Actually, more than just Thoughts.

More like the start of a manuscript from 1993 with the idea of having it published as a Garden Book at some later date.

Well, that date has been postponed again and again.

I trust I will concentrate more seriously when things quiet down a bit.

If they ever do........

 

 This Book
The Mountains 2
High Falls 2
Otium 2
High ROI 2
Economies of Scale 3
Age 3
Control 4
The Oval 4
Divisions 5
Paths 10
Shapes, Edges & Frames 10
Tulips 11
The Sky 13
Sweet Peas and other Failures 13
Seeds 14
Invasiveness 16
Soil 16
Weeds 16
Fun 20
Roses 21
Compost Heap 23
Seeds 26
Echinacea. 27
Flower Harvest 28
Lilies 33
Seedlings into the garden 34
Achillea (Yarrow) 35
Trees 36

 

A Place in Catskill

Awe Induced Enthusiasm


THIS BOOK

 

This book is about working in a garden. This book is about having a garden, about working in a garen, about loving a garden in the true sense of the word. This connotes both the obligations and rewards of the love and ownership. It is about the responsibilities you assume by starting and having a garden and, flowing from those responsibilities, all the satisfaction, pride, pleasure, contentness and happiness you can reap. This book is about working in your garden, spending weekends and evenings bent over, pulling all too familiar, all too recurring, weeds.

This book is not about having tea on the terrace and watching the hired yardman do the weeding and raking, or having a name designer "do" the garden

This book is about a garden. It just so happens that it is me who lives in it. Many of the things discussed in this book, of course, apply equally to you and your place.

My garden is my territory where I am the master, the boss who determines what is going to happen, what is going to live and what is not.

Coherence is not this book's main concern. This book reflects the musings of a gardener. His main thoughts, worries and concerns mulled over while working in the garden. As thoughts are often unorganized, so may the pages of this book.

This book is about the things that go through my mind when I am bent over in the garden.

This book is less my telling you what you should do with your garden than my telling you what I do with mine. The book relates my experience with my house and my garden.

 

Most of all, the book is about passion. Passion for things that grow. Passion for our distant cousins, plants and flowers. Passion about helping out, feeding, changing, watering, deciding and manipulating, about gardening. Passion about beauty and being happy.

This book is also about the person who is passionate about all those things. Someone who wanders the garden an hour before sunset and who cannot cease to be thrilled by man made beauty. This man's 10 year old niece came over one day to visit him in his garden. She saw how hard he worked in his garden. With a vengeance, as usual. She flapped: "Ahh, you work in the garden all the time. Of course, that's because you don't have anything else to do." The man looked at her and thought: "That's a pretty smart thing to say." And he thought she was right. But she was right only in part. It was not because the man had nothing else to do, it was because the man chose not to do anything else.

Every time I work in the garden, she's right there with me.

This book is not a didactic one. It does not aim to teach. It does, however, discuss strategy of investment of the money you spend. Investment of all the precious time you spend in your garden.

You may, for instance, want to spend as little time as possible on activities that do not produce visible returns.

What kind of return of investment do you aim for. Any return? Let me mention a few.

A high return on investment is a perennial you plant as a seed in the greenhouse or in situ in the garden where it is to bloom. The plant that emerges from the seed lasts a lifetime, a perennial that will be with you for the remainder of your life.

A high return on investment is straightening the edges of a path, enhancing the archtectural lines in the garden. If it is a clean line, the path a path, it matters little what grows in the border. If a well tended environment matters to you, then straightening edges or raking a path will give you tremendous ROI.

You've earned a high return on investment if you enjoy the results of your work.

What is it you love?

Enjoyment, visual joy. Or sitting back and relaxing. Not having to do anything other than what you really want to do. Reading a book. Talking to a friend. Cook. Walk. Write. Whatever you want to do.

It may be the elation of walking through your garden and seeing what you have done, is good. You've worked a wonderful thing! That is a high return on investment.

 

 

THE MOUNTAINS

 

HIGH FALLS

 

OTIUM

 

HIGH ROI

 

High Return on your Investment.

 

You work hard in your garden?

You like working hard in your garden?

 

Like, being bent over, most of the time.

 

Like, sniffing soil for smell?

 

A high return? You want eternal bloom? You mean you want blooms, bloomings, flowers blooming all the time, as long as you can have them bloom, bloom, bloom, always.

Imagine, your flowers blooming all the time. All the time, whenever you want them to, They peak.

 

Do you have a favorite flower? Your favorite flower? More than just one? Not just rose. Not just tulip or anemone. Not just sunflower and heliotrope, yellow and blue, spectrum's opposites? A group of favorite flowers? Or just the flowers you ended up buying? Maybe they're all the blue and white flowers you've ever seen? Or a variation of pinks and pales.

 

So why have flowers that bloom only two weeks? At best. You wait for them to come up etc. etc. and then they go down. If only you could have them bloom for four weeks. A whole month. Be it from September through October, from mid May all the way through the middle of June. Through the end of June! All of six weeks, from a single seed. A single plant.

Ahh!

 

I'm squatting in front of these two little blue things. They're . There are two patches of them in the garden. One's in the "blue slice", the other in the 'magnolia slice'. If these things are not coming back, then it is not worth the time I have spent on these plants 'cause I have spent a lot of time on them, relatively. Seed them, see them through a winter's tail in the greenhouse, water them in an artificial environment, thin them out, inure them to the outside elements, plant them outside in the garden, enjoy to see them prosper in the garden. See them bloom which gives satisfaction, no? Then you ask yourself 'but is one season enough for all that work?' How much enjoyment do you deserve? A lot. No? Of course!

 

{These things were flax. Linum something. The catalogue said they were perennial. My experience was they were annual. I must assume I did something wrong. or the weather conditions were exceptionally inclement for this type of plant. I am giving them a second chance, repeat the process and invest some more time.

 

Is the investment too high for the joy obtained and negotiated?

Another word for roi: low maintenance.

 

 

ECONOMIES OF SCALE

 

If there are a lot of basics, they will selfseed themselves and pop up wherever you want them to remain. Why is this relevant? Well, they are good fillers, you see this growing here, and that over there and there's a little thing growing over there and it covers this little area connecting this to that. Rather gave that than a bare patch.

Invariably a Queen Anne's Lace will pop up somewhere in your border. Will you rip it out. It is a weed. It doesn't belong there. It is rather pretty. Keep it.

There is always a Daisy, a Black Eyed Susan popping up somewhere, right there where I need something. To tidy me over, to fill an obvious gap.

 

AGE

No flower is like another. There is no way one can make a general statement about the aging mechanisms of flowers, for all are different. There are the classic ephemerals, the Day Lilies. There are the seemingly eternal blooms of the Achillea family, with the Yellow Yarrow outdoing its white and purple siblings.

Not all flowers age gracefully. Some age well, as we like to call it. Others don't. Why is that? It seems to be that way with people too. How do they do it? A secret? A simple explanation?

Same as with us, humans. Moisture. Water. Liquid.

Look at the tulip. It is the best "ager". Why? Because it loses moisture very very slowly. Look at the lily. Not the daylily, but the Trumpet, Asiatic or Aurelian lilies. Once they have reached their peak, they lose water very quickly. Best evidence is the rapid rate at which the petals start to droop and lose color and turn brown or black. Anything we can do about that?

 

 

 

CONTROL

 

So you are the boss, the master of the garden. A control freak. Think about this. Do you have control over the water. Over when it rains? when it is dry? No? Then you have no control over your garden. If you are dependent on nature in such a major way.

 

The Watering Systems.

When I moved into High Falls, I was aware there was a little stream in the back of the garden. It flowed down from the hill in the back through a part of the garden I used to describe as T&M, "thistles & mosquitoes". Imagine how it felt to be there. Walking around meant stretching your hands in front of you for protection, to disperse the branches that had not seen a person in decades.

 

THE OVAL

 

The oval is a very young garden. A little bit over a year old. The disadvantage of a young garden is that it has not yet developed its own character, personality. It may have its architectural form, but its population, the plants, have not sufficiently developed to call their location home. There may be wide swaths of Achelea or Roses or vegetables or Cosmos or Zinnia, Delphinium or Sunflower.

