Monday, November 23, 2009

Miscanthus in Bondage

I have to say that I have outgrown my love affair with the lovely Miss Canthus Sinensis.

She (we’ll just call her Maidenhair) is beautiful in youth, but, to be perfectly blunt, does not age well. You may think me shallow, but I have moved on to trimmer, more genteel subjects—Cally Magrostis, for example, and Pani Cum. For one thing, Maidenhair doubles in breadth each year. Just take a moment to absorb the implications of this. Those who have naively invited her into their lives have several options, none of which is appealing. Murder is one. Corseting (demonstrated above) is another. As you can see this just makes her look cheap.

Some who are desperate to rein in her rowdy nature resort to fencing her in, and then trimming the wildness away thus depriving her of both freedom and personality. I hate this. Dividing and conquering is nearly impossible. She has very deep roots and will stand her ground until you either admit defeat, or decide that maybe offspring are not in your best interest anyway.

But, observe the consequences when she is left to her own behavior. Not a pretty sight.

If you are wondering if I have the answer I will keep you waiting no longer. It is imperfect, but will allow the gentle in spirit to permit Maidenhair to keep her dignity. You can think of it as a grapefruit diet for grasses, but truth be told it is more like amputation. If your Maiden has become heartless (never a good thing, but better than a similar condition: rotten at the core) in her mature years, you can offer her a heart transplant. This is a lengthy operation, and requires persistence and diligence, though not much skill. The emptiness where once you placed an innocent little grass plant will become one edge of your revitalized Maiden. Decide which edge, grab a satisfying handful of grass, and bind it. Then cut away everything else. Be absolutely merciless, leaving but a stubble. Chop the disembodied parts into pieces to use as mulch, covering the stubble as deeply as possible to deprive it of sunlight. You will need to repeat this about three times during the season, and probably at least once the following year. But your mission, to make Maidenhair young once more, will have been accomplished. I warn you though, she will grow fat and old again.

It’s what she does.

This sidewalk will soon become a walk-beside.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Three Plants I Can't Live! Without, Part 3

I am a fool for sweetbox (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis). Here it is next to native pachysandra (Pachysandra procumbens) all shiny and perky. It looks good from spring through spring, spreads at a moderate pace, grows in dry shade ... what more can you ask of a plant? Bloom is fragrant, they say. I have put my nose in the early spring flowers and smelled a light scent. Maybe it's a variable trait. With or without fragrance it's a winner.

The viridiflora tulip is in a class by itself. What distinguishes it is  the green streaking that accentuates the pink petals. The color changes as the flowers mature, and the blooms last and last in the garden unlike other tulips. They have persisted in my garden for three years now, also unlike most tulips.

New this year, Lobularia 'Snow Princess' is an annual worth looking for. This photo was taken in November! What's different about this cultivar of sweet alyssum is that it is sterile, so puts all of its energy into producing blooms all summer long and into the fall. Okay, so it won't self-sow into the cracks of your walk like the standard sweet alyssum. There's no rule that you can't get some of each. Just don't put them side-by-side. 'Snow Princess' will put the the standard variety to shame.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

First Hard Frost of the Season

I was going to write about the garlic I planted this week. But I woke up to a frosty world and couldn’t resist stepping outside in my nightclothes and garden clogs (fortunately my neighbors are not early risers) and recording the event. November 7th is a little late for the first hard frost of the season in Emmaus. I expect I will have a week, maybe two, or arugula left. I will so miss my arugula.

A fallen leaf is icily glued to silver sage.

I think I will try letting this parsley self-sow next year. I'll report back.

Soon I will pile a layer of straw on my spinach seedlings. It is so worth the time it takes to plant spinach in September. The best spring spinach comes from a September planting! Do you see the rose thorns? They kept my neighbor's cat (whom I consider an ally--she's an excellent mouser) from digging up my seeds.

Cilantro, so tender and full of grace. She leans into the dance.

Just look at the little icy rods. Isn't water beautiful?
Garlic is in the ground; spinach has firmly rooted. My 30-year old grapefruit seedling that has never flowered is indoors. Beauty and Hope, the gardener's driving forces, are alive in all seasons.