Thursday, May 31, 2012
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Friday, May 25, 2012
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Friday, May 4, 2012
The low, pink-flowering plant sold under the Steppables brand called “Amazing Mazus” is spreading and blossoming its little heart out. It was probably peaking last weekend when I took these photos (which are already, I notice, on Google images, so I trust the rest of the universe is enjoying them).
It’s also almost completely covered an area which I had been fondly thinking of as a “path.” True, because they’re “Steppable” these plants are supposed to survive a little footwork, but who wants to step on a patch of little pink flowers. So, what to do?
The Mazus (technically Mazus reptans; here’s a reference: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/plant-finder/plant-details/kc/e190/mazus-reptans.aspx) is also in a constant border war with some of its neighboring groundcovers. It gets pressure from the large, aggressive vine whose name I have never known although the creature seemed to come home with me from a shopping expedition years ago, and which I have lately taken to calling “demon plant.” The plant makes fat shiny green leaves looking somewhat like overdeveloped stonecrop sedum, only shinier, produces a yellow flower in May or June and is not bad looking – but it just takes over. When it aggresses into the Mazus patch, as it does continually, I pull it out as vigorously as possible. Demon plant grows under other plants’ roots however, so I end up pulling up some of the Mazus as well, which have the most shallow roots imaginable. They live lightly on the earth.
The Mazus also runs into the thyme (thymus albiflora, I believe), another low, thick, earth-hugging groundcover, which occasionally offers spring flowers of its own, little white ones, but is really picky about conditons. It’s more like a really cool-looking mat than a flowering plant.
This is a more difficult boundary dispute. It’s hard to pull up the Mazus here, especially when it’s flowering, but the thyme is the weaker partner, at least in this climate, and is already suffering from the dry winter. There are bare brown spots where this colony has receded, and serious decisions are yet to be faced about its future.
In addition to the Mazus, I also remove violets, demon plant, vinca and white-flowering sweet woodruff from the thyme