However, that does not a garden make. Time makes a garden. Time passage. A young garden has no history. The funny thing with no history is that with a new garden or new location, nothing has ever bloomed here before in a controlled environment. It is the first time that a flower blooms here. It is indeed what you intended. It is happening now and you want the flower to be there, you want it to be there just where you put it and be happy there and thrive. {Dijen} but it is the first time that it actually happens. The locus has no history. It is hard to describe where I am now standing. If I go to an older part of the garden I can describe my site as "behind the Lily of the Valley", or "to the left of the Purple Sage".

As the years progress, each site will develop its own character and characteristics. These will become local traits, the family characteristics of a certain corner in the garden. The plants in that nook will get to know each other, learn to appreciate their neighbors and honor them. Respect the Invasive Ones, give them the room they claim. Overshadow the weaker ones. Until they perish.

Just like the group of 20 or so Spider plants of the Primum Family. All plants will rival for optimum space. The ones on the outskirts will be the bigger ones sideways. The ones in the middle will be the taller ones. All of them together look majestic. What cooperation to beauty. They know how to do it!

 

I prefer to hang out where there are old trees, old established plantings, sculpted into the environment, old piles, weathered things. The oval has none of that. It is new, young and inexperienced. There have been no major disasters or victories here. Yet.

As with the planting of a tree, the Location of the Oval was the result of a visual inspection. Sounds technical? Yes, bit it isn't. What I did was look around and see where the sun was at what time of day. If there is an area exposed to the rosy fingered dawn, then that spot would be very good for roses. If there was a spot that got the 2 o'clock sun, that would be a good site for a gray garden.

Castor Beans. If they flip over in their early days. Turn them up and they will continue to grow. With a cute little curve in the stalk.

Flowers are our distant cousins.

What grows in bad soil? Hostas do. Lamb's ears do not.

 

 

 

 

DIVISIONS

Asters. Everywhere.

I see asters everywhere. Along the roads leading into town they stand four feet tall. They have had 150 days to grow. With the little rainfall this summer, the height may be a bit below what we have come to expect but, yet, the achievement is impressive. Purple ones, blue ones. Little brown hearts, or big yellow ones. Fluffy petals and straight ones. An avalanche of minuscule flowers or a few strong and bold ones on a strong stem.

Over the years I have pulled many different kinds from the roadside and brought them to my garden, where they share the space with the hybrids , their cultivated siblings. Engineered, crosspollinated and played with until they look as pretty as can be.

My roadside varieties selfseed freely and pop up in new places year after year. The hybrids

 

 

selfseed too but then something else happens . They usually revert to their ancestral color. The seeds of the bright red ones will produce magenta colored flowers again. The lowliest color in nature. That is one of the consequences of hybridization.

Hybrids, be it asters, liatris or flax do not retain the genetic message in their seeds. There are, however, certain things you can do, to avoid the loss of the hybridized color.

One, you should thoroughly deadhead the hybridized plant; what that means is, you should pinch off the spent flower, so that it can not revert to its parental color or,

Two: Propagate the plant by root division.

When is the best time to divide perennials?

Late summer or Fall. Yes now.

The practice of division is a simple one. Lift the root clump gently out of the ground with a pitchfork, or sway it out of the dirt by rocking it with your hands. Gently. You want to keep as many roots intact as possible.

I find there are few things I do in the garden that rival the satisfaction I get from separating the intricate root system of a handsome perennial.

When I am squatted down in front of the plants, I sense I am multiplying my wealth. Spreading beauty where I want it. Creating multitudes of blooms. I am getting a high Return On Investment and improve the economies of scale of my garden.

In real life terms, it feels like untangling a knot of twine , except that a knot of roots is far less complex. By gently pulling and wringing, the roots will let go of each other. By pulling the stems apart, the roots will follow. If there is only one stem, often you will still be able to distinguish some side shoot. Not quite there yet, but distinctly visible, if your eye is trained. There is no one to stop you from separating them now. So do it. Give it its own place and in no time it will establish itself as an independent entity. Tiny as the new units may be, they are by no means any smaller than the potted perennials I buy at nurseries or through catalogues. But viable they are. You can see it yourself. Enough root, stick it in the ground.

Main point to remember: Minimize exposure of the roots to air. Whenever I am not actually separating the plant or working on it otherwise, I make certain the roots are covered and not exposed to air and light. A moist newspaper or a wet cloth will do. You see, the root hairs, at the tip of the root, are easily injured. If you injure too many at the same time, if you are too rough, the plant may not be able to replace the root hairs quickly enough to accommodate the plant's needs after you have put it back in the soil. Plants eat food through these root hairs. Plants absorb food through water, liquefied food like an IV. The absorption of the food takes place by way of osmosis . That is, the concentration of minerals and gases in the root is higher than in the soil surrounding the root. The root attracts the lower concentrates in the soil and thus the plant absorbs food.

When you divide a plant or transport it, think of the root hairs. They are the thinnest parts of the roots, the most fragile and should be treated as such.

 

What plants divide well?

Most plants lend themselves very well to division. I find that all plants in the gray leaf family, such as all Artemisias, Lambs' Ears, Achilleas and Veronicas lend themselves very well to such separation. But then there is hardly a limit. And you needn't limit yourself to perennials. Some shrubs are very divisionfriendly. Such as heaths, heather, Buddleias, Berberry Bush. The roots of Dahlias, which you should take out of the ground after the first blackening frost come apart very easily in your hands. Try and experiment with any of your favorites.

Some plants beg to be divided every so many years. My experience with Eucheras [Coral Bells] is that they require an occasional move. If they stay in one space too long, they will reduce flower output. They tell me they want a move. So I do it. My Eucheras want a move every third year.

Eucheras are some of the easiest to separate. They untangle themselves.

Others don't give quite that easy. You'll notice that the roots will not always autoseparate. If you go about it manually and try to separate the roots by hand, I often end up ripping the plant apart. If I put both hands on the clump and wring the sections I hold apart, a lot of the roots may break off. It really may appear very cruel and crude to go about it this way. Don't worry, though. There is enough of it to go about. Any broken off roots will serve a purpose in the compost heap.

A cleaner way, of course, is to use a sharp knife and cut right through the root clump, leaving nice square clumps to be replanted.

Remain aware that once those mutilated roots are put back in the ground they will thrive, provided they have water and food.

The mutilation itself is something else altogether. It may revitalize the plant, set off added growth. It happens to people too. Maybe you have experienced it yourself.

Sometimes people get ripped out of a trusted, familiar environment. It may be an office environment or any other place they have grown accustomed to, a marriage or family relationship. No matter what. You know how important routine can become in a person's life. Interrupting the routine is going to have some effect, one way or another. Very often it will unleash hidden creativity. If lightning strikes a tree and brings down a number of big, adult branches, there will be increased growth activity in the years after the hit. Far more than anywhere else in the tree.

 

After a plant has been subdivided in the fall, it will have plenty of time to grow new roots . The new roots wills strengthen and fully charge the plants for spring.

If you choose to subdivide them in spring, the perennials will likely put the bulk of their energy in reestablishing themselves, rather than applying their energies to bloom, to being pretty, to pleasing me, to pleasing you.

 

In my garden, there is this big batch of Yellow Yarrow Achillea . I planted it last year. Or rather, I filled the patch with offshoots from the main Achillea patch, somewhere else in the garden. All I had planted were little individual strands of the root of the plant. Now each little strand has evolved into the size of a hand. The soil wasn't even that good. Do they grow!

I think it is time to split them up again. Why? Still more Achillea? Well, you see, a friend opened a gift shop two towns over and dried bouquets sell like hot cakes. So. I thought I'd sell him some on consignment.

 

Divide How Often?

The recommended practice is to divide every three or four years, not sooner. Most perennials require that amount of time to anchor themselves into the ground, to become the mature cultivar the catalog touted it to be. Moving it about every year may result in disappointing bloom. Hosta is a good example. The Hostas I have not disturbed for five years or more, now have developed enormous leaves. The ones that have recently been moved, are much smaller.

