Sunday, August 27, 2006

When do you pull the plug?

Some plants inspire a tenacious refusal to let them go, even when there’s every reason to pull them out or cut them down.

Such is the case with my nicotiana sylvestris, about which I’ve recently bragged. It first came into bloom about a month ago: beautiful candelabras of nodding tubular blooms on five-feet-tall plants. Since then, the bloom has been gradually slowing on the tallest branches and deadheading has become a twice-daily routine. Even more problematically, tiny bugs are increasingly drawn to the sticky blossoms, so insecticidal soap applications are also necessary.

And it’s getting very boring. Now I’m not one for the “low-maintenance” garden and I honestly don’t think such a thing exists—at least such a thing that could still be called a garden. Gardening means maintaining— but we all have our limits.

I suppose the fact that this is a species plant, which hasn’t been domesticated for the home garden, may be a contributing factor. The Buffalo in Bloom gardeners who visited my space told me that they’d had to stop planting it in public spaces, because they couldn’t spray.

I think I’ll stick with it for now. Today we took a long walk, and I saw the sad fading and browning of many of the city’s most beautiful gardens. The hideous autumn joy sedum is on the rise—always a death knell for the gardening season. So I’ll keep my big-fat-pain-in-the-ass nicotiana; like other gardeners at this time, I can’t afford to lose the flowers.


Laurie said...

My nicotiana were all looking pretty sad, so I chopped the tops off and fed them. They are now very dark green, and producing new buds. There's still about a month to the last frost, so they should be in full flower by then.

Jane M. said...

I use the nicotiana as a lure to keep bugs away from my other plants, and don't bother washing it. They don't hurt the plant and I just don't look too closely. But there's also this: Nicotiana alata smells very very much like N. sylvestris, plus it's a tiny bit shorter and definitely more floriferous. You could try that if you haven't. I grow them all in a big mass and they are looking fantastic right now and of course, still smelling great. You may have given me a good column idea. Thanks!

LostRoses said...

The monsters are still going strong in my garden and threatening to overpower everything!

El said...

I'd opt for keeping them. Mine have had little bugs from Day One. It doesn't seem to hurt anything but my sense of order. Considering how tall and lush they are now, the bugs are tolerated.