Sunday, February 18, 2007

Planning (don't forget, you can click to enlarge photos)

Once again, a beautiful picture before I reveal the horrors that I can create...

This is the my
Japanese primrose garden, planted in an intermittent stream that, in a good year, never dries up completely (some years are more mittent than others, I suppose). I hadn't grown these much previously and I've been thrilled with their performance. They are more than happy in this site; in fact, I will have to do some serious editing this spring to keep them vigorous. Or, I can let not bother to spray with Deer-Off and let the deer munch them to the ground when they're in bud. It's a task I usually manage to get done, because chomped off primrose stems are a sad, sad sight.

This is a newer garden and I am experimenting with many other plants in the area, including Astilbes, Iris pseudocorus (which I'm getting rid of because it's a non-native invasive, so don't get excited), Mukdenia rossii (huh?), Rodgersia, Lobelia, Chelone.... Those are all moisture loving plants, but the land slopes up from there to a drier area that I am working on too.

The largest chunk here is a
Pulmonaria, or lungwort, maybe Sissinghurst White or Opal. A white one, at any rate, though there are many terrific varieties. This one is very happy. Sometimes gardeners have trouble with powdery mildew on Pulmonaria, but if it gets reasonable moisture through the season, it shouldn't be a problem. People assume that powdery mildew occurs as a result of excess moisture, which isn't entirely true: It's more a function of irregular moisture, and being too dry at some points can make the plant more susceptible: Take good care of your plants. The white spotted varieties have an advantage here, since mildew is conveniently camouflaged. Supposedly this is less of an issue with the lanceolate varieties, i.e. varieties that have long pointy leaves, like Samurai or Bertram Anderson, but I haven't experimented with this theory.

Anyhow, there's still a lot of bare dirt here, and no design happening. Behind the lungwort is a Sambucus, one of the golden ones (this is embarassing, I really must save those tags), for which I have high hopes. I grow a number of Sambucus, or Elder, which I really enjoy. One of them gets an absolutely nasty-looking white wormy borer (I believe that's its scientific name...) during the summer. Since I prune this tree/shrub heavily each spring, I now apply Elmer's Glue to the wounds to prevent anyone so pernicious moving in and damaging one of my favorite plants (
Sambucus nigra lacianata). This works nicely on roses, too.

There are some old Hemerocallis fulvas that I've since pulled out. Those are the wild orange daylilies that you see everywhere in high summer. I like them, but I don't need them in this garden - too tall, too leafy, just not right for the design that will someday reveal itself to me. I've put in a shorter variety, probably Little Grapette or some small purplish thing, that will fit in better.

There is a ton of Aster divaricata in the area, and a bit in this garden, because it is one of my favorites (yes, I have many favorites, and they shift about from time to time). Across the driveway from this garden is a wilder area that I have been cleaning up over the last few years: It was full of bittersweet (evil and omnipresent, though beautiful of course in berry) and poison ivy. Oh,
poison ivy! I could write a book. Or a blog post, at any rate. We have around 8 acres of land, and over 6 of those acres were covered with p.i. and bittersweet when we moved in. I spent many a summer day roaming about with a sprayer on my back, and Philip as well. I still spend much of the summer scratching myself here and there (never in public), but we have eradicated the mother plants and now only have to deal with the many seedlings. We have planted all sorts of other forage for the birds and other critters, don't dismay.

Aster divaricatus
- one of our loveliest natives, in my opinion. In the wild bed that we have along our driveway, these have established themselves happily and bloom over a long period in late summer into the fall. It's a wonderful sight to see along with many lady ferns as we go along the driveway, and it is almost entirely Nature's handiwork. Puts many a gardener's efforts (including quite a few of my own) to shame.

Many of my customers bemoan the fact that their properties are almost entirely shaded. I suppress an urge to ask them why they didn't look for a sunnier spot when they were house-shopping. It was our priority, but then, we are extreme gardeners. And then I tell them something I really believe, that there is nothing more pleasant and relaxing than a
shade garden on a hot summer day. It is the most natural of environments, particularly in the forested Northeast, and there is nowhere I would prefer to be on 90% humid August day than down one of my shaded garden paths, deep in lush foliage (we do not irrigate, though we will do supplemental watering during dry spells: Our lawn, what's left of it, we allow to go dormant if there is insufficient rain). The plant palette is wide and varied, though it is generally not a place where you will find enormous blooms, at least in August: Think about it, at least in deciduous shade, there is quite a bit of sun in early spring until the leaves have popped out, and many flowering plants for shade are low-growing and early-blooming for this reason (at least, that's my anthropomorphic take on plant logic). We are going for more subtle pleasures here, so if your middle name is Garish then perhaps you need to relocate to a nice glaring and exposed spot where you can pretend to be Gertrude Jekyll.

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