However, for many plants, I see no need for such limitation.

If the plant is thriving where it is and you'd like to have more of them, why wait 3 or 4 years. My experience is that if I have dug up a plant, divided it and split it up into 8 new plants, next year, the year after that each of those eight pieces is again ready for division into 64 or 48 new pieces. Why Not?

When you plant the divided roots, think in terms of abundance.

Think in swaths. How many do you want. Where. All over the place. What area do you want to colorize? There is no limit. By all means, you're rich. Flaunt it.


The advantage of a fall division also is that my memory of the garden [or the To Do list] is still very fresh .

The disadvantage, that I occasionally slice a tulip bulb in half.

 

Iris

Most Iris do not have bulbs but rhizomes. A Rhizome is a rootlike underground stem, normally in a horizontal position, [just below the surface or just visible above it], which shoots off roots. After a number of years in the garden, the rhizomes become pretty compact, shooting off up to five branches. The old core part becomes ineffective and must be removed.

To divide the Iris, take the rhizome out of the soil, cut it in pieces of about 3 inches with plenty of leaves & roots attached and replant it in a new spot. The old center rhizome is spent and you may discard them. Nothing to feel bad about. It has performed well over the past years and sort of looks it. The roots attached to it have dried up and the main body is riddled with holes. Once in the compost heap, it will again serve purpose.

When replanting the new rhizome, you may consider cutting off the top of the leaves. Not only will it prevent the plant from falling over, since its root system has just been disturbed and is not yet anchored, it also connotes rejuvenation, a fresh cut look. A Crew Cut Look.

After you have planted the new Iris, they look like a troupe of new Marines recruits.

This is not the only way to propagate an Iris but it is the easiest and quickest way. There is no loss in time here, the rhizomes will produce full blown flowers the next year. The other way is to collect the seeds. Some of my Iris produce seed pods of impressive size. They either hang from the stem or stand rigid, depending on their size. The yellow Iris that line one of the paths in my Oval garden, were taken from the wild. They produce seed pods of impressive size. Large and green throughout the summer, they slowly turn color and dry out as autumn nears. By the end of warm weather, the seed pods will have turned brown. The seeds are ready to fall out and be collected.

This propagation is a slow one though. It will take up to three years for the Iris to become adult. But, if you are not rushing, the growing process is fascinating.

 

 

Lilies

The Lily's virtues are heralded elsewhere in my book. There is no end to the acclaim earned.

Here we discuss some of the other talents. And again, the Lily comes out the top dog.

The Lily is a bulb. A bulb like a hyacinth, onion or tulip. The bulb itself has various ways of multiplication.

First there are the Offsets. They're like little babies, growing at the base of the parent plant, shooting off miniature stalks. Again, a child emulating an adult. The offsets will grow in size every year until they are big enough to start a life of their own. They are viable immediately but will take a number of years to produce their own flowers. If you want to relocate them, do it in the fall. I usually wait until there is a good supply of Lilies. When I buy a Lily, I will be content with one single stalk and flower bunch for the first couple of years. I do expect, however, the expansion into a Lily forest within a five year period or so. So, I will not pick out the Offsets until there is a good group of that particular Lily.

Then there are the Scales. If you have ever cleaned and cut an onion, you know what Scales are. Every layer of the onion is a Scale. In Lilies they are a little more distinct than in onions, but the idea is the same. They grow at the base of the bulb. Again a slow propagation, this is. Break them off gently, bring them inside in moist, warm soil and within no time they will root and grow bulbs themselves. The bloom in give or take, three years. Worth waiting for? Yes. Try it.

Next, Bulbils. Granted, not all Lilies grow Bulbils. Mainly limited to the Tiger Lilies, they are the black , peasize bulbs growing in the leafpits of the stalk.
the bulk of their energy in reestablishing themselves, rather than applying their energies to bloom, to being pretty, to pleasing me, to pleasing you.

 

 

 

PATHS

I think the first path in the garden was a collection of footprints. A footprint made from jumping from the edge of the border into the middle of the border, because I had to get to some plant to adjust something on it. The advantage of developing a pathsystem this way is that it will have a very natural flow. It'll follow the lay of the land; the flows of the paths will be equidistant to the borders of the flower beds. It will have a logical flow.

The main benefit is overview. Tackling weeds doesn't seem half as burdensome when there is a manageable patch to be handled.

Subscript to the path fixing photos, the edges that is: "From the movement of the shadows, you can tell it did not take too long to work on this. No, I did have no help."

I added a new path into the Ellipse, Sixtum, because it was too large. I found myself jumping into the bed where I wanted the path to be. The jump meant there had to be a path.

 

 

SHAPES, EDGES & FRAMES

 

It is very easy to have a gorgeous border in June, but not in August or October. The main emphasis in setting up a border should not be on the flowers, because they last so briefly, although considerations of color will always come into play, but on the shapes of the leaves and the general form of the plant. Good point. Work on it.

You can play with contrast or similarities. One thing I will do next year in the latter category, is move a bleeding heart next to a tree peony. The shape and coloring of the leaves is very similar. A soft matte green with a burgundy edge. very delicate.

Contrasts are bold. Iris leaves contrast with most other leave shapes.

A painting is most often set in a frame. A garden most often framed by an edge or a hedge if you will.

Once you have drawn the lines, once you have completed the design, it doesn't really matter what you put inside the frame, within the lines, within the architecture. The most important aspect has been completed. The shape of the garden is there. Anything you put inside will look good, because of the manner in which it is presented. If well presented, it'll look good.

A garden is a framed environment. Something about the German word "zaun" which means "omheining". Originally it was a walled environment.

TULIPS

The blooming year really starts off with things blunt and bold. If you look at the shapes and colors of the flowers in spring, they are blunt.

Daffodils are intensely yellow. [Recent attempts at muting the bluntness by introducing pink and other colors.]

Tulips, the reds and yellows are blunt and piercing. The shape of the tulip, again in its original form is so uncomplex and indeed blunt.

The two stages of tulips: Not what you think the bud and the wilted flower. The tulip in a cold environment and the one in a hot place. The classic tulip is the one in a cool garden. The very thin stem, disproportionate to the flower, it rises straight up. It broadens suddenly into extravagant exorbitant color, yellow, red, orange or parrot.

 

 

 

The second form is the tulip during midday. The day's heat forces down the uprightness of the petals and shows it like a children's drawing of a flower, looking at it from the top down.

 

The classical way to work tulips is to put them in the ground in the fall and have them bloom in the spring, take them out of the ground store them for the summer, [this is their dormancy] and then put them back into the ground in the fall. When you take them out in the spring you will notice small accompanying bulbs, {get the multiplication book on what}, separate them if they are big enough to be viable, and then put them back in the ground in November; for next year. Doping it like this is correct; doing it like this is an enormous amount of work. After the tulips have bloomed and wilt they become very difficult to extricate from the ground because the plant itself becomes very weak. If you try to pull it out it'll break off and the bulb will stay in the ground so you have to get into this pretty complex process where you have to dig it out with an implement, a shovel or something that gets underneath the bulb so you can pull it out of the ground, dry it, let the wet surrounding soil dry and shake it off and put it in storage.

 

It is a very industrial sight, a table full of drying tulip bulbs and plants.

 

What I have been doing, though, and I am convinced millions have been doing it with me, out of laziness I am convinced, is just to leave the bulbs in the ground and seeing them becoming smaller and fewer as the years pass.

 

True. However.


I have a number of patches in the garden a number of spots in my garden where I planted tulips over ten (10!) years ago, where one tulip has spread to show a gorgeous bouquet every year. This is pretty close to becoming a perennial. Are the touted perennial tulips really everlasting?

 

I am driving to work. The windows are closed. It is cool outside. Warm and toasty, inside. In the car, the tulips open up and look like giants. I don't want that They don't look like tulips. So, I keep the windows open to keep the tulips closed. I arrive at the office frozen. THE TULIPS ARE CLOSED. On the way up in the elevator, of course, the tulips open up.

 

Look at the tulip from the side. A cool tulip is uniquely a tulip. It is not when it is open. Then look at it from the top down.

