Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Novelty items

The plants I’m featuring for GBBD this time represent a whim, a gift, a change of pace, and a continuing preoccupation. Above is the gift: Proven Winners kindly sent me 3 “Pretty Much Picasso” supertunia hybrids. These are the hot annual of the season and I really like how they’re performing so far.

This is the whim; our supermarket had a group of these just outside the entrance the other day and I couldn’t resist. I’m keeping them in the pond.

These old-fashioned frilly petunias were part of the Botanical Gardens sale this year. I preordered them. Unlike the newfangled waves and so on, these will not go wild, but hopefully they’ll last the summer.

And these Mrs. Blackhouse martagons are part of my ever growing lilium collection. They’re very hardy and will put up with shade.

(I was going to make readers guess which was which—whim, gift, and so on, but figured it would be annoying.)

Filling the gaps

You’ve all heard me bemoaning the shade and tree roots that make it very difficult to get any kind of color into my front yard. Even aggressive ground covers have a hard time colonizing some of this densely canopied space.

Nonetheless, I’ve been reluctant to bring more containers into the area, as I’m not sure about the mixed aesthetic message that a ground cover, shrub, and perennial planting combined with containers would give. Until now. In desperation, I decided to bring a couple large containers into the mix. They held tulips in the spring and are now planted with colocasia, “fusion” impatiens and hedera hybrids. It seems to be working out OK so far, but I would hate them to be the thin edge of a wedge of artificial elements in the front.

Many on the street have the same problem, and are solving it with pavement, gravel, containers and —invariably, when all else fails—hosta. These solutions are all very well, but I would like to have other plants than hosta. That’s where the containers come in. They are free of tree roots, and they have a bit of height. This seems to help the plants capture a bit of dappled light. If it works out, I may eventually replace them with some heavier iron vessels. The traditional appearance of these Victorian urns will better reconcile them to front yard use.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Where gardeners fear to tread

A friend asked me about plants that people are afraid to grow. What a fascinating question! On the surface, it might seem absurd—who could possibly be afraid of a simple plant? All it can do is live or die, right? Outside of Little Shop of Horrors, et al, plants are not really a threat. There is little reason to dread them. Yet I know many people do.

There are, I think, 3 main reasons for gardeners actually being wary of plants. The first I can think of it that many are afraid they won’t succeed with specific plants. This mainly applies to specialties such as roses (outside) and orchids (inside). These are plants where there are huge mythologies surrounding their care and delicacy. Actually, there’s not much to either. I know people who keep dozens of roses alive without much trouble at all. I also know people who keep hundreds of orchids alive and blooming with far less trouble than you might imagine.

The second reason people fear plants is their mortality. There’s the whole “black/brown thumb,” “plants hate me” thing. Or many people who aren’t afraid to maintain gardens are still morbidly afraid of plants dying under their care. To these people, I say: plants die; get over it. It happens to all of us. I think the "black thumb" talk is a euphemism for those who don’t want to be bothered with plants. To these people, I say: your thumb is fine; you just don’t want to grow plants. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Finally, many would-be gardeners are afraid of aggressive plants that they feel may “eat” other plants in the garden. Unless you’re talking about truly noxious spreaders like kudzu, glechoma, thistle, and goutweed, most plants can be controlled, even violas (above). I find that planting closely and pulling out what I don’t want works pretty well. True, I don’t have acres, but few home gardeners do. To be honest, I welcome a nice, aggressive plant that will quickly cover what is otherwise a problem area.

Why fear plants? There are way better things to be afraid of these days.