Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Garden Nemesis

Another name for this pretty, delicate-appearing green monster is Garden Enemy #1. It's pilea, an enthusiastic weed which grows to some 12-18" if permitted, and which likes moist, shady conditions. Precisely what my back yard gardens offer. I'm not sure when it first arrived, probably 3 or 4 years ago, but I recall the Cooperative Extension office identified it for me.

Little did I know it would take over. Deceptively easy to pull out, with weak, water-filled stems, I nonetheless must have let a few of its antecedents go to seed. So last year it greeted the spring with vigor. And this year it's hiding under the leaves of the big hosta, it's disguised among the astilbe, and it's insinuated itself in the shady rock wall by the hydrangea. It's everywhere! I keep pulling and pulling, but alas...it's found a home.

Here's hoping it goes away as fast as it arrived. But I'm beginning to despair.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cow Slobber

No, really. "Cow slobber" is one of the old-timey names for this lovely perennial, properly called Tradescantia. It's Latin name comes from John Tradescant, an illustrious plantsman of 17-century England. But the common name for this flower is spiderwort. Apparently it acquired the unattractive cow-related moniker because when the lax stems are severed, an oozing, stringy sap issues forth, resembling....you guessed it, cow slobber!

This charming plant is in bloom now, but just in the morning; its blossoms close by the heat of the afternoon. However, each stem bears many buds, so it's in bloom for a couple of weeks. And then, if the entire plant is cut back, it will rise and bloom again later in the summer.

Spiderwort appreciates a spot in moist, shady soil, where it brightens things up between the hosta and the astilbe. Easy to grow, easy to maintain, the only problem I've ever had with it is the year the voles wreaked destruction on the shady slope under a huge sugar maple. They took out much of the carex and major clumps of astilbe, too.

Most spiderworts seen in the nurseries are blue, but look for 'Sweet Kate', which has chartreuse foliage and pink flowers.

Another pretty plant with an interesting backstory.