Warm and open a flower. Cool and closed a tulip.

In the Northeast springs jump into the 90 degrees, without preparation. On such a glorious day, the fringes of the tulip's petals show the wear of protection against the sun and heat, they curl up and turn opaque. The makeup of tulip is such that it thrives best in cool climates. Originally from Turkey, imported to Northwest Europe in the 16th century, it still reflects its origin of cool climate. Notwithstanding all bio engineering capabilities, tulips still do not thrive naturally in California or Florida. These places lack extended periods of cold weather. Tulips require a cool dormancy to bloom.

 

Tulips. A good investment?

 

Within the relatively little time spent to dig a hole, remove topsoil, throw in the bulbs with the tip up, cover the ground and wait out the winter, the effect of a good patch of tulip is enormous.

 

You have colorized a whole area.

 

Red: Apeldoorn, large, bright red flowers with a majestic sheen.

 

Yellow:

 

Angelique: The handsomest of the new double peony tulips. Late bloomers. The petals change color from leaf to leaf, within the leaf. An excellent man made evolution.

It feels man made though. Snapping off the seed pod, the stem shows an almost wooden strength. It feels untuliplike.

Maybe we need time to get used a new manmade variety. Maybe we should reject it if it feels too artificial. I weigh the balance. I'll keep them for a while.

 

 

THE SKY

Half of the garden is the sky. One half is the earth and the other half is the sky.

When I am looking for a spot to plant a tree.

 

 

SWEET PEAS AND OTHER FAILURES

The Sweet Peas I planted this year are called Lily Langtree and White Supreme.

 

I have seeded Sweet Peas every year for the last four years. They never bloomed.

 

This year, I started them in the greenhouse. All planting instructions I have read require in situ seeding and I adhered to it religiously. It did not work for me. Last year I seeded them in all the places in the garden where I wanted to have lots of them. I even set up trellises and other climbing supports. Out of the 400500 seeds I planted on my knees, maybe 10 or 12 germinated. None went beyond the 4leaf stage.

 

There are those who plant the seeds every St. Patrick's Day and then sit back and just watch them bloom. I have never had sweet peas of my own. I have always wanted to put together a small sweet pea bouquet and put in a little porcelain vase. Isn't that about as cute as one can get? I have seen it many times in photographs. The romantic type. So pretty. To hold hands by.

I was not going to let it happen this year. I planted seeds on St. Patrick's Day but did it in the greenhouse. Gave them a fighting chance. Early May I brought them into the garden.

If I go out into the garden with three or four trays of seedlings to be planted, what I have learned now that when I get to the last flat, I have become so impatient because once you get over the initial excitement of planting a seedling, the work as with all routine, becomes pretty tedious and by the time I have reached the fourth flat, I will just throw in the seedlings and wish them all the best. Not quite the dedication of the first flat and somewhat unfair.

When a routine becomes boring, think of something to make it attractive again. Like organizing it a certain way. What this means for me is, that now that I can anticipate my loss of interest and concomitant sloppiness, I start out with the most unattractive aspect of the planting process. That is taking the seedling clumps out of the individual containers and separating the individual plants and lay them out where I want them. This way, the last remaining task is to dig a little hole with your finger [of course, the soil is well worked and hospitable to young roots] and stick them in the ground. Try it. You'll see the chore is much less choreful, more cheerful.

 

 

SEEDS

Going through the seed packets after all the seedlings have been put outside and are beginning a life of their own, I'll encounter a packet here or there and will remember seeding the contents on some February afternoon. Somehow, something went wrong. The seeds themselves just got soft but did not germinate. They were put in the soil and stayed there. Probably rotted. I never saw them again.

 

When you are trying out something new in the greenhouse or the garden, a trial patch or something you've sown or worked on for the first time and then you decide to move on with it, find it a new place to live. Basically, what you're doing is you are transplanting it, into some permanent place in the garden. If anything should happen to it, like a big branch falls on top of it and just eliminates it completely or a killing frost just below your garden's frost line, kills it because it was a 'zone 6 baby',

There is an easy way to avoid such unilateral disaster.

The Thing To Do Is To Separate The Batch.

 

Put its parts in separate locations in the garden. Parts that may have different or similar environmental qualities, such as a reasonably equal amount of sunshine and shade, or shade and sun or sun or shade.

 

If you notice it survives, at all, in one section of the garden and not in another or it does slightly or substantially better under the cover of this bush or it is particularly affected by fungus or dead leaves in the northeastern corner of the garden rather than the western corner or there is substantial competition from power weeds, then you may be convinced that one spot is superior to another.

If it matters to you at all and if you remember where you got the plant, from a catalogue place or your town's nursery, you may want to make note of your experience and inform your seller accordingly. Certainly, he will use your information in next year's catalogue.

 

If the specimens fare well in both locations or all three, that may be worth noting too, or not.

 

One container where you squeeze the soil out of the black thin plastic. Preferred by most people. Any other container will prove to be more risky in that the root system will not be easily dislodged. One thing to do to avoid damage is to make sure that the soil is either soaking wet, reducing any resistance or arid and shrunk, so that it just drops out when you hold the container upside down.

 

If the seedlings are really very tender, like only a week old, do not forget to hold them by their top leaves. never the stem. The stem will not survive your squeeze, as gentle as you may intend it. Think of it as your baby.

 

There is no more excitement than that brought by the day you carry the bougainvillea out of the greenhouse into the garden.

 

INVASIVENESS

Invading plants, Lysimachia: yes but what a gorgeous invader. The invasiveness is easily contained by the paths surrounding them, and the best way to contain them is to be direct. Cut off the roots with the edge of your shovel once you have decided they have gone far enough.

 

 

SOIL

Sponge. Soil in Spring. Bounce.

That same soil in summer?

Arid & hard & flat

 

CAPTION

Unopened narcissus surrounded by dead leaves from last year's fall.

"I'm So Young", in big yellow letters on a bright green background.

 

Do a photo or series of" spring's dead leaves from fall".

 

 

WEEDS

If at the end of your day, you have no fingerprints left on your fingers, you've probably had a good day of weeding.

No matter how you look at the issue of weeds, no matter what products are available that may be effective in the eradication of weeds, be it preemergent weed control or outright weed killer, the only way your garden is going to be weed free is through your hard work. No other way.

And then you know it is never going to be weedfree. If your garden has any size it is never going to be weedfree, unless you have a staff of gardeners.


The slyest of weeds is the one whose foliage or hue resembles that of the plant it is standing next to. It trusts it will be invisible to the gardener's eye.

The worst of the weeds, of course, is the clover. What makes the clover such a bad weed is its root system. It's matted. The clover establishes and spread itself by matting its root system in whatever direction it chooses. So what to do?

 

You can pull out the roots if you can grab the whole plant at some central point and lift it out of the ground. Try it. It will not work most of the time. Here some tips on how to make it work. There are two principles.

 

 

You can take out the root, but if you don't take with it all of the root, then you've taken care of only part of the problem. You may even have activated new growth. So it is important that if you pull out a root, you pull out the whole thing.

 

So now you have a pile of weeds. What do you do with them. You have several options. You want to do something with them, right?

 

You can throw them on a pile and discard them. Stuff them in a garbage bag. Easy.

 

You make them part of the compost pile. After however many months it takes to complete the metamorphosis to "compost", turn them into positive contributors to the garden's beauty. Reintroduce them to the garden as "mest".

 

When you compost them, you must, of course, remain aware of what type of weed you make part of your compost pile. Depending on how hot you can get your compost pile, you should maintain a distinction between weeds that carry no seeds [yet] and weeds with seeds, weeds that have bloomed or are blooming and that may be carrying seeds.

 

You should try to avoid the last category. If you see no blooms or seeds on the weeds, or if it is too early in the season for them to carry seeds, you may safely recycle them.

 

Depending on the time of year, you may have two other options. They are my preferred ways because they cost minimal effort and are very fast, even though they may not be the most esthetic.

If the weed is grass, throw in onto the lawn. It was just a mistake, that it was growing in the garden, right? Make sure you throw in onto the lawn with its roots down, so that it can catch on again. Step on it a couple of times, to make sure it gets imbedded. If that's what you want.

