Wednesday, June 8, 2011


After six years of building a garden from scratch in Quincy, we have a good showing in irises. I transplanted them from a semi-shady (or really shady) place on the side of the house to a redesigned half-moon hangout directly in front of the vegetables. We have a big orange flag iris and cool blue one with an interesting white inner pattern (very much resembling the iris of the eye), which I just bought at a garden club sale and dug into the ground – which is really cheating. And a couple of rows of vivid Siberian irises, the little guys, but abundant enough to make a spunky show.
We had lilacs this year. They opened the perfume bottle in late May. Last year the light-blue iris in the front garden didn’t bloom at all. I kept waiting, a groom left at the altar. The garden center said, try lime, they like lime. A “master gardener” in another center I complained to said “Beat them up. Stick a fork in their roots. They respond to that.” So I bought lime, surprised I hadn’t thought of this, and kept digging it in; and also probed a little gently around the root with a pitch fork. I don’t have the heart to beat up any of my plants. Whatever the cause, probably its own inner logic, the plant lit up with pale blue candles this year and stunk sweetly of the perfume counter.
I gave some of the same treatment, lime mainly, to the Korean lilac in the back garden against the fence and got the best result we’ve had yet from that plant’s red-violet blooms. We cut these and brought them inside for the classic New England spring scent.
The wiegelia grows tall, wide, and colorful, looking a little odd – like a bicycle wheel with its spokes unsprung – from my attempts last fall to tame its wildly exuberant growth. It didn’t hold a grudge, pumping out the usual array of pink and white trumpet-shaped blooms.
I did a major trim job on the rhododendron, which lost leaves and whole branches to the winter, the weather, age, disease, life, who knows what, and was full of brown holes this spring. I cut all the brown stuff off – snipping a few buds along with them – and the big old trooper of a plant pulled it together for its spring turn on the runway. This is one case where the pictures look better than the real thing,
The white peonies. I bought a couple of divided peony plants, thinking it was one but finding two in the pot, at the garden club sale probably six years ago, planted them in spare conditions, too little soil, too little sun, suffered with them, built up the soil, and rejoiced at seeing a first opened bloom a few years back. This year they stood up to the skies with flowers in every raised fist. Peonies ball their fists – they have a dozen or so of them – then open them in sudden June bursts, generally with the assistance of ants. Wow, I thought, they are so tall and I don’t even have to stake them. When the snowball-sized flowers opened this week, the branches promptly fell over the brick walk. We staked them.
The first, white foxglove opened along our curved back garden path. The perennial geranium opened at the same time. It makes rows of delicate pink-peach, mostly bleached flowers, lighting up its neck of the woods for maybe a week and a half. As is so many matters, enjoy them while they last.
The clematis came around the same time as everything else referenced above. Disappointingly thin last year, it’s thick with both vines and blue plate-sized blossoms – crab nebulae on the vine – this year. Again, I had cut back the vines last year, thinking what the hell. Maybe it was good for them. But, again, almost everything seems to be strong this year.
I too am stronger this year. The hard winter? The sudden exuberance of spring with its infusion of solar energy? I don't know, but the garden gods are smiling. I am creating in their image.