Saturday, June 20, 2015

A lovely duo in the spring garden is this unlikely marriage of Bachelor Buttons and Alium.  They are both relatively tall, and because they bloom at the same time, their unique flowers gave the garden give a sense of drama and panache.  The Bachelor Buttons are whimsical and feathery.  The Alium explode like fireworks over the green of other later blooming perennials around them.
Bachelor buttons are old fashioned staples of perennial gardens in the Upper Midwest. My grandmother, long deceased, loved them. When she passed away around the Christmas holidays, we had to work hard to find sprigs of Bachelor Buttons to place on her coffin. I pressed and framed them and still remember her and her love of gardens every time I come across the now faded tribute.  Alium though related to the lowly onion all but shouts, "Never judge a book by its cover!"  New hybrid varieties like Schubertii are garden show stoppers.  Fun also is the prospect of drying them for use in earthy crunchy displays. Someone I know even sprays them silver and uses them to decorate their holiday trees.   Bottom line: variety is the spice, of the garden and life.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Some plants are so unique, so striking that once we see them, it is unlikely we ever forget their names or where we first became acquainted with them.  Ladyslippers are one of those plants.  My first brush with the ladyslipper was in a woodland parkland near one of the Door County, WI lighthouses.  In fact, it was the rare, endangered pink variety.  While the yellow ladyslipper shown here is more common, it is no less stunning.  I wait eagerly every spring for its appearance in the memorial garden along the Little Traverse Bay lakeshore, just one of the perks of volunteering for the crew that tends that precious space. 
Although far less exotic, daisies are another powerful memory-maker for me. They recall summers long past, when I would wander the ditches and fields of northern Michigan to gather armfuls for a pale green depression glass vase that still sits on my kitchen table.  Nowadays I treasure tending 'Daisy Hill' in that same memorial garden where the regal ladyslipper holds court every season.  Summer simply would not be summer without them.
What flower triggers that kind of reaction for you?  It is a question worth answering, whether we consider ourselves gardeners or not.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fall colors?  Oops, look again. Route 2 along the north shore of Lake Michigan is a maple tree lover's paradise every September and October. But these shots of 'fall color' actually are taken in June!!!!  Which only goes to prove, the spectacular colors of autumn have their roots in the early unfurling of leaves in spring, even though largely unrecognized and unappreciated .

Food for thought when watching a new generation grow or even as we try to cultivate our own gifts and talents. Life doesn't always reveal who someone truly is without an awful lot of time and effort.  Like the maples of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, maybe it is time to cut ourselves or the young people in our lives some slack. Everything in its season. And in time, our true colors will fully reveal themselves.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A garden in the making thrives on a lot of mud and stubble. Often plants must be cut back to give the roots the best possible start. But a light, slow-soaking rain can minimize such transplant issues.
 Fortunately the weather channel is predicting just conditions for the next few days.

Because I am creating a garden again, thanks in part to a generous gift of perennials from a cousin's large Wisconsin garden. 'Rescue' plants from a local home improvement store will take care of some
of the gaps. Then too, all but one or two of the perennials I dug in to temporary spots last fall survived the harsh Michigan winter.  Time to move 'em to their 'permanent' homes.

At times the square feet yet to be filled seems daunting. And so I plant and wait, letting the shape of the sunny spot around the patio and new garage inspire me. Right now a chill late-spring rain is falling. Yesterday's plantings eagerly drink in the precious elixir. The future beckons. So does the need for laying down some mulch and stones to keep the mud from splashing up on that pristine gray siding.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

We gardeners tend to be sentimental folk. Even a photo of a particular plant can unleash a whole host of memories of gardens tended, plants shared and the work it takes to keep things growing.

Take lamium, for example. Mom had it in her garden and thanks to its habit of spreading, I regularly inherited slips for both my New York and Michigan gardens. The striking leaves and purple, yellow and white flowers quickly created a dense crazy quilt wherever I dug it in.

Spring is a season for bleeding heart. I remember from childhood a huge pink-flowering bush of it in a neighbor's garden. For whatever reasons, my own attempts to recreate that memory were never too successful. But just the sight of those Valentine-shaped blossoms are enough to produce a smile.

Flowers have that unique capacity to conjure up the best in human experience. Unlike pets that may nip or growl, plants just quietly grow to fill the space allotted them. More often than not, they eventually bloom, their own subtle way of keeping the species going. I can't contemplate a trip anywhere without speculating what might be flowering there. Gardens do that to a guy. Maybe it is why we enjoy them so much.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

 One guy's weed turns up in gardens or even florist shops.  These white Freesia, a perennial native to southern Africa, turned up in the 'wild' on a Croatian hillside in March. It belongs to the family Iridaceae, related both to my beloved iris, gladiolus and crocus.  Invariably when we order winter florist bouquets, freesias play prominently into our choice.
Growing nearby on that same Croatian hillside, next to some naturalized iris (note the distinctive leaves) were some vinca plants. The hardy perennial was a staple groundcover in my gardens back in New York and in Northern Michigan where, in some places, they are taking over the woods!  Native to Europe, northern Africa and parts of Asia, vinca is known as periwinkle in England---a color that figured prominently in our crayon boxes when I was growing up.  In India the plant is called sadaphuli which means 'ever blooming'.
It only goes to show, how a plant is perceived depends a lot on where it happens to find itself. Freesia smells just as strong whether on a Croatian hillside or in a bouquet from the local grocery.  Vinca with its long, trailing stems [from the Latin vincire, "to fetter"] could be considered as big a nuisance as the gardener's plague, bindweed. To me, it smacks of late afternoon skies on Long Island and the flower beds that exist for me now just in memory. Former neighbors report those gardens I planted are still going great guns along Main Road.  Vinca or no, I have to say, that pleases me no end.