 

If the soil is loose enough, just dig a hole and throw in your packet of weeds. Make sure, the hole is deep enough so there is no chance the weeds can reemerge. Whatever they do, you do not want them to reach the light. They ought to compost themselves. You want them dead, thus serving a purpose.

Kick them out of the ground with the heels of your black workboots.

Early on in the season, when perennials are just beginning to emerge, simultaneous with the weeds you are trying to get rid of, I delight in ripping the weeds out, shake the dirt from their roots and expose the bare roots to the elements. Sun and wind, that is. You do not want to expose them to water, because they may, especially during the cool spring season even when discarded, find a way to hang on to life and find a way to reinsert their roots into the soil. So expose them good and don't give them a second chance. You don't want them, right?

In the summer, when there is plenty of foliage around, what I tend to do is, when I have pulled up some weeds and I have gathered a handful, I roll them up into a little ball, press them together and stick them under the foliage, the leaves, the lower leaves of whatever plant I happen to be working next to. You can't do that in the spring because there are no bottom leaves, right?

 

 

Now, I know what you are going to say, because this Euchera, Coral Bells, plot, does not look very pretty, does it? In April, when this picture was taken, there is not very much foliage to hide weeds under. The roots of the grass weed are exposed to sun and wind and will not live very much longer.

 

But look at it from the point of view of the Euchera, who [which] may not have a well developed sense of style. If you are a Euchera, or any other plant for that matter and it is April and the nights and days are still gusty and downright cold. What would you prefer to spend the night with? Would you prefer to have some pillows thrown about for comfort, surround yourself with future condiment, compost to be, or have everything pulled out & away, leaving you proud and by yourself in a clean space. But all alone, just you and the soil. Exposed.

 

¿Any preference?

 

That leaves the issue of whether leaving dead leaves or dying weeds around plants provides the required current or future nutrition to the living plant.

 

The level of in leaves and weeds is quite high. Most, that is most, not all, perennials prefer a high degree of to acid. So, it will not serve a purpose to spread dying leaves around a rhododendron, which prefers acid soil.

Spread it about perennials that you know are relying on a steady supply of . If you want to please a rhododendron, give it a sweep of pine needles. It is high in acid. The rhododendron loves it.

 

Get the story about the rhododendron & life.

Around perennials, dump a good heap of leaves and pulled out weeds. It will provide a healthy nutritional base not only to take them through the summer, but to make them thrive.

 

So you find it crude to talk about surrounding plants with dead leaves, with the dead parts of the plant's previous generations? Well, this is nature. How do you feel about animal predators. The live off their prey, contemporary prey. That's cruel, some people may think. Plants do not live off their contemporaries. They live off the previous generations, their parents, grandparents or ancestors of other plants. So far this comparison. I doubt it has any value. It is an observation.

If you are still not convinced, think of it this way, the cumulative way. Ten years, 15 years, of accumulated dead leaves. What legacy does that leave. Pretty comfy, no. Nice and cushiony, no? Now what if you were a Euchera and you had had your surroundings bared by a very handsome and zealous gardener. What are you going to do with handsome if you haven't got any pillows to lean on, to keep you warm. Give me the pillows anytime. Let the gardener be ugly. I want to be pretty and comfortable.

 

 

FUN

You think being bent over for a good part of the day, isn't fun? You think weeding isn't fun? But, it can be a lot of fun. In several ways. Practical and theoretical.

 

First the theoretical one. Harder to explain but if I can properly explain it, you'll end up disliking the weed process less. Think of weeding in terms of a computer screen or if you're not familiar with computer screens, a picture, a photograph that is soiled or blurred. Weeding is the process of cleaning up the picture, erasing the blotches, the smears, the pixels that disturb the overall impression, or what you intend the overall picture to be.

The practical ones.

 

Easy. Water. That's all. Let it rain and no weed has any resistance. You know how soft the soil becomes when it has rained. The nastiest of the weeds comes out when you pull it from the earth. It comes out just like that. Granted, it doesn't rain all the time. But, you're the boss around your garden. You make it rain. Whenever you want to. Wherever you want to. If you have a patch you want to rid of weeds, lay down a running hose in the area you're working on for a couple of minutes, let the soil soak up all the water, soak it good soil and pull. Voila.

Terror. You're the boss right. You will not allow the weeds to terrorize you? So take charge. Take the four pronged fork. Pry it under the roots of the clover. [the fork is the best prying tool] It will come out without much resistance. Lift it out, throw it in the air. Make it look completely helpless. Have you ever held a baby and thrown it in the air and caught it on its way down. The baby depended on you on its way down, right? And of course you caught it. Not so the weed. Kick it back up and up with the four pronged fork until it is denuded of all the soil on its roots. The roots simply cannot hold on to the soil because of what you do. The weed has become totally helpless. Totally harmless. Just the way you wanted it.

 

A silent pull.

When you pull the weed out and you hear something snap, you know that a substantial part of the root system is still in there. Well, a root system by itself will not grow a new plant. The roots require an outlet into the light. Depending on how deep the root system broke off underground, it will not have the wherewithal to start a new plan. Chances are though, that when your weed pull was not a silent one, the weed may come back.

 

Would I be happier if there weren't any weeds?

I have come to respect weeds. They are a plant, a living being, and they feel they are entitled to viability. They show such enthusiasm & power.

In midsummer, hot & humid days, a forest of weeds may establish itself in a matter of days. A dense forest roof, it effectively kills the young shoots I may have planted.

It is only I who is in the way, who, subjectively determines they are not to bee there. The fact they are there demands my respect for them.

Would I be happier if they weren't there. Well, much of the challenge as I have come to know it, would be gone. A weedless environment would be like having garden on Astroturf.

What have I learned?

Well, introducing new soil into the garden, be it manure or top soil, means that you import all kinds of new life. blablabla

Some seed packages instruct you to sow in weedfree soil. The hyphen alone!

 

ROSES

The funny thing with roses is that whenever at the beginning of a new season, in spring, I go about with shears to "snoei" them, they look so pitiful. Brown & burnt & dead. As if they had been in a fire. Again I think: "Ahh, the roses didn't make it this year. Didn't make it through the winter. Still there was a good snow cover. Why didn't they make it? Didn't I cover the crowns enough?" Then I start to cut all the dead branches. They offer no resistance to the cutter. They have been lifeless for a while. They have been burnt. And then, I lower my eye down the main shaft to the base and feel something soft. It is red and minuscule. I touch it and it gives. I can make it wiggle when I touch it. It doesn't fall off when I stir it. It's alive. The rose lives.

The thing with the Rose Garden is that I do not know whether I am going to keep it.

It's the ROI thing.

I ask: "Is the time and investment paying off? Am I getting enough out of it?" It is a very High Maintenance Area. Unlike other areas in the garden, the soil in the Rose Garden is very visible and so is every weed that grows in it. The bloom period is brief and noncontinuous. There is the early éclat and then the haphazard irregular bloom. Not to speak of the Japanese Beetles. They have no interest in any other region. Just the roses.

Funny how you rarely see a solitary Japanese Beetle. They mostly come in pairs. One sitting on top of the other one who is doing all the eating. Guess they feel there should be more of them.

The books that I have read on dealing with them all agree that what you do with them is "pick them off the leaves and discard them". Well. That doesn't seem to work for me. My relationship with them is purely violent. I can not relent. When I sqoosh them between two fingers, I don't say anything. They don't say anything.

The edge of the Rose Garden is a pretty one. It is the prettiest edge in the whole garden. It is made of Sedum. It is an evergreen, present even in February. It is also a perennial, it comes back every year. No, it just never disappears. When I planted it, I was convinced the density and compactness of the branches would smother all weed attempts. I was convinced I was creating a labor free zone. Astro turf alive.

I was wrong. Clover knits its matting underneath the Sedum. Grass grows through it, thinking it is part of the lawn. A disappointment. I was very wrong. The Sedum Triangle has become a very labor intensive zone. The most toilsome zone in the whole garden.

