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Monday, June 27, 2011

Summer Garden!

The Spring Garden...

Has turned into the Summer Garden!

Late June
Each March, as I walk through my muddy back garden in, I am sure that each and every bare spot is going to need to be filled with some new and terribly expensive plant.  So sure am I that I start consulting gardening books, seed catalogs, and even those fabulously splashy mailings that will send you a whole flower garden all at once, with instructions on where and how to plant each item for best effect.  As spring moves along, I am a little more hopeful, maybe most of the things that I loved last year will make another appearance.  Finally, around mid-June, my perennial beds are full to bursting and I couldn't squeeze another plant in if I wanted to!

My favorite spot - the perennial bed.  As the season
progresses, hollyhocks, dahlias and more roses
take over.  By autumn it's a huge bank of Japanese
anemones...  No foxglove this year...  hmmm.
Gardens are wonderful things.  They give us tremendous scope for our creative talents. They also provide an excellent opportunity to get out of the house and into the sun and fresh air.  I rarely feel worse for having flung the door open and thrown myself into the latest gardening project.

Our house has provided us with ample opportunity to exercise this horticultural longing.  Built in 1910, it came to us with very little in the way of landscaping.  A giant Sequoia tree was the main plant of note.  An aged and rather pessimistic neighbor has assured the children that, within fifty years time, that tree is bound to crash through our roof.  But, it's a landmark that can be seen from far, far away.  A sort of beacon as we drive home.

Home!  Ready for the Fourth of July.

My first foray into planting was thanks to one of those colorful plant catalogs that I mentioned above.  I bought the "Blue and White Colonial Garden", expecting sizable plants to arrive in four to six weeks.  Imagine my disappointment when the tiniest, most decrepit looking seedlings came in rather damp and crumpled cardboard boxes.  Planting according to the enclosed chart, I was certain that my "garden" would put on a brave, if slightly less spectacular, show.

Weeks went by and little growth was noted.  Resigned to my first waste of meager gardening funds, I was delighted to one day notice that, finally, my miniature Williamsburg garden was starting to fill in.  By mid-June it was really quite presentable and I was hooked.

Almost all of those plants remain today, ten years later.  The geraniums, Canterbury Bells and balloon flowers have been divided, again and again, and almost all return each year, healthy and ready to give me some sense of satisfaction.  The one casualty from that first shipment has been the Shasta daisy.  Bright, cheerful and a sure sign of summer, whoever thought up the phrase "fresh as a daisy" was seriously troubled.  Overpowering an otherwise beautifully scented garden, those daisies had to go.

Perhaps one of my favorite plants was rescued from my brother.  Presented with a lovely pot of non-blooming peonies, years and several divisions later, these lovely mop-headed flowers bloom and bloom each spring and summer.  Their deep pink and lightly blushed petals fall onto our carved Indian table day after day as they are enjoyed in the living room. 

A blushing pink peony mixed with a bit of Lady's Mantle.
A huge bloom with a delightful fragrance.
He also gave me several rather sad roses which, after much spraying and pruning, bloom bright next to the peonies.  (I should say, in fairness, that his own garden is just as successful as mine.  But, this is my blog so I can make it sound like I'm better...  and only in the hopes that he'll read it!)  This reminds me to never turn my nose up at less than stellar plant stock, especially that which is given freely.  In earlier posts, I have mentioned my aunt.  She has always had an amazing garden.  Filled with perennials, roses, lovely shrubs, irises - everything you can imagine - it's a gardening ideal.  Several years ago, as we collected some free cuttings she'd divided, I asked her where she bought her plants.  Expecting that she'd name one of the better nurseries in town, her answer was...  K-Mart.  Not just K-Mart, but the clearance shelf -  the one with the most dreadful looking, drooping, parched stock!  With care and patience, she turned those pathetic sprouts into a marvellous garden, and I took note. 

Hot Cocoa!  This prolific variety lasts all through the season,
with a few blooms into late September, maybe even October.
As the bloom ages it becomes a bit redder.  One warning...
HUGE, sharp thorns!

Honestly, I've no idea what this rose is called.  It was one
 of the plants my brother kindly gave me several years ago.
It is a most delightful, deep orange - almost salmon, not
quite coral.

I think this is the Reine des Violettes from the Heirloom Rose
Garden in St. Paul, Oregon.  A wonderful place with
truly incredible roses.  A great place to spend an

I have no idea what variety this is, but it was here when
we moved in nearly twelve years ago.  The blooms
are large and very, very fragrant.  The stems are a sort
of reddish mahogany and are incredibly long.
So, what have I learned from my aunt, and others, about gardening?  In short - have some vision...  Buy for the future, not just for instant gratification...  Pinch off those first blossoms, as painful as it might be, your plants will be fuller and will flower more...  And never assume that cost means quality.  Those little lessons could certainly apply to a lot of things in life!

Here's to gardening, whether you're a beginner (I am certainly still in this category) or a seasoned pro!

A little place to sit and eat on a warm summer evening.

I love all of the colors in this little corner...  Especially
all of the greens...  Lady's Mantle, Heuchera, Mint,
Lemon Verbena, hops...

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