Jun 29, 2011

On Patience in Gardening

I started the garden pictured on your left about three years ago, and the idea to create this space was almost accidental. I had a spot that used to contain a rotting tree stump, and I had some flagstones that were collecting dust in another corner of the yard, and I decided to see if I could turn the space into something besides another patch of lawn.

When I selected my initial perennials for perennials for the space, I did not take into account soil pH and sunlight needs, and I was consequently disappointed when the purple fountain ornamental grass I planted did not return. The next year I went with some Stella d'oro lilies and some bright red Asiatic lilies. In the center I added a Rose of Sharon plant, and during the spring there are some daffodils and tulips for early color.

Of course, it was another two years before the plants in this space filled out to the point where I achieved something like a wall of color. Thus, this garden took about four years to emerge as a colorful source for peaceful contemplation, though the happy accidents are more fun than simply filling the space with a bunch of annuals each year.

Jun 18, 2011

The 2011 Arrival of Tiger Lilies

Over the last half-decade I have used this blog to record horticultural markers for the seasons, and the arrival of the first tiger lily of 2011 sent me back into my blog archives. The first tiger lily emerged on June 9 in 2010, June 21 in 2009, on June 18 in 2008, and on June 17 in 2007. Tiger lilies, which have the scientific name of Hemerocallis fulva, first bloomed in my yard on June 17 in 2006.

Thus, this year's flowers arrived somewhat near the end of the scale, as today is June 18. With the heavy rains of this past May (23 rainy days) I expected that the tiger lilies would arrive early, but this is not the case. Perhaps they need warmth more than moisture to kick into gear, as this spring was a bit cooler than average.

Still, though many gardeners scoff at the common Hemerocallis fulva (also known as "ditch lily" to even more scornful gardeners, for whom the tiger lily is considered invasive) I look forward to these orange flowers the way I do old friends. They provide strong colors, they are easy to maintain, and they grow in almost any soils and conditions. I have some in shady areas, dry areas, full sun areas, and even in a rock-strewn patch behind the garage where the former owner dumped motor oil.

Jun 13, 2011

Cornucopia of Roses

Magenta roses In the past two years I have begun to pay more attention to several rose bushes my wife planted in the early 1990s. While "neglect" is a strong word to use for my previous efforts at taking care of these plants, suffice to say that I did little more than hack them down when they became overgrown, and they suffered from black spot and insect degradations, despite my wife's suggestions that I treat the plants with rose sprays.

The past two summers I have applied some preventive fungal inhibitors, and I also gave the plants some fertilizer. In addition, I have been much more meticulous in removing dead stems and keeping the soil around the base of the plants free from debris.

We were amazed at how much healthier, vigorous, and blossom-yielding several of the rose bushes were this year. Perhaps we might also add that this was a very wet spring, but the net result has been a veritable wave of magenta-hued flowers in the yard.

Moral of the story: when your wife suggests something, she is probably right.

Jun 5, 2011


A few years ago I picked up a small Delphinium plant, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well this plant adapted to my garden. In my region the Delphinium plant produces multiple rounds of blue-violet blossoms, and last year we had three separate flowering periods with these plants.

The brilliant blue and violet hues the plant produces contrast well with many other colors. As you can see in the image, the bluish colors mesh well with the yellow irises, and the constancy of the blue Delphinium makes for unexpected color bonanzas when later blossoms arrive. From another angle they also pair well with some red and pink poppies that are hidden in this image.

The various species of Delphinium are rather toxic, though, so be sure to keep Delphinium away from small children and pets. The plant produces the toxic alkaloid delphinine, which can be fatal in large doses.

This perennial plant can be propagated from seed, or you can also split the rhizomes and start new colonies in other gardens. In this garden the Delphinium grew from a single stalk to about eight stalks in three years: moderate growth, but not the type of plant that overwhelms a garden.

Jun 1, 2011

Asparagus Curse Lifted

I recall at least five previous attempts to grow asparagus in my garden, and each of the earlier efforts were dismal failures. I tried a variety of techniques, from adding heavier amounts of potassium to varying water levels to trying full and partial sun locations.

All were busts.

I looked skeptically at the package of asparagus crowns at the Andersons general store a month ago, but I threw them in the cart just the same. Weeks went by with no signs of life, and I was just about to till this space in favor of an easier vegetable like squash when I noticed the first asparagus spears that have ever sprouted at Château Brooks.

Yes, there are only four or five spears, and yes: there is still plenty of time for my dogs to trample these plants. Yet I remain hopeful that I have finally mastered the art of growing asparagus, and I look forward to next spring for the first bountiful harvest of fresh picked asparagus.