So. A narrow interpretation of my ROI principles dictate I remove the Sedum. But I decide against it. I feel that in my portfolio there is room for some low earners. Temporarily, at least. And who knows, maybe this is going to be a longterm prospect.

My strategy on beating this disappointment is one of taking advantage of the structural difference between sedum and weeds.

What the weeds have in common is that they have an intricate root system, which, however, is easily removed in wet soil. What distinguishes the sedum from other plants is that it barely has a root system to speak of. Sedum somehow finds itself a way into the soil. A succulent, it has excellent water retention capability and can live without water for quite some time.

So what I do is I grab the far edge of the sedum in one spot with both my hands, and gently roll it towards me. The sedum will offer no resistance. While rolling the sedum towards me, the grass, clover and other weeds become exposed.

Defenseless they are. I can easily pull them out. Once I have cleaned out the soil, I throw the sedum back and I have a weedfree edge. I donot water the edge for at least a week, again taking advantage of the difference between the succulent and the weeds. By withholding water, any remaining weeds will wither and die. The sedum will have no problem reestablishing itself without water. Alone. For awhile, at least.

So back to the roses. The Rose Garden breathes quiet. The other gardens are baroque and wild, high an low. The Rose Garden is even keeled. It is distinguished [understatement]

 

COMPOST HEAP

 

Digging up the compost heap in April. You tried it in March. It was frozen solid. Only a pick ax gets through it. Now it's malleable. It's soft. It smells of riches.

All the work required to come up with the riches of black compost, is worth the trouble. What compost does is improve the soil to the benefit of your plants. Compost makes for a healthy garden, where good elements thrive. Where the plants are healthy, inviting good elements into the garden such as frogs, birds, snakes, which in turn eat the bad bugs, the May Flies, the mosquitoes. Earthworms that till the soil. If your garden is a healthy environment, it will be a place of few diseases. The soil, when it is healthy will also retain water much better.

When not fully dug in, but allowed to stay on top of the soil, it will act as a mulch, it will prevent the water from evaporating and keep the roots of your plants moist.

 

Spread the wealth a little bit. One year I'll add semicomposted shredded leaves to an area, and will add compost the year after that and manure the after that. The balance, you know.


When you are ready to bring the compost into the garden, till it into the soil about 6 to 8 inches deep. When you do it, imagine what you are doing. You are not introducing some carton packaged, gray pallets of fertilizer into your soil. You are reintroducing instead a homemade product into the garden. One crawling with earth worms, ceaselessly turning and churning the soil.
After it has been dug in, the microorganisms in the compost will continue the decomposition process, of both the compost and the soil.

Something about earthworms. They're your little helpers. They do all the digging for you. So you ought to create a pleasant environment for them.

I have seen earthworms in what I thought very inhospitable places. In heavy loam or clay soil. Two spades deep! They live up to three feet below the surface!

 

There must be something good there. What?

 

I used to think of earthworms as the creatures that loved living in compost heaps. [My friends rob the heap to go fishing.]

An old wives tale: You need worms.

No, you don't.

Not necessarily. It depends on the soil in your garden. If your soil is sandy, well fertilized and watered, you have no need for earthworms. However, such circumstances are rare. Loam and clay soil are very compact, too compact for roots to grow in. No room for water to seep through or air space for root growth. And that is exactly where roots grow, in the airspace between the soil particles, not in the soil particles themselves.

Mulching the soil, that is covering it with a blanket of pine needles [if you want some acid] or manure, straw, grass, a winter cover crop or compost, during the cool seasons will cause the earthworms to move about the soil.

 

Just for trying, put a board down for a couple of months and see how many worms live below it!

 

When they do, they do a number of things:

* they stir the surface so that raindrops can seep into the soil.

* they prevent the soil from becoming compact.

* they secrete slime that lines the channels so that they are stable when water runs through them.

* they carry organic matter from the topsoil to the subsoil, making more room for the roots to grow. Think of it in terms 0f an elevator going down a couple of floors. Earthworms carry down topsoil organic matter into the subsoil.

Earthworms conserve the nitrogen in the soil by storing it as protein in their bodies and preventing it from leaching during the winter months, when vegetative growth is minimal. Then, as the new generation of earthworms comes on in the spring, the old ones die. The nitrogen stored in their bodies, is released for your plants to grow.

So how do you build up the worm populace? Mulch the soil during winter. If you don't, most earthworms will die or move to more protected sites.

 

If there are puddles in the spring, you know there are no earthworms.

 

During summer, worm activity is minimal, unless the soil is well watered. You can till the soil without harming the worm population.
I must admit I have changed minds about compost heaps. A decade ago, I would find myself looking for things to contribute to the heap. Things from the kitchen, Paper towels, potato skins, coffee grinds and things from the garden, chopped up leaves, oak leaves.

 

Tall things that could rot, got onto the pile and did rot.

It is a long and slow process. The return in volume is minimal, though. It will take me a full growing season to fill a commercial compost bin.

I still love the smell and the feel of the heap. But I'll also find little aluminum screwon bottle caps in them. Ears of corn from last year's barbecue that still have not deteriorated. They're still there. Only now they are black. How long does it take them? Shouldn't they be gone and useful by now?

No.

The neighbor farmer sells a whole truckload of well rotted horse manure for the equivalent of two hour's work. Do I give in?

Yes.

The compost heap still looks good. I use it for exclusive plants only. The ones that deserve it.

Back to my neighbor. He tells me horse manure is beats cow manure. "Cows eat grass and weeds and the digestive process does not destroy them". Horses, on the other hand eat oats and they do not contain seeds. Somehow, it does not seem to work that way. Any time you introduce foreign elements into the garden, something that has been somewhere else before and mix it with your soil, there will be an impact. The impact is foreign weeds.

 

SEEDS

Going through the seed packets after all the seedlings have been put outside and are beginning a life of their own, I'll encounter a packet here or there and will remember seeding the contents on some February afternoon. Somehow, something went wrong. The seeds themselves just got soft but did not germinate. They were put in the soil and stayed there. Probably rotted. I never saw them again.

 

When you are trying out something new in the greenhouse or the garden, a trial patch or something you've sown or worked on for the first time and then you decide to move on with it, find it a new place to live. Basically, what you're doing is you are transplanting it, into some permanent place in the garden. If anything should happen to it, like a big branch falls on top of it and just eliminates it completely or a killing frost just below your garden's frost line, kills it because it was a 'zone 6 baby',

There is an easy way to avoid such unilateral disaster.

The Thing To Do Is To Separate The Batch.

 

Put its parts in separate locations in the garden. Parts that may have different or similar environmental qualities, such as a reasonably equal amount of sunshine and shade, or shade and sun or sun or shade.

 

If you notice it survives, at all, in one section of the garden and not in another or it does slightly or substantially better under the cover of this bush or it is particularly affected by fungus or dead leaves in the northeastern corner of the garden rather than the western corner or there is substantial competition from power weeds, then you may be convinced that one spot is superior to another.

If it matters to you at all and if you remember where you got the plant, from a catalogue place or your town's nursery, you may want to make note of your experience and inform your seller accordingly. Certainly, he will use your information in next year's catalogue.

 

If the specimens fare well in both locations or all three, that may be worth noting too, or not.

 

If I go out into the garden with three or four trays of seedlings to be planted, what I have learned now that when I get to the last flat, I have become so impatient because once you get over the initial excitement of planting a seedling, the work as with all routine, becomes pretty tedious and by the time I have reached the fourth flat, I will just throw in the seedlings and wish them all the best. Not quite the dedication of the first flat and somewhat unfair.

When a routine becomes boring, think of something to make it attractive again. Like organizing it a certain way. What this means for me is, that now that I can anticipate my loss of interest and concomitant sloppiness, I start out with the most unattractive aspect of the planting process. That is taking the seedling clumps out of the individual containers and separating the individual plants and lay them out where I want them. This way, the last remaining task is to dig a little hole with your finger [of course, the soil is well worked and hospitable to young roots] and stick them in the ground. Try it. You'll see the chore is much less choreful, more cheerful.

 

ECHINACEA.

