Monday May 21, 2007

Annual Report

By Ruth Furman

The garden is unfolding, poised on the cusp of warmer weather, growing toward the full crescendo of summer’s palette. An extensive list of gardening tasks is drawn up, and to it I’ve added the monumental task of transplanting all those annuals I propagated earlier this year

The long border I created at the front of the house last year remains a bit too spare looking, mainly because the plants are still juveniles. Wouldn’t it be delightful, I wondered, to fill in the space with annuals (those plants that germinate, grow, bear flowers and set seed in one season) without worrying about color schemes, harmony, or other design elements? Many happy hours were spent poring over the seed catalogues during the gray days of winter, and I just ordered whatever appealed to me. Production was successful and several friends will be delighted to receive the many extra plants.

Some of  the annuals I’m planting include Amaranthus hypochondriacus ‘Pygmy Torch’ also known as ‘Prince’s Feather’ and a relative of Love-Lies-Bleeding. The dense flower spikes are upright of deep wine color with foliage also in the deep-purple range and, as its name suggests, is a diminutive 12 inches. Last summer at Elm Bank’s trial garden I spotted Celosia ‘Fresh Look Yellow’ with bright yellow, feathery plumes rising high above its foliage, and decided there would be a mass planting of these. A favorite flower suitable for the cutting garden is Eustoma russellianum, the Prairie Gentian, native to the Midwest. The cultivar I chose is 'Echo Champagne,' a double flowered variety producing elegant cup-shaped blooms in soft pinks and creams offset by bluish green foliage. Another choice for the cutting garden is Molucella laevis or Bells of Ireland with a profusion of lime green bell-shaped bracts surrounding a tiny white flower. A bonus is that it’s aromatic, too. One last favorite that I’ve grown before is Nigella damascena ‘Miss Jekyll’ (its common name is Love-In-A-Mist).  Its semi-double blue flower is offset by bright feathery leaves resulting in an airy gracefulness. Even the seedpods are attractive, inflated capsules that can be dried for decoration. It will self-sow, which might bother some people, but wouldn’t bother me. Last but not least is Z for zinnia – yes, zinnia! But an heirloom varietycalled ‘Envy’ (Z.elegans) a double-flowered type in a very cool lime green. (There is a single-flowered variety also called ‘Envy’ but it’s rather wimpy looking.) Space doesn’t allow for my full list, but it’s not too late to sow many annuals directly in the ground now for dollops of color around the garden or even in pots.

A great perennial, and one to look for at the garden center, is Polemonium reptans ‘Stairway to Heaven’ the Jacob’s LadderIt looks best in semi-shade to show off its variegated foliage – wide white margins tinged with pink and masses of lavender-blue flowers. It’s a selection by Bill Cullina of the New England Wildflower Society; and you can’t get more native than that.

A number of you have expressed despair over the wild violet invasion, which unfortunately is a very difficult weed to control. Trying to dig or pull out the plants is arduous, but it does relieve one’s frustrations and may at least contain the spread. The chemical alternative is to use a glyphosate-based spray like RoundupTM or TouchdownTM.. Make sure to spray only the violets as this chemical can wipe out surrounding desirable plants. Apply in early summer and again in early autumn. The last resort is to simply appreciate them. As the violet in mythology is associated with love, love your garden for ALL that it is! 




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