Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Early Risers

While many gardens have had blooms for weeks, I have had to be satisfied with short sprigs of green (for which I am very grateful) due to brief, afternoon-only sun. After an impatient March, I am usually half in love with anything that pops up quickly. So this post will showcase plants that do just that, with less than perfect light, and no help from me.

I know this is an ugly picture. I have been trying for a few years to get this patch fixed up with cheap, self-seeding wildflowers, but most have refused the offer of a permanent pad. This columbine, however, shows bright green foliage that, despite looking very delicate, withstands the worst spring weather.

If I didn't love variety, I would plant a whole bank of it here. There used to be a sea of lily-of-the-valley, which was magical in spring. But the leaves always turned a wretched orange in early July, and got something like black spot (on a grand scale!). Then it looked like the plague.

Unknown rose, left; 'Handel' rose, right

Roses are among the first plants to leaf out here. The one on the left is an old, established pale pink one that I have done my best, it seems, to kill. Every year it has gotten smaller and more pathetic, probably thanks to my "care." So this year I'm leaving it alone as much as possible. I barely cut it back at all.

The one on the right is "Handel," which I got a few years ago from heirloomroses.com .  It doesn't get much light, or much water, back along this wall. I thought it was doing poorly, but with the long, warm fall last year it finally took off.

I use the 'Handel' rose for my "About" pic at the right of this blog.

"Outhouse Hollyhocks"

Monster Hollyhocks, in early spring. Hollyhocks are widely known as "outhouse hollyhocks," though I can't find a proper historical source for that phrase. Apparently, ladies used to ask "where are the hollyhocks?" instead of asking where the toilet was. And my mother, who grew up in Chicago, knew of them as "dumpster flowers"--as they easily reach 7 or 8 feet, hiding the trash, and thriving in tough, dry conditions.

I've always liked their large, colorful blooms, though Jenny Uglow tells us that a 19th century critic once said "a lady would as soon think of having a pig in a parlour as a ramping spike of Hollyhock in a bouquet."*  I am not fond of their messy, tatty quality in mid-summer, nor of the swarming (but innocuous) "hollyhock weevil"; but their spring exuberance wins me over every April.

*p. 199 in Jenny Uglow's A Little History of British Gardening (2005).


Catnip. If you have cats, or even if you don't, it's very cheering to see the soft, crinkled green leaves looking like May--well before May.

I haven't had much success starting catnip indoors though. This one started as a potted Christmas present for my cats. It was nipped back to the bare roots when I threw it outside one April. Now I have to hack it away several times a year.

Well, if you could see the rest of my garden, you'd know that I really need to find more "early risers." That first pic accurately portrays the numerous bald, muddy patches in this relatively small space. ...Crocuses, tulips, daffodils--I have them. I love them. But they are too obvious to mention here. And anyway, mine are just beginning to bloom!

No comments:

Post a Comment