Perennials: A Picturesque Portrait

Breathes there anyone with a soul so dead,

Who would not admire a perennial bed?

Most of us start gardening too late in life. When we are young and sprightly, we have too many other interests. The middle years are taken up with furthering our careers and/or raising families, so that by the time we should be hitting our stride, our stride has turned into a totter; bones are creaking and backs are aching. The spirit might be willing, but the knees are weak. However, it’s never too late to start. Procrastinating about doing a project is like looking at a wheelbarrow; nothing will happen until we start pushing.

Planning a Large New Border:

Study the photos in gardening books then choose the layout and the plants you most admire within them. Like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, we must use the “little grey cells” in order to choose the best plants. Picture this large border as a stage and like Cecil B. de Mille you’ll soon be directing a cast of hundreds.

Digging:

Roses are reddish,

Violets are bluish,

But they won’t grow in soil that’s glueish!

Gardening is 10% preparation and 90% perspiration; most of the latter comes from digging.

  1. Make sure the soil is soaked but not soggy.
  2. The tines of the fork should go in the full length. Large clumps should be broken up with the back of the fork or spade.
  3. Spread large amounts of compost, peat, and manure then dig again. The soil will become friable. (For a vivid example of this, read page 39 of Too Late for Regrets.)

Planting:

Place the plants in the area where the holes are to be dug. Move them around until you’re happy with the result. Container plants bought from the nursery might have become rootbound; tease out some of the roots and spread them out before planting. Water thoroughly, and make sure that any weeds appearing are eradicated promptly.

Sun-Loving Perennials

  • Aurinia (Basket of Gold) – low growing, mid-spring
  • Rock Cress (Arabis) – showy racemes of pure white, late spring. Ideal for rock gardens.
  • Centranthus Ruber (Jupiter’s Beard) – has upright stems bearing fluffy clusters of pink flowers. 2 feet, needs staking.
  • Rudbeckia (Goldsturm) – Black-eyed Susan. Stunning orange flowers with a black center. Shasta daisy makes a spectacular splash of white, mid-summer.
  • Coreopsis (Tickseed) – “Early Sunrise,” “Sunray,” charming yellow flowers at the end of wiry stems, 1-2 feet
  • Heliopsis (Helianthus) – False sunflower, long blooming, 2-3 feet. Plant at rear.
  • Phlox Paniculata (Garden Phlox) – “Eva Cullum,” exquisite clusters of deep pink flowers on sturdy stems, stake. 2 feet, mid-late summer.
  • Aster Frikartii – lilac daisy-like flowers, late summer
Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Stacys 1.5 Feet, Upright Stems

Stacys 1.5 Feet, Upright Stems

Achillea (Yarrow) "Paprika"

Achillea (Yarrow) “Paprika”

Aster Novae-Angliae

Aster Novae-Angliae

Sandwort, Early Summer, Low Growing

Sandwort, Early Summer, Low Growing

A Well-Planned Perennial Bed

A Well-Planned Perennial Bed

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

Heroes in Novels: Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s Novel “Pride and Prejudice”

Mr. Darcy is not one of those heroes who rescues people from physical danger. However, he rescues the Bennet family from disgrace and loss of their good name. He is ashamed at the way he had proposed to Elizabeth Bennet, denigrating her family, thus insulting her. To make amends, he rescues the family from the shame of the elopement of Lydia Bennet with the dastardly villain, Mr. Wickham. Mr. Darcy pays off Mr. Wickham’s debts, ensuring that the marriage will take place and that the good name of the family will be restored. He does this anonymously with the understanding that his deeds will not be acknowledged. He wants no thanks or praise. Mr. Darcy–a gallant hero.

Dear readers, have you ever known anyone who was not a hero in the obvious sense, but radiated heroism in his or her daily actions? I’d love to hear about your everyday heroes in the comments below!

DIY Project – How to Fix a Lattice Fence

by Mark Malarkey

I woke up last Saturday to find that during the night, a gust of wind had blown down part of the lattice. The wife said she’d call the fence people on Monday, though secretly I’d intended to fix the fence myself. The wife and the kiddies were going to visit her mother (great news), which meant she’d be gone for at least 7 hours. This would give me plenty of time to fix the fence without all that nagging and advice.

With the little lady out of the way, I inspected the damage–which seemed worse than I’d initially thought. Two of the posts were leaning and the wood of the lattice was badly splintered. Not to worry, I’d soon have this sucker ship-shape. I made a list of what I’d need:

Quick dry cement, spade, saw, industrial strength glue, hammer, and nails.

I assembled the tools–hammer, spade, saw…where’s the ^*%$ing saw? I searched through the garage (what are we doing with all this STUFF?) but found only a missing chisel under a pile of National Geographic magazine (1978). I eventually found the saw under a pine tree where someone had left it; it was rusty and unusable.

I immediately jumped into my car and in my hurry, backed into the *^#%ing mailbox. I left the debris on the sidewalk, sped to Sam’s Surplus Tools/Body Piercing Parlor, and bought quick-dry cement and a new saw.

Back at the house, I dug around the fence posts, mixed the cement in an old salad bowl I found in the kitchen, then poured the cement into the holes. The posts still seemed to lean slightly, but not to worry, they’d probably settle. I used the saw to saw one of the badly splintered lattice; the rest were easy to stick together with glue and duct tape. I fixed  the missing part of the two lattices with pieces of wood I found in the garage.

One panel looked a bit crooked, but was easily fixed with more duct tape. That’s when a large splinter pierced the palm of my hand…

When I got back from the emergency room, the little woman had returned–and surprise, surprise, her mother (that sour-faced bag) was with her. They were inspecting the fence, I could see that they were impressed with the work I’d done. The wife was holding the salad bowl; I suddenly remembered it had been a wedding gift from her Autie Irma.

