Saturday, June 20, 2009

Virginia bluebells

Is there anything prettier in the early spring garden than Virginia Bluebells? The 18" graceful arching stems, the blue of the blossoms, the pink of the buds, the blue-green of the clean leaves, the name, the lack of disease or predators, her comportment in the vase, the fact that she's a native, all combine to make mertensia one of my favorite sights in the April garden. And, of course, she decorously disappears by summer to make way for overplanting with annuals such as impatiens or wax begonias.

However. Prior to fading away things get downright ugly. The stems bend over, turn yellow, and in general are not pretty. We must, however, let the plant go through this stage in order for it to recharge itself for next spring, when we'll be thrilled to see her again.

And if we're fortunate, during the yellow stage Virginia will have cast a promiscuous amount of seed, and we'll be granted a bounty of new little bluebells which will bloom in ensuing springs.

Thankfully, it's now time to cut and compost the old foliage. Clean up her area of any stray weeds, and either mulch or plant colorful annuals.

So let Virginia have her way, let her droop over the garden path, and let her seed ripen and spread over the shade garden. We'll be the richer for it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weigela 'Eyecatcher'

I never had much truck with weigelas; they seemed old-fashioned and unwieldy. As I've matured in my gardening, tho, I've come to appreciate them, especially the new cultivars, such as 'Eyecatcher', shown here in its second (or is it third?) year in my Front Walk Garden.
Why the appeal? First, color in the garden demands use of flowering shrubs, and weigela comports to my wishes by blooming after the latest of the lilacs and before the spirea and waaay before the clethra. Also, the smaller cultivars are a manageable size ('Eyecatcher should top out at some 2') for the smaller gardens of today. Though it has no discernible scent, this is balanced by the fact that, at least in my garden, weigela is not eaten by deer, chomped upon by groundhogs, nor nibbled to death by slugs.
Admittedly, it needs a haircut, and it'll get one this week as soon as it finishes blooming, which is the best time to prune many flowering shrubs. (If we wait, we chance pruning off next year's flowers.)
The chartreuse of 'Dreamcatcher' is one of many spots of this color I now place in my gardens. Other examples are humulus 'Aurea', kolkwitzia 'Dreamcatcher', hosta 'Golden Friendship', and many more. As a young gardener I refused to employ this color, believing it made my plants look ill. Now I understand the punches of color chartruese provides, the counterpoint to the many pinks and purples I use in my gardens, and the simple happiness of such a bright hue.
Weigela 'Eyecatcher'. In my book, it's a showcase plant. Put it where all can see.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Electric Lawnmower

We've had the same old gasoline-powered, fume-spewing, bombastic lawnmower since we moved into our home some 17 years ago. I'd cringe each time I dragged it out of the shed to cut our (increasingly smaller) patch of lawn. Last year I tried to find one of the new battery operated mowers, to no avail. Before I purchased one, I wanted to pat it down, heft it, etc.

I couldn't find one. Anywhere. But late in autumn, I was given an corded electric mower, one that wasn't being used. I was eager to try it out this spring. Here's my verdict:

'Tis a good thing! It's lightweight, quieter than the old mower, (though not as quiet as I thought it'd be) and does a respectable job of cutting the grass. It turns easily, mulches, and starts with no effort whatsoever.

There is one drawback. That cord. I need a humongous extension cord in order to reach all corners of my yard. That means that this spatially-challenged laborer must constantly figure out where the cord is, so I don't exterminate it by running over it. I also have to roll it up, guy-fashion, after each use, since it's no good to me in a snarled mess. I'm getting better.

And one more thing; hose guards are a must, so the taut cord doesn't destroy various plants and shrubs.

All in all, I'm pleased. Our mower no longer emits noxious gasoline fumes each time I mow the lawn; the neighborhood is quieter, and I feel quite righteous.

But I'm still looking for the battery-operated mower. Or perhaps I'll consider one of those new reel types. I hear they cut pretty sharp and are lightweight.

Stay tuned!