Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Graduation -- Magnolia Blooms

A week ago she daintily crossed the stage. Twenty five years earlier she'd burst onto the scene, within moments of the space shuttle exploding.  Entering this world several weeks early and as others unexpectedly left, my firstborn daughter was never one for subtlety.  Now she has her law degree.  The sky has never been her limit.

Her grandfather cheered with tears running down his face and two fists in the air--one for him and one for his bride.

There was a time when an early morning call to the neonatal unit marked joyous gains or despairing losses.  Eventually we came out ahead, learning to savor progress and growth in small bites and never to compare her to others of similar chronology, as she set her own agenda.  Still does. 

The question frequently posed to her lawyer parents? "What will she do?"  The answer's that we are waiting to hear.  She'll let us know in due time.  Whatever it will be will be fine--and on her terms.  Reminds me of her grandmother.   

Due time is well known to the gardener.  A watched pot never boils and a watched plant never grows.  Early spring brings incremental growth.  Late spring brings bursts of growth such that the eye is barely able to register the vast changes, and keep up.  Sit back and enjoy the show.  It was the only way to go with our girl. 

Ten years ago Bill and I made a trip north of Howell to Arrowhead Alpines, a homegrown nursery with a national mail (back then) and internet (now) following.  Family trips to the Rockies had sparked an interest in Zone Four cold tolerant alpine plants--Saxifragia, lupine and mountain geraniums.  The grizzly owner reached down and ripped out a plant growing in the sidewalk, which I had admired.  "It's a weed, take it."  I did and the lamium still grows.  One man's weed is another woman's border.

Next door a magnificient Magnolia blooms like a pink cloud each May.  I wanted my own.  Mr. Arrowhead suggested an unusual strain with extra large blooms.  We left with a scrawny stick tree and promises of our own pink cloud.

 Eight years later we still had a few blooms and contemplated yanking the twisted trunk out to make way for something more aggressive.  The decision was made and an extension granted.  The blooms were lovely, but sparse. 

This year the tree sprouted graceful balanced branches and dozens of buds were ready to pop. Our wait was about to pay off--well it did, with a bit of a reduction due to a flying oak limb--but it survived.  Our sweet Magnolia will one day have its own unique cloud of blooms.  It'll be worth the wait.

These patient investments of time pay off in dividends.

There's been no better way to spend the last two and a half decades.

Just waiting to see what's next.

 It's the journey, right?

Container gardens: Pots on the spot

My neighbor John found himself face down on the front porch, unable to get up.  While lying waiting for help, his busy mind came up with a design for a porch railing which curved inward at the edges, leaving two perfect corners open and suitable for flower pots.  John was never one to panic, or waste time. 

Note to self:  remove hanger
Why hide the pots behind the rail where only the home's occupants could admire the blooms?  John's design called for open corners and an inverted ornamental rail.   His spouse was a bit sceptical of the design, but it grew on her.  Yesterday, while whizzing past, two bright bunches of hot pink impatiens popping out of those very pots caught my eye.

 John's bride favors bold colors to accomodate her compromised vision. 

No matter the space, no matter the abode, everyone has room for a pot or two.  Like a bright scarf, a pot of flowers gives your home a bit of unique style, and a punch of color, even if the  outdoor space is a balcony.

 A fabulous container garden can be pulled together in just a few minutes.

Spoiler alert--here's a gardener's "secret" tip.  The fullest and easiest pots originate as hanging planters.  Also the best deals.  Near closing time at Eastern Market, or at the local market stand, full blooming hanging planters sell for as little as five or six dolllars.   It's far less expensive and quicker than filling the pot with individual plants.   Hanging planters are usually more mature than lone plants, providing instant gratification in a limited growing season (and budget.) They're a sure bet.

Some fabulous urns are made of lightweight molded plastic or fiberglass, and easily pass for the real thing.  Save your back and phase out those heavy concrete containers.  Plastic's far easier to clean and store.  And it lasts.  Forever. 

To keep it light, use less soil and recycle the planter pot by inverting it in the bottom of the urn.  Tuck plastic grocery bags in the gaps and line the upper interior with compost or mulch, leaving a cavity in which to pop in the hanging plant.  Pop it in, and fill the gap with potting mix using a soil scoop.  Light, fast and lovely.

Spit spot, you've got yourself a garden in a pot. 

Grab a cuppa tea, sit back and admire your handiwork.

More Articles of Interest:
Winter Porch Pots -- Greenery Containers

How to Transplant Plants -- Create a Memory Garden

Gardeners of the Court -- The Cycle of Life in the Garden

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Vintage Gardens: Spider Plants and Fancy Pants

Cleome  a/k/a Spider Plant

Cleome (Clay-oh-me.)  Even the name sounds vintage.  These energetic girls were annual features in Ciocia Maryann's garden.  Lacy and frilly on top, with slightly curved stems, these plants can bloom up to four feet.  Also known as the "spider flower"  due to the bendy legged appearance of its blooms, these plants are far from spidery in their popping presentation of multi hued pinks, purples and whites.  Sorta like fireworks on a stick. 

Rarely available in flats, most large scale nurseries carry Cleome beginning in June.  If you're fortunate enough to find the Proven Winner version, Senorita Rosalita, grab it.  Unlike the originals, this elegant hybrid will knock the calcentines off any gardener from July through frost. This introduction grows lower and profusely blooms from a single plant.
To quote the sophisticated Rosalita,

"Now I, Senorita Rosalita have restored Cleome’s reputation. The magnificent dark leaves on my 3-5 feet tall upright branches are topped by clusters of bright, lavender pink flowers. And they bloom with abandon from late spring through fall. I scoff at heat, and renounce all thorns and sticky substances. Deadheading is no more. All I ask is that you plant me in full sun in a place where water drains freely through the soil".  http://www.provenwinners.com/

Purebred or hybrid, these lacy lovelies are surprisingly low maintenance.  If so inclined, a bit of pinching back will result in spikes of new blooms in short measure.

Otherwise, leave the ladies alone, and they will provide a show on their own. 

These delightful darlings dance with the wind, never wilt and readily reseed if left to do so in the fall. The upper portion of the stem sprouts elongated pods containing hundreds of tiny black seeds. The pods pop on their own in late fall.  For best reseeding results place a few flat stones atop the soil at their base and leave  in place during the winter.   The tiny seeds congregate at the base of the stone and hibernate through  the winter.  The stones hold a bit of warmth and encourage growth.  Just be sure not to pull out the notched leaf volunteer plants, mistaking them for weeds. Easily done.  The volunteers can be relocated once they reach a height of six to eight inches.  Cut the baby plants back by one third to encourage a more bushy growth.

Gardens often reflect the gardener.   Maryann possessed both elegance and exuberance.  She laughed readily and heartily with never a harsh word for anyone. Including her niece, who tried, on occasion, to get a rise out of her.  She got even in her own way--birthday gifts could be new gotchkies tucked into the ends of wrapped cardboard tubes.  When her beloved husband  passed away, she passed on black garb to the funeral, because he loved her in red.  She never said goodbye, instead "I love you sweetie."  

If you wish your garden to be more than ordinary, experiment with a few cleome. 

A favorite photo of my aunt comes from my parents' wedding, as she danced with joy, swishing her skirts, her family laughing heartily around.    The same vitality was found in her yard.  Mine are planted under my dining room window. 

Each time those lively Cleome dance in the breeze, I nod to my spirited aunt, and smile. 

Love you sweetie. 

More Articles of Interest:

Four O'Clocks and Hollyhocks

Create A Memory Garden

Foxgloves, Samurai Shark and More Top Gifts for Gardeners