4/26/2007

Garden notes to myself

(with paranthetical annotations for visitors)

I did good pinching back this Mimulus cardinalis. The stems are sturdier now, and I'll have more flowers.

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(M. cardinalis, native to streambanks and wet, boggy areas in the western states from Oregon to Baja, over to New Mexico and Utah; a great flowering native plant for moist part-shade; attracts hummingbirds; most specimens make scarlet flowers, this one makes yellow flowers).

I planted it a foot back from the foot path last year, and what did it do but grow up, lodge, and set roots right next to the path. Now I'm going to be pruning it back all the time. More cuttings to propagate for the Botanical Garden, I guess.

By the way, exactly how did you kill mint?

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I feel dissatisfied with the whole situation over here. Two-and-a-half years ago, I jerry-rigged these two cheap-o wooden trellises together for the passiflora to grow on in order to hide the compost bin. I never intended for this set-up to last; I thought I would buy one of those tall, arching metal trellises like they sell at garden centers. But I never prioritized that, and now here we are.

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Last year, I cut the passiflora back to the ground to prevent this extreme bareness at its lower, wooden extremities (note that it fails to mask the compost bin whatsoever--last year this wasn't a problem). But then I had no flowers, and I was, like, is it because I cut the vine to the ground in early spring? Or is it because it's growing in super-rich soil next to the compost bin and feels no biological need whatsoever to make flowers? Or is it not enough sun? Well, who knows.

I didn't cut it this year and now it's all gone off into my neighbor's yard where noone will see it flower except rodents and insects. Which is an interesting idea in its own right...I'm filing that one away.

So where exactly does that leave me in this corner of the yard? Do I still want the big, arching metal trellis? Do you discern the question at the root of the problem? Why do I want to hide my compost bin? Am I ashamed of it? Does its presence in my garden cry out to be smothered and adorned with tropical vines to diminish its hideousness? I don't think so. Did I ever think so? Did I really feel that way once? It's not exactly an ostentatious compost bin. It's dark green, in the shape of a doghouse. And it's held up pretty well too. Solid Rubbermaid engineering.

At some point in the not-too-distant past I was a yet more amateurish gardener than I am today. It may have seemed like hiding the compost bin was the reasonable thing to do in my garden. Does that imperative still exist? We'll see.

GACK! Fine texture overload!

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The Eriogonum grande v. rubescens (the green on the right side of the path) grew much taller in my nutrient-rich soil than it does in nature, making this whole area a near disaster. I'm sticking with this plant for 2007. Maybe the fuzzy red flowerheads that come in the fall will take the edge of this planting. Next year, it's doug iris and checkerbloom.

This little area's coming along nice enough. But seriously do think about getting another Fremontodendron 'San Gabriel' or some other two-dimensional plant to put here next to the staircase. This hole there now wants a remedy.

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9 comments:

JvA said...

Nice! Do all of your plants have green leaves? It looks like nature.

chuck b. said...

I have way too much green in my garden. It's horrible! But thank you for saying it looks like nature. I'm trying to use all natives as the backbone plantings, and then fill in special places with special exotics that I happen to like.

Anyhow, whatever.

Tonight, just like an hour ago, I crawled out of denial and realized my native Eriogonum grande v. rubescens was NOT. It's just some weed. And I've been cooing over it for months. So frustrating. I bought seed from a reputable dealer, but, whatever. It's just weeds. All this time I've thinking "this is must be the juvenile foliage". Ugh.

I'm also certain all the seeds in the "native wildflower mix" I bought made 90% weeds. I pulled them all out as well.

And while I was in the spirit of things, I pulled out the Geranium maderense too. At least I knew its days were numbered.

Pam/Digging said...

Whoo hoo! Is anything more depressingly delightful than grimly pulling out plants we've been cooing over? Or is that delightfully depressing? Anyhow, now you have an opportunity for something new and wonderful. And that's just plain delightful.

JvA said...

I applaud your dedication to natives and unusual garden plants. I'm in a much earlier phase of gardener evolution, where I'm bored by ubiquitous plants like daffodils, marigolds, laurel, arborvitae, etc., but I'm still blown away by ever-so-slightly-less-popular nursery workhorses like smoke bush and barberry. But I bet someday soon I will want plants that not many other people have.

Do you happen to have any advice for me and my alliums? This photo's from about a week ago, and it shows how the leaves are turning yellow. The flowers are all looking fine, but the foliage is even worse now:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/afrjva/470851846/

Last fall I planted them in a huge aluminum box from the Boeing surplus store. I drilled holes in the bottom, filled it about halfway with styrofoam blocks, and used some sort of organic potting soil on top. They're sharing the box with a couple of chocolate sedge plants. I have yet to add any sort of mulch or additional potting soil this spring.

Is this just what happens with allium foliage, or do you think there's something I might do to get 'em looking greener? Should I cut away the damaged parts of the leaves, do you think?

JvA said...

P.S. Thanks in advance for any words of wisdom you may be able to give. I realize you haven't advertised your blog as an advice column! I just remembered that I could go ask the folks at the super-friendly PNW gardeners forum.

chuck b. said...

Did you check Sunset Western Garden? I know close to nothing about allium, and even less about gardening in Seattle. I don't even know if allium is a perennial bulb or a facultative annual. I'm sure lots of semi-regular whoreticulture visitors might be able to help you out. Anyone?

Judging by the picture which looks like normal monocot leaf death to me, I would *guess* this is the normal thing with alliums. The foliage precedes the flower, dies, and leaves a lonely flower.

In my area, Amaryllis belladonna does this, but in reverse. In late summer, the flower rises and dies, and then afterwards, and almost completely separately, the leaves come up to gather energy for next year's bloom. A common name for the plant is Naked Lady, because the flower appears without any foliage.

mmw said...

It would help to know the species of Allium. If it's a hybrid, it probably shouldn't be doing that, but I don't really know. Many (some? most?) species are summer-dormant.

Same thing with your Passiflora, Chuck, it's tough to diagnose problems without knowing the species, but I'd bet on sun. And it's ok to want to hide your compost, I'm actually thinking about getting rid of mine.

JvA said...

Thanks for taking a look! Yeah, I think they're hybrids: Globemaster or something pompous like that.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

LOL!!! You have no idea how many times I'm going to look at my garden in the next few months and think to myself: "GACK! Fine texture overload!" :)