Thursday, July 18, 2013

Populist Gardening, or Why Fine Gardening is Not Getting My 29 Bucks

Today I splurged on an issue of Fine Gardening, lured by the cover article on catmints, my all-around fave and trusty garden BFF.  I spent the equivalent of the cost of a perennial, mainly because my hands were full in the check out line and I couldn't gobble up the pretty pictures and text while waiting (I'm a fast reader). The article by the no-doubt noted expert made it clear that while many of his garden friends "made a face" discussing catmints, and he himself would be "just as happy never to see Knock-Out Roses (insert botanical name) and catmint planted again," he felt these worthy garden subjects, etc etc.

I have been comically irritated ever since, to the point where I am pretty sure Fine Gardening is not getting any more of my personal simoleans.

The reason being, it's a question of taste, right? Since when  is it a good idea to disparage someone's taste?  And why on earth would I shell out $7 for said disparagement?  You could say Knock Outs are overplanted, or you don't happen to like them, or you're worried Rose Rosette will take out 20% of the landscaping in your  zip code. But this hastening to dismiss reminds me of 15 year olds navigating the shifting heirarchy of which bands are cool, in case they fail to curl the lip at the right moment.

Common plants are common because they are pretty and tough.  Thanks to economies of scale, they also tend to be cheap. Watching my expensive landscaping fry in this killer heat, pretty, tough and cheap are looking awfully good. This nostril-flaring business ("Oh, THOSE") is just about as silly as can be, unless, I suppose, the magazine is geared for those who want to make sure they're flaring their own nostrils appropriately (Cover Article:  "It's Still Okay to Like Sambuca Black Lace!")

Okay, end of rant.  You can come back in now, it's safe.

Perhaps I'm so touchy because the heat is killing my new lacecap hydrangeas.  I am going to rig some shade netting and fret some more.  I worry constantly about my Vanderwolf Pines and how much to water.  I am always digging my fingers anxiously into the dirt.  The viburnums, Limelight and oakleaf hydrangea, plumbago, and of course the Knock Outs and catmints (gentle cough) are sailing through so far. Magnolia seems okay though I keep eyeing it suspiciously, frankly because it looks like a big gardenia and I can't keep gardenia alive.  The suicide instantly when they cross into the premesis.  It's only mid-July and these poor plants have endured so much heat stress in the last two weeks.  Worry, worry, fuss, fuss.

Still noodling on what to mass in the West bed.  Camellias crossed my mind-- bear with me, I read that a Northwest exposure is good when you're further North-- but then North seems to be shifting these days.  Too expensive and risky.  "Peppy and cheap" is my motto.  Honestly the Little Lime hydrangeas are shapely and refreshing and doing well nearby.  I thought of New Jersey Tea, but I can't remember seeing it in person.  There's good old Inkberry Holly.  I love caryopteris but I can't quite picture them with that cutleaf Japanese Maple which has been moved twice already.  I had thought of a layer of Little Limes, then a fronting of caryopteris... with JM?  Nah.  Abelia?  Snowberry? Bayberry? Beautyberry? Beri beri?  Clearly time to stop.

Wait-- I KNOW.

Fine Gardening, avert your eyes!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


What more can be said?  A whole week of 90+. Thank God we had plenty of rain so far so that the plants are in good shape going into this.  But of course I am anxiously attending every one of my substantial new aquisitions this year.  My planting list for this spring, apart from the professionally planted trees and shrubs, would include...

*Dwarf clethra Hummingbird I snagged for $5 each at Lowe's on clearance

*Two Little Henry Virginia Sweetspire also on clearance but alas not for $5

*Three additional blueberries I got with $$ my grateful MIL gave me after I took her for cataract surgery and hung with her through post-sedation dizziness and vomiting-- naturally I don't expect or wish for recompense, but the blueberries are awfully nice <G> Planted with a bucketful of peat and some pelletized sulphur and crossed fingers.  OK so far.

*Sedums and aurelia for the rock garden, Knock-outs, baptisia, veronica and catmint for Kit Island

plus all the other stuff.  Hydrangea look all withery by day but when I take a sounding they're not too dry, just too hot :(  Terrified of overwatering the new evergreens but under is no good either in this heat.  Limelights are holding up great and just coming into bloom... fabulous plants.

So:  the current focus of my brainpower, such as it is, is the West Bed, which will eventually be something like 26' by about 10-12 feet, earlier discussed.  For review--    Part of this bed is prepared with topsoil over plain brown paper and thick hardwood mulch over that, so it should be nice come fall.  The edges need to be extended  into a sinuous and gracious curve, which I will get to hopefully in the next month.  But MAINLY I need to plan this space so I'm pleased with it and not looking at a haphazard vexation.  This is going to a hot area against yellow siding with lots of pounding afternoon sun. I want repetition, I want charm (the entrance to the garden from the garage cuts through it), and I want to further the color scheme I have going back there, which is some fairly hot pinks/purples/blues, perhaps with some cooling lime-y greens.

Some ideas:  stepping stones flanked by iris-- as in

leading to the garage door.  A little boxwood tucked in near the front at each side.  Some firmly pink peonies tucked in there.  Brian wanted a Dragonlady holly in there.  I need some repetitive shrubs to underplant the Holly/tall thing.  Could do mixed Neon Flash or A Waterer spirea with caryopteris, although the bloom times would not be optimal.  Little Lime?  The greeny color of the new blossoms is very nice.  Could do more KO roses, knaturally, but I think the pink kind would look urpy with the Japanese maple.  I need something calm and green and not too glamorous so that the little specimen bits stick out.  Hmmmm.....

Here's a view I took earlier in the summer from the back corner of the yard.  Just fun to see the forms evolving.  Long way to go, admittedly.

Behind the spruce is Kit Island.