The coven of gardeners gathers once again under the watchful eye of the witch-king Propagator to whisper plant lore in ancient tongues (botanical latin).
1. Flood and sun. This week has seen significant rainfall, which is mostly a good thing in our drought-plagued region, but develops unnerving implications in light of our proximity to a creek susceptible to flooding. And indeed the water level rose and kept rising, at one point engulfing the trunk of an alder tree and knocking ominously on our cellar door. The flood waters have receded again to high but not too high levels, though I still can’t see the native plantings of sedge, rush, willow, and dogwood that I fear have been swept downstream. We shall see.
2. Erosion. Removing the invasives from the riparian area has replaced one problem with another. To wit, while the invasives were doing a lackluster job of holding the soil with their shallow root systems and simultaneously preventing anything else from growing, the new, native plantings are too sparse and not yet established enough to do much in the way of erosion prevention. Consequently landscaping fabric has been strategically placed below the most vulnerable areas to catch the loose soil before the rain carries it into the creek. Most of the natives planted on the banks are shrubs. I have ordered some ferns, mimulus, gingers, and other ground covers that I hope will help hold the soil. Planting during the rainy season makes a lot of sense in terms of giving everything the best chance of establishing with adequate water, but baring the soil in all these vulnerable areas has made me rather nervous.
3. Bulbs. I will admit it, I am whatever the opposite of an expert in bulbs is called. When I lived in Baltimore, I participated a few times in the annual bulb dig at one of the parks on an affluent neighborhood where annual plantings were rotated regularly to ensure an impressive display. This was a rather festive occasion on which aspiring gardeners shod in muddy workboots gathered in a feeding frenzy. Can’t recalll the cost of the bulbs, but they were absurdly cheap. Not having any idea what I was doing, I planted said bulbs in our new garden more or less at recommended depth and promptly forgot about them. Though I now live on the opposite side of the country, I like to imagine the garden, its plants continuing to spread upward and wider, volunteer seedlings sprouting, areas of shade and sun shifting, and at the feet of the now established shrubs, the bulbs making an annual appearance. Here in our new garden, there are bulbs that another gardener lovingly planted, probably years ago. I enjoy the unpredictability of their placement – each one a delightful surprise. And my research has given me newfound respect for their important role in feeding pollinators before other flowers have emerged. Next year, I plan to add to their number.
4. This unprepossessing stick is the winter presence of, I believe, Hibiscus moscheutos “Fireball.” This was acquired last fall for several reasons: (1) as previously mentioned, the gardener passed part of her childhood in Hawaii and is therefore drawn to tropical plants; (2) this particular hardy hibiscus has leaves whose shape and color I find more attractive than the somewhat predictable blooms; (3) it was offered at a low, low price. Planted in the height of the drought, this specimen had little opportunity to establish itself before winter came along, with its moody weather. And so, gazing at the aforementioned stick from afar, I was inclined to despair of its survival. But, being a gardener and having learned from experience that plants are as a general rile tenacious lovers of life, I approached the stick and beheld at its base the chartreuse green of life! Needless to say, I was disproportionately pleased.
5. Blueberries. Purchased at a sale, one of the five assorted bluberry bushes (the smallest) yielded the most fruit and appears to have exhausted itself utterly. Not a hint of a bud. But two of the others are looking quite promising.
6. Phormium “Maori Queen” or “Rainbow Queen.” Though a relatively new introduction to my relatively new garden, the Queen appears well satisfied with her growing conditions, and has generously given birth to 2 offspring. Jusging by neighborhood walks, phormiums have the potential to get quite large hereabouts. At some point, I would like to divide this one into 3 and spread the loveliness about. Any opinions as to timing of phormium division?