Beewatching’s Blog

Mow or Less
April 20, 2010, 5:56 am
Filed under: 1

A garden thug with pretty flowers

DRAWING INCLUSIONS When I moved to my present address, I made lots of sketches detailing my plans for the garden. Then I (almost) totally disregarded them. Mother Nature is the final editor of my outdoor work anyway, and what looks fine on paper doesn’t always work in my yard. Nature wanted to keep adding more interesting things where I had lawn. Took a few growing seasons to get the hint, and now there is much less grass for my kids not to get around to mowing. This suits me fine. I still remember hosting an outdoor party the day after a rainstorm, and the toll it took on the lawn. The weeds, on the other hand — clover, moss, ground ivy and dandelions — popped right up after the last pair of feet made their exit.

COOL SHADE In the works now: a woodland planting (no matter how much I’d like to deny how shady a setting I live in, it’s impossible), with stone paths to get around. Latest: a clethra,  (here’s a little info):, sitting between two elderly dogwood trees, and surrounded by tiarella. A plant swap I attended last year provided a good-size chunk of variegated Solomon’s Seal and some corydalis nearby. A happy discovery a couple weeks ago was that the trillium I’d bought last year at Whole Foods Market has survived and sprouted. A look around tells you my philosophy of shade: when in doubt, plunk down a hosta. Empress Wu sits imperially apart, in anticipation of her expanding girth, but a number of others mingle almost everywhere.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK I’m telling you now so you don’t make the same mistake. If you think that naturalizing crocuses in a front yard bed is a good idea, think again. It was fine when what followed was just grass, but planting evergreen ground cover to conceal the flopping, post-bloom leaves just made the leaves grow taller, so they poke through the sweetbox and juniper, and make the vinca almost invisible until May. The crocuses were not my idea, just a gardening time bomb awaiting an opportunity to engulf all my new stuff. Delightful in late February, dastardly in April.

WHAT ALSO DOESN’T WORK In case you don’t know, avoid planting Jerusalem artichokes unless you have a yard the size of Texas. Last year, I put in six, having no idea how tall they would get (usually I read up beforehand on new stuff, but obviously didn’t do my homework in this case). All summer they stood guard in front of one of my favorite rosebushes, but appeased me with their pretty yellow blooms. These sit at the top of an 8-foot stalk, so view them from the second floor or from your roof, if you live in a ranch house. They last pretty nicely in a vase, after you get up on a ladder to clip them. In fall I harvested what tubers I could find, but spent the winter with a nagging doubt that I’d gotten them all. Sure enough, this week I found about 20 (!) sprouts marching toward the blueberry bushes, and quickly dug out the area. Even with my warning in her ears, a friend wants to take all the tubers from me and plant them in her garden. I hope she’ll still be my friend next year when she finds out I was serious about their aggressive tendencies. Even now, I am certain I’ll have to dig up more escapees. Now, if the voles would only eat those things instead of chewing at the roots of my one remaining birch tree!

Now stop reading and go garden.


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Good report! Can’t insect my “garden” well enough to see what may appear. I do see that the purple-leaf sandcherry is blooming nicely.

Comment by Mom

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