It was obvious I’d saved a bundle by fixing the fence myself. So I can only say to all of you do-it-yourselfers: go for it, you’ll save a lot of money!

Repaired Lattice Fence

Repaired Lattice Fence

Glorious Roses – Part Two

The following roses can be added to the list of desirable roses.

In harsher climates, the rose fancier should limit choices to the hardier varieties. For example, Canadian roses.

Some gardeners prefer own root roses as they develop deeper root systems. The disadvantage is that they will be smaller than container-grown roses, but in time own root varieties will become stronger.

Aphids:

These annoying pests can be dealt with by relying on the gardener’s best friend, the ladybug. If there is a paucity of them in the garden, they can be purchased in mesh bags from the nursery. The bags should be kept out of the sun until the late afternoon; this is the best time to scatter them. They will go to work immediately with amazing efficiency.

Another–though tedious–method is to rub the buds and stems of the plants gently between forefinger and thumb. This will dislodge and squash the pests, giving the gardener much satisfaction.

"Winnipeg Parks"

“Winnipeg Parks”

Pink "Touch of Class"

Pink “Touch of Class”

Climber, creamy, white "Sally Holmes"

Climber, creamy, white “Sally Holmes”

Musk rose "Ballerina"

Musk rose “Ballerina”

Yellow "Sunsprite" and pink "Simplicity"

Yellow “Sunsprite” and pink “Simplicity”

DIY Project #1: How to Build a Pond by Ernie Eager

There are some unfortunate women who are married to men who like to fix and build things themselves. Though unskilled in painting, carpentry, and plumbing, they forge ahead with their projects in the misguided belief that they are saving money.

I decided to build a pond in the backyard; the wife was unenthusiastic. I canvassed everyone I knew who could advise me, including two neatly dressed gentlemen who came to the door clutching fistfuls of religious material–the mailman and both garbage collectors.

Hot diggity! My Uncle Jethro and Aunt Edie arrived in their motor home for their month-long stay with us. Uncle Jethro assured me he was an expert on pond building.

“Piece of cake,” he said, clicking his dentures. “We’ll have this sucker finished in no time.”

The wife said i should hire a contractor, then we’d have a guarantee.

“Guarantee!” Uncle Jethro said. “Don’t waste your money. They don’t mean nothing, boy. President Kennedy took out his gun and fired at the shooter. Guarantee? Crooks and thieves.” I gave up trying to make sense of the ideas rattling around under his John Deere cap; there was an ominous silence inside the house where the wife was sulking. Auntie Edie sat on the porch knitting a garment for her 82nd grandchild. When we started digging, she shouted encouragement every now and then.

The area seemed larger that I’d planned, but Uncle Jethro said, “No use fiddling around with a few cups of water, you want a pond you can see! You’ll be the envy of the neighborhood.”

We started hitting large rocks; the shovel broke. Even the pick couldn’t move those rocks. Though Uncle Jethro was spry and enthusiastic, he had to retire to his motor home with a sprained muscle.

I asked my next door neighbor if he knew where I could rent a backhoe and a small tractor. He replied: yes, the neighbor’s cousin could help, but he could only do it on Saturday. Unfortunately, Saturday was the day the wife’s sister was getting married.

“No sweat,” said Uncle Jethro, “Me and Edie will be here to oversee.”

On Saturday just before we had to leave for the wedding, my neighbor’s cousin arrived with the machinery. With him was his 14-year-old son who was wearing pants so baggy the crotch reached almost to his knees; a purple Mohawk haircut and two eyebrow rings completed his outfit. The cousin explained that he had to go to another job, but that Shawn here was experienced. In fact, ever since he was knee-high to a grasshopper he’d been messing around with machinery.

I had to leave, the frantic honking from the driveway warned me I’d better get going. Though nervous about leaving this child with serious pieces of machinery, Uncle Jethro’s words were soothing. I also remembered Aunt Edie’s shouts of encouragement from the patio.

Five hours later, I returned to find Auntie asleep on the patio, and a hole only slightly smaller than the Grand Canyon where my backyard used to be. A mountain of soil covered three prize lilac bushes.

Uncle Jethro tottered from his motor home, where he;d been taking a four hour nap. Gaping at the disaster, he adjusted his dentures and said, “What the f&%k??” That’s when two things happened:

1. Through the open window, I heard her ladyship talking to a lawyer about a divorce.

2. Uncle Jethro decided to cut short his stay.

When the wife put the phone down, and I called two contractors to come and give me an estimate for building a pond.

The lilac bushes never recovered…

Why Latin is Important

Latin is a dead language,

As dead as dead can be;

It killed the Ancient Romans,

And now it’s killing me! 

Using botanical names is important. Without them, the gardening world would become like the Tower of Babel. Common names can vary from region to region, but Latin is the unifying language. Making the effort to study botanical names has its benefits. For example, when you’re in a group of frighteningly erudite and knowledgeable gardeners and “Helenium autumnale” lightly trips off your tongue. It beats “sneezeweed” hands down.

There was a French gardener, Monique,

Whose English and Latin was weak,

She bought plants quite wrong, they didn’t last long,

Mon Dieu, were those tags all in Greek?

Pictured below are lovely photos of perennials. Their botanical names are quite a mouthful, but take the weekend to learn them! Otherwise, you’ll end up like poor Monique!

What are some of your favorite Latin phrases that can be thrown into casual conversation?

"Helenium autumnale, heliopsis helianthoides"

“Helenium autumnale, heliopsis helianthoides”

"Sedum spectabile, rudbeckia fulgida"

“Sedum spectabile, rudbeckia fulgida”

"Heliopsis helianthoides"

“Heliopsis helianthoides”