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