Although the popular name of Echinacea is "The Purple Cone Flower, most of the people I know refer to it by its Latin name. In addressing the flower by its official name rather than its popular name, I think, my friends show an esteem, a respect, for the flower. For Powerful it is!

Echinacea is popular again on both sides of the Atlantic. For botanical and esthetic reasons and medicinal relevance.

Revival of interest started in the FLOWER POWER days, the mid sixties, and is documented by reports of substantial decreases in coneflowers along Midwest roadsides. The Echinacea, indigenous to the central States in the US, roughly Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas, became a hit.

 

WHY THE INTEREST?

In Echinacea?

 

Medicinal? Yes, but not only.

The American Indians used Echinacea for many purposes. The Meskwaki and the Kiowa of the Missouri River Region used the dried flower heads as combs! Children of the Pawnee used the dried stalks in a game where the stalks were whirled around one another.

But, of course, it is the medicinal use for which the Echinacea is best known. The Cheyenne used both the leaves and the roots to brew a tea to alleviate sore throats. They also chewed the unground roots, letting the juices and saliva run down the throat to soothe irritation. Montana Indians chewed the seeds to increase saliva flow. The seeds and roots produce a numbing sensation. A Hidatsu Indian reports that a warrior chews a small piece of root when traveling at night, as a stimulant. The Omaha Ponca used the plant as an eye wash. The Delaware for advanced venereal disease and the Choctaw for Dyspepsia.

Early European settlers named it Droops, Hedge Hog, Indian Head, Niggerhead, Missouri Snakeroot, Comb Flower, Black Sampson or Red Sunflower.

 

Contemporary Research

A 1953 study conducted at the Zoological Institute at the University of Cologne found that echinacin [a purified extract made from the root] inhibited the enzyme hyaluronidase, which is associated with the infection process, while it activated white blood cells and macrophages and stimulated the regeneration of cellular connective tissues. Impressive. Macrophages are major players in the AIDS arena.

 

A 1954

FLOWER HARVEST

 

August, huh. And you thought summer was going to be young forever. Last forever.

Well, summer is beginning to look rather mature. I can tell by the shortening of the days. I can tell by the leaves of the grapevines. They begin to show the ravage of the Japanese Beetles, leaving only the channels of the leaves visible, not the substance of the leaves, turning them seethrough. I can tell by the scars of life, the wrinkles on the face of the pretty flowers. Look at them. Aren't they pretty. So mature. So adult.

I can tell by the length of day. I find myself back inside a little bit earlier than last month. More time for other things. Less time for being outside in the garden.

I can also tell by the things I am doing in my garden.

One of the first signs of summer's maturity is the end of bloom of so many perennials.

 

Remember all of them? The peonies. They have come and gone. They were staked and drooped anyway. Even if it was a gentle arc. Gorgeous again this year.

Ahh, the opulent smell. The petals' delicacy, unfolding from the bud's tight gift wrap.

AUGUST. The leaves of the tulips and daffodils have long since disappeared under the Hostas. The rose garden has had its first éclat of the season and is now fighting a Japanese Beetle raid. The raid will last until the nights get cooler.

Geum and Pyrethrum have had their day in the garden and, indeed, show foliage fatigue. They carry ripened seeds where flowers used to be.

They've gone to pod!

But, they're still pretty. They may not look like something you would pay a lot of money for at your nursery. They may not be at their peak. They may not be the prettiest thing alive around you. But look at the pods.

What you see is a flower beyond its prime. It has reached a respectable age, a certain grandeur. It has achieved. It has lived, strutted its stuff and been productive. Creative.

It has created latent offspring. It is now left to chance whether its progeny will ever come into being.

Or is it?

This is where you might make a difference. If you want to.

Gather the seeds.

Ever done it? It takes a bit of work but is rewarding if you want to exercise some control in your garden and want to experiment a little bit, maybe.

If you're going for it, first, you have to determine the best time to catch the seeds. The optimum moment may vary per plant. The seeds from plants like Geum and Pyrethrum may be collected at any time after they have bloomed. Indications they may be harvested are very direct: the seeds have turned brown, are brittle and dry. In other words, the heart of what was flower is now the pot with seeds. All you do is snap off the top of what was the flower and gently rub off the seeds into a bag or other container.

{The dried flower heads of Pyrethrum {Chrysanthemum Cocineum} are used as an insecticide and in medicine for some skin disorders.}

Digitalis [Foxglove ] may not be so easy.

First, the time to collect the seeds is much more stretched out. Digitalis blooms for about three to four weeks, sometimes even longer. It takes each flower on the stem an equal amount of time to come to fruition, that is, produce its seeds. Since the first flowers bloom 3 to 4 weeks before the last, collection of Digitalis seeds may be spread out over a period of a month. If you are like me, that is too complicated. I usually wait until the middle of the stalk's bent arc is covered in a light brown tinge, giving away its ripeness, until I go for it.

Second, the seeds are not that easy to collect. There are millions of them. Look inside one of the pocketlike pods. Take one between your fingers and empty the contents into your palm. You see? Holds a lot of promise. Be gentle though. The little container is designed in such a way that if it breaks, which is easy, the seeds will fly away in all directions. Just what propagation is all about, but maybe not what you had in mind.

I have found a pretty safe way to collect the little seeds. I put a newspaper underneath the plant, bend it over gently and rub the stalk and seed pods in the cup of my hand. The seeds pour down onto the paper, imitating the sound of gentle rain on the leaves of Hostas. If the stalk breaks as you bend it, have no concern. It will not cut off life to the remainder of the stalk.

 

One, the flow of life has only been bent, not been cut off; Two, the stalk does not require that much food any longer anyway. All that is required is ripening of the seeds. All that is required is time.

 

Digitalis is a biennial. That means it requires two years to complete a life cycle; it blooms and forms seeds in the second year. Ergo, a plant for patient people. It will not bloom until two years have gone by. Well, make that one year and 10 months.

 

After a Digitalis seed finds fertile soil, it will, after germination, produce a coy little plant that will take all of the ensuing summer to establish itself and produce an adult root system. Then it goes through another winter so that next spring it is strong enough to reproduce fireworks. Theoretically, this may leave your Digitalis patch in the garden bare for the odd years. However, the foliage of the strengthening Digitalis is handsome enough for you to enjoy even without the flower stalks actually being there. And then, there are always some brawny brothers who did their thing in one year or some weaker ones who took three.

Maybe you know some of the slow ones; those who in their second year push up a respectable number of leaves, but end up not producing what's expected:` a stalk of folks' gloves.

 

The seeds of Delphinium may be collected in a similar fashion. These seeds are not quite as minuscule, which makes the process a bit easier. A word of advice, though. Delphinium, a perennial of sorts, blooms twice a year. It will perform an encore in late summer, early fall. That may be a better time to collect the seeds. To make certain that your Delphinium will bloom a second time, cut the stalks back to the ground, watch the new shoots come up, fertilize if you wish and harvest the seeds after the second bloom.

 

Lamb's Ear. The stately Eminence Grise of my garden. If you have allowed it to bloom and did not cut off the flower stakes prior to bloom, you will get double pleasure from cutting the stakes now. The seeds are easy to collect. Just shake 'em loose on a piece of paper.

My main harvest of Lamb's Ears is not the seeds, though. [I find root separation of Lamb's Ears a more effective way of propagation than seed collection.] No, it's the stalks I'm after. They add magnificence to a dried flower bouquet. All you need to do to prepare them for longevity is to cut them off at their base, strip off the bottom leaves, and hang them upside down to dry. Upside down, so that when they are fully dried, the leaves stand up and do not slouch.

Another winner in dried form, and one whose elegance as a flower is almost without match, is the Poppy [Papaver Orientalis]. Here, both the seeds and the seed pods are harvested. The seeds, because they are plentiful and ensure next year's profusion and the pods because of their mathematic beauty. They seem as if carved out of wood, a container from a primitive tribe, varying in color from a light beige to a dark brown.

Tie them together, tightly and you got yourself a little jewel.

Impatiens? Now there's some fun. Try and catch their seeds! The seed pods literally explode. See those dried curledup seed pods? Squeeze them between your fingers and the seeds pop out with a little bang, flying in all directions, just where they wanted to be.

