down a desperate neighbor, and so I ended up with canna bulbs, some green-leafed and some in this lovely, bronze. I struggled with where to plant them, because they don't really work with miniature roses, or shrub roses, or any other roses, which I have lots of. They need sun, which I don't have lots of. After a couple of years of ugly plantings, I hit on the idea of siting them next to gold and bronze day lilies. They seemed happy. I was happy. This year, however, I saw bronze cannas paired with sunflowers, which was stunning, and also the bronzes planted in huge containers with green-leafed elephant ears--Wow! Both were underplanted with begonias, sweet potato vines, and other hot or dark colors. I loved both plantings. Bulb digging is not far off--and I can na' wait to see if these canna wonders have multiplied.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Roses symbolize love and hydrangeas symbolize, well, some say vanity. Others say that a bouquet of hydrangeas expresses the giver’s gratefulness for the recipient’s understanding, or anything that is sincerely heartfelt. Does that mean love? As I think about this beautiful bouquet, recently carried by my beautiful new daughter-in-law, it seems to me that the hydrangeas in the background are not at all vain. They evoke long life and the importance of small things.

Drying Annabelle hydrangeas is one of my annual pursuits. Hydrangeas last. They light up dark winter rooms. They work as Thanksgiving decorations, Christmas decorations, Easter decorations, ladies tea decorations, gourmet dinner decorations--you get the idea. To make them last, however, takes some sensitivity to their needs. One needs to be gentle with them. One needs to give them the occasional fresh air and a change of scenery. One needs to love them even when they have lost a petal or two.

Hydrangeas are large, but made up of so many small flowers. They remind us that the road to a happy marriage is long and not to be trounced through with combat boots, that we should not ignore the small things because they often turn out to be the big things. Roses may symbolize love,but it seems to me hydrangeas symbolize love that lasts--good for bridal bouquets. And homes.

Photo Courtesy of Carmen Schindler

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Land Of 10,000 Lilies

What do I love about a day lily? I love the ovoid shape of its petals and their spectacular sponginess. I love the not-too-symmetrical shape of the blooms. I love the smooth, strong, long stems that lean into a summer's day shouting "look at me!" I love the character it takes to stand so tall for beauty that is fleeting. I love its trumpet call to the sun, and the way it doesn't droop when the sun calls back. I love the quiet patience it displays all year for this one blaze of color. A day lily by any other name would look as awesome.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Time Clock

These lilies arrived, in full bloom, exactly a year ago in a perennial garden arrangement sent in memory of my mother-in-law. Three hundred sixty-five days later, they are a magnificent reminder of her, of her garden, and of the life-giving force of the gardens and people we love. I'm so glad they punched in.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Slugless Summer

For the past two or three years, my hostas have been made into slug salad by this time in the summer. No using a beautiful, big "Sum and Substance" leaf in my July 2010 arrange- ments. This year: hardly a slug hole--whole bouquets of luscious leaves. Did the long but not-so cold winter slow up the slugs? Does it have to do with this summer's conditions (hot and wet? seems like that would be perfect for slug growth, right?) According to the University of Minnesota Extension office, "in Minnesota, slugs usually hatch during spring or early summer. Depending on conditions, slugs may lay eggs throughout the summer. Warm, dry conditions are less favorable to them." Soooo, maybe hot and wet is just as good as hot and dry? I don't know--but I don't dare crow yet. We have at least two more good growing months during which many unfortunate events can occur. Still, I'm enjoying the lazy elegance of giant hostas this July--and keeping a slug vigil, just in case.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why climb a trellis when there's a Miss Kim lilac handy? Clematises are famous for enjoying the company of nearby shrubs, and the shrubs usually don't seem to mind. The social climbing, however, may also be a sign that the clematis is wishing for a sunnier spot. I fear another clematis dig may be in my future. Wow--how light changes in a garden from one year to the next!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I was rewarded for pulling up spent wild geraniums in the shade garden with the discovery of this miniature arboretum in the crevice of my giant Sum and Substance. I've read about small scale gardening, but I didn't know I was actually doing it! On the other hand, I am sobered by the fact that these green wonders are probably infant box elders, or--egads!--buckthorns! Still, my heart beats just a little bit faster at the thought of nature's creative use of space, as well as her ability to speed into action. After all, I have dahlia bulbs just now coming out of the ground, and here she is, sprouting trees. How big will this garden grow? I picture the hosta leaf pinned to the soil, punctured by tree roots. Then I get real, and picture the thunderstorm scheduled for later today that will wash this tiny forest into oblivion. Thank you, wild geraniums, for getting me deep into the garden at just the right moment.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Iris time. In Minnesota, iris time is never a long time, and this year's was especially short thanks to a 2" rain. Part of what makes irises so irresistible is their delicate nature. Unfortunately, that also accounts for their short bloom cycle. One thunderstorm and they are either knocked down or soaked into slimy blobs--colorful slimy blobs, but still... I've had my issues with irises over the years, particularly with quack in irises, yet for this rush of color on a few days in June, I'm willing to make some sacrifices. And I'm already looking forward to iris time 2012.