Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Sunrise Surprise

My garden is well documented proof that I cannot resist a clearance rack plant. They sit forlorn and weedy, missing tags and leaves, remnants from a season that has passed them by. I slowly peruse the tables, picking up the pots and checking to see if the plant tag matches the plant, rearranging tags as I go. The agastache sports a tag claiming it's a mildew resistant aster while the crinkly dead mums lean against theirs, it's label correct but the plant no longer able to fill the promise of fabulous fall blooms. It's rare that I leave without a new plant to squeeze into an already full garden. When I saw the echinacea, it sat alone, no tag to shout its features. I recognized the foliage and immediately thought of the sunny places it could fill. I plopped it into my wagon, its pink flowers headed for a spot behind the dwarf solidago and 'Rotkugel' oregano.

As the winter grew snowier, I forgot about the coneflowers, the garden buried under an ever deepening sea of white. By spring the long green leaves of the coneflower shot upward, and I laughed to see it growing so vigorously. I had forgotten I had purchased it, just remembering the excitement of $3 pink blooms and hungry butterflies all summer. I saw it again through the window when I came home from work today and stopped in surprise. Pale peachy orange petals stood stiffly around the flat brown middle like a sunrise above a bristly hill. It wasn't what I expected but like life was so much better - a beautiful surprise!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A beautiful end

The rain has finally stopped, the sky grey and the soil moist. I planted my last shipment of native plants as a woodpecker beat a staccato riff against the trunk of a neighbors tree. Walking slowly through the yard, I took note of growth and bloom when a male bluebird suddenly flew from his nest. I stopped and stared. I hadn't seen the bluebirds in over a week and assumed the dogs, kids, lawnmower, had all been too much. The box remained silent, no babies chirping. I stood still and waited. The male will come back, eggs will be laid, and babies will grow, all in my garden.

I headed toward the bare patch under the nannyberry (Viburnum lenato) and started to dig, the soil delicious in its pungency. The blue mist flowers have slowly left this spot, moving farther north towards moister soil. A less determined plant would have just died, but the blue mist flowers moved instead, their stems and leaves popping up closer to the Joe Pye weed. I chuckle and admire a plant so intent on living it chooses a better spot. I slip the ruellia hummilis into the soil and breathe deep. Finishing the day in the garden is always a beautiful end.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Getting to the root of the problem...

Tomorrow I'm going to work on laying more soaker hoses. Dark and abrasive, they tear at my hands when I forget to put my gloves on and coil like serpents at my feet. Bent over like a crone, my right knee throbbing, I snake them through and around my plants, tucking them in close to the roots. Twenty five feet, fifty feet, the hoses fall short of what I need and another trip to the store is at hand. Up close to my garden, the leaves brush my face and I try clumsily not to break any branches. It would be so much easier to just throw down some mulch and run the sprinklers all summer, their lazy arcs of water doing the work for me. But I know what the outcome will be and remind myself of the reward as I stand upright, painfully straightening the knee that is far too young to hurt so much. I think ahead to July, August and imagine a lush garden instead of the parched ruins and massive water bills that greeted me each day last summer. Like most things in life, what's easy and what's right are rarely the same so I continue to quietly pin the hoses to the ground, marking their ends and praying for rain. This summer my plants will have water at their roots and I'll have a beautiful garden, the ultimate reward. 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I hate it when I'm stupid....!!

Last summer I planted a smaller variety of the native Dutchmans Pipe vine along my back fence, hoping to attract Pipevine swallowtails. It hummed along all summer, very small but never demanding. I knew it was setting its roots and would grow larger this summer. About a week ago, I checked the withered stub where its vines had grown last summer, eager for any signs of growth. There were none and I angrily yanked it from the ground, cursing it for dying, perhaps having drowned in three feet of melting snow. I threw it to the ground and walked off. Later in the week, while surfing one of my favorite garden sites, I saw a giant red disclaimer on the page about native vines that read "PIPEVINE IS VERY SLOW TO BREAK DORMANCY SO BE PATIENT." Aauugghhh!!!!!!

It's too windy!!!

It was insanely windy today! Combined with the heat from earlier in the week, my garden was parched and the ground was dry as a bone. I planted five heath asters and more wild petunia (ruellia humilis), both native plants. Finding plants that do well in dry shade and also attract pollinators and butterflies is incredibly challenging. Of course, all problems were solved by just turning to my favorite native plant suppliers!

I started laying the soaker hoses, finally!! I'm hooking three up to rain barrels, which I'm hoping will cut down on my summer water bills. I've seen several different types of butterflies in the garden already. Some flew by so quickly I couldn't tell what kind they were. A huge yellow Eastern swallowtail sailed past me today. I hope it laid eggs in the parsley.

Monday, May 3, 2010

UGH!!!!

Why is it if I want to buy a plant that only exists naturally in the remotest corners of the Earth but just happens to grow well here, I can buy it in a four pack in front of my grocery store, but if I want a NATIVE plant I have to either scour the Internet or head for the woods/fields with a shovel? Native plants should be the norm not the exception!

Also, why is gardening so expensive? Things that are beautiful and make the world a better place should be free. Junk that makes us unhealthy and is harmful to the environment/society, like cigarettes, toxic chemcials, and weapons, should be so outrageously expensive no one can afford them. It shouldn't be cheaper to buy a handgun, cigarettes, and a bunch of junk food than it is to plant/maintian a garden. The world makes NO sense!