The Weekly Gardener 1


Memories of Summer

Green Flowers

Bells of Ireland

Have you ever had this sinking feeling, when you want to try a plant you've never grown before, and you look at the beautiful photos on the seed packet, that there is absolutely no way this botanical wonder will ever grow in your garden?

I'm not one to dismiss intuition, it is usually based on the very fast logical analysis of already available information that goes on in the background while your brain is busy minding your daily routine, but that doesn't mean it's always right. Fortunately for me, it wasn't this time, because they did sprout, and root, and grow big and strong.

I found out after the fact that Bells of Ireland are among the plants that need to be planted directly outdoors, information which would have served me well last year, before I started them in pods.

The thing about starting perennials from seed is that it doesn't matter how many of them you get to germinate, it only matters whether you manage to keep any of them at all. The germination rate of perennial plants is significantly lower than that of annuals, and their seedlings start out weak and fragile and grow very slowly, and you shouldn't place the same expectations on them as you do on tomatoes or marigolds. I had years when not even one little seedling emerged from a full packet of seeds, and yet I tried them again the following spring. In other years, a full tray of seedlings withered to nothing in the weeks that followed, for no reason I could fathom. Usually they give up the ghost once outside, because they can't adjust to being exposed to the weather. Success is sometimes circumstance, sometimes luck, it really doesn't make a lot of difference; if only one out of an entire packet of seeds makes it, you will have that plant in your garden, one you would have had a hard time to find fully grown. I have been fortunate to get quite a few less common perennials, like Canterbury bells, Maltese cross, fringed bleeding hearts, giant delphiniums, and now bells of Ireland.

The only things Irish about these beauties are their color and their name, they are in fact natives of Turkey.

I learned that the plants develop a long tap root, the main reason why they don't tolerate transplanting, and my reason to hope that their eerie green blossoms will return to the garden even stronger this year. They are supposed to bring good luck.


Here's the Love

Flower Border

This is why I am so looking forward to next summer! I guess here's the answer for why there is no more space left for planting in the full sun flower bed and why I should leave it alone.

I'm still peeved about the roses, which should be in there somewhere, buried three levels deep under this vegetal exuberance, but if I really want to try any of them at all, I will have to expand the flower bed, to give them room to breathe, they really hate being crowded.

It is the shade garden that really needs attention this year, anyway. Unusual circumstances brought to it the gift of poison ivy a couple of years ago, which I managed to eliminate before it got a chance to take root, but now I'm reluctant to sink my hands into the clumps of weeds and pull them, like I used to do, since I don't know what lurks underneath. I guess ignorance really is bliss, because I had no clue what was lurking underneath before, and therefore didn't care, but I digress.

This brings up the gardening activity of the week: consulting plant catalogs to figure out what shade loving plants to choose. Most shade plants like at least a small amount of sunshine, even if dappled through tree canopies. There are very few true full shade plants that will bloom, and that's what I need to find.

For instance, hostas won't do for a north side foundation planting. Not even as foliage plants. They diminished so dramatically and in such a short period of time that I barely got to move them before they died off.

It is time to finally try spiderwort, ligularia and bergenia, which beckon from the shade section of the plant nursery every time I pass them by. Maybe I'll give aconite another try too, and definitely plant some anemones in the brighter spots.