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.

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