I am not very concerned about odd seeds finding their way throughout my garden. If the next spring they emerge in a spot that does not suit me, I may pull them up and discard them or if they move me, move them to an appropriate spot. A white Impatiens looks good anywhere. Next year, it may accentuate a blue ancaris or a pink carnation. The Silver Dollar flower may be purple enough, or Columbine [Aquilegia] fragile enough, to dissuade me to rip it out. Of course, next year you can always gather the seedlings and regroup them in a new bed all their own. You decide.

Of course, you are the artist in your garden. When you cut back the spent perennials to reintroduce some order in the garden, use your imagination. Don't just cut them plain back to the ground. Cut them back at different heights, in differing shapes, squares, triangles, pyramids or domes. It's easy and will prolong the visual interest of the plant. Take into account the inherent sculptural guise, the form hidden in the perennial's thicket. A plant is not interesting only during the short period it blooms. Appreciate the before and after stages. The combination of leaf shapes.

Look at the leaves of the Lily of the Valley, Peony and Iris together. Do you need any flower there? Isn't it handsome just like that? Just the shapes. Of the leaves. There's another harvest for you. Sheer beauty. Pure joy. It's August alright.

 

 

 

 

LILIES

Remember that black and white photograph of Marlene Dietrich, all made up, with her hair flowing in all directions. Beautiful picture. Very done, yet unrehearsed. In the foreground of that photograph, imitating the wild flows of hair, a flower. An Orchid.

That photograph has been discussed, reviewed and analyzed over and over. All who are familiar with it, agree that the flower reflects the sensuality, indeed the sexuality of Marlene. The similarities in form between the two are striking. Yet there is a big distinction. Marlene is dressed, the flower is naked.

The photo is intended to stir up the fantasies of a sensual, sexual, indeed nude Marlene. It does work.

But, the flower should have been a Lily. The Lily represents the ultimate in sensuality and sexuality in the garden.

There are several reasons why I feel this way.

The first is the vaguest but probably the most important one. It is the overall impression. It is the lushness, the voluptuousness, sumptuousness of its form, the strength of its stalk rising from the soil, the fervor of its smell, the glory of its colors, the ballast of its texture. The overall performance is of such power as to leave one awed..

 

Epicurean the philosophical system of Epicurus, holding that the world is a series of fortuitous combinations of atoms and that the highest good is pleasure, interpreted as freedom from disturbance or pain.

There are very fine ways to describe the lily. Even its little sibling, the daylily has been given similar reviews. Says Sydney Eddison: "There is nothing coy about [it]. In fact, part of its beauty lies in the elegance of its reproductive apparatus which it parades before appreciative insects and eager hybridizers."

 

Those three things, stamen petal etc. Get out of daylily book . Those are the most prominent elements of the Lily flower. The leaf too. Yes but the sexually most manifest DO LATER.

 

He just stuck me in this hole he'd dug. Face down, no less; ass up, no less. It's dark here, all dirt. What? What's that now? Stamping on top of me? Pouring water in the hole, trampling it. Dark in here. Hardly any air. Getting chilly. Nothing to do here. Face down. Ass up. No one else here. All by myself. Getting real cold now. Am I tired! Frigid. Ice cold. Nothing happening. Freezing. What? No nothing. Bored. Stiff. What? Was that? Something stirring? Couldn't be. Yeah, I feel something. Can't be. Yeah, I do. Something's going on. I can feel it. Something's moving. Something's moving inside. It's moving now! Ohh. It's moving up. It's going up. It's coming out of me. I can feel it. Ohh. There goes. Going up, out the ground. Nice out there. So bright. All these things there. Keep on moving. I keep on going up now. Unfolding these pretty green leaves. Getting taller. Taller than the little things below. Getting real big now.

Now feel this. It's getting warm at the top. It's soft, it's delicate and getting big. It's swelling. Ohh. It's coming loose. It's tearing open. Gently though. Gentle. Softly. It's warm here. I'm opening. I'm opening up. Here is my pistil, my stigma oozing; here are my stamens, here are my anthers, here's my pollen. Come.

 

 

Trussles of Trumpets on Tall sTalks.

 

As bold and powerful as they may seem, when they are just emerging they are the brittlest things around. A hit by a shovel, will kill the shoot off for the year. Being bulbs, they do not have the ability to grow a new shoot. No reserve here. Makes me appreciate the liveon ability of other plants even more. If I am particularly careless with a just emerging dahlia and

 

 

 

SEEDLINGS INTO THE GARDEN

 

One container where you squeeze the soil out of the black thin plastic. Preferred by most people. Any other container will prove to be more risky in that the root system will not be easily dislodged. One thing to do to avoid damage is to make sure that the soil is either soaking wet, reducing any resistance or arid and shrunk, so that it just drops out when you hold the container upside down.

 

If the seedlings are really very tender, like only a week old, do not forget to hold them by their top leaves. never the stem. The stem will not survive your squeeze, as gentle as you may intend it. Think of it as your baby.

 

There is no more excitement than that brought by the day you carry the bougainvillea out of the greenhouse into the garden.

 

 

 

VEGETABLES

You don't know where Onions come from?
LOOK.

 

BOUQUETS

Even if the garden is not at full peak, you can go and pick wonderful bouquets. You'll be amazed. Don't overlook anything. Even a gathering of the small things out there may produce the most wonderful collection of shapes and colors. Go do it and experiment. You may concentrate on the pinks or blues.

 

Get ready for the "Bouquet of the Week" Section!

 

ACHILLEA (YARROW)

Homer nor Virgil describe it in the Iliad or Aenead, but it is rumored that Achilles and his men used Yarrow for medicinal purposes, as a healer of wounds. Considered an herb, valued for its medicinal properties, flavor, and scent, it accompanied the Crusaders on their ventures and until recently was used to heal cuts from carpenter cuts. Hence its French name: Herbe aux Charpentiers.

These days, the Yarrow's young leaves add a tang to your salad; its styptic leaves serve a bandaid purpose; as a tea it is known to reduce fevers and it is an excellent compost activator and fertilizer.

It grows in any soil and barely needs any water. It is attractive from the day the first fernlike silver gray leaves appear in spring until you harvest it for a dried bouquet.

In the meantime, its actual blooming time is unparalleled. Up to eight weeks before the frays start to turn. Time to cut them off for drying, if you want to preserve the yellow color.

Achillea does not only come in yellow.

 

TREES

When you plant a tree, the most important consideration is location. When you scout the location, think as a tree. You are the tree. Where do you want to be. You are the tree. Look around you. Where are the neighboring tree. If I look up, do I have sky above me so that I will be rained on, or am I in the shade of this enormous brother? who will drink all my water. [this is the main diqualifier] Will I want to live here? Will I have morning sun or hot afternoon sun. Will I have good soil. Will my tender bark be protected from the sun and wind. If any of those questions comes out negative, we move on until we have the perfect location.

Do the $100 hole for the $50 tree.

 

TANS

 

Do plants get a tan? Oh yea, they do. The most prominent tans appear the days after a tender perennial plant has been moved from the protection of the greenhouse to the garden. Exposed to the sun and the wind, it will darken in color, turning a bronze copper or darker red. Some plants leaves may turn red for the duration of the summer. As with humans, this is a reaction and protection to the elements. ???

 

Table of Authorities

 

 

Eddison, Sydney, A Patchwork Garden, 1989, Henry Holt and Company, New York

Eddison, Sydney, A Passion for Daylilies, 1993, Henry Holt and Company, New York

Garland, Sarah, The Herb Garden, 1984, Viking Penguin, Inc. New York

Hamilton, Edith, Mythology, 1979, Little, Brown & Company, Boston.

Redell, Rayford Clayton and Galyean, Robert, Growing Fragrant Plants, 1989, Harper & Row, New York.

Seddon, George and Bicknell, Andrew, Plants Plus, 1987, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, Pennsylvania

 

 

 

The House

 

AUTUMN3

Pergola

The Ponds

Flower in Vases

 The Oval

Kazan, Kiki & Duke

Winter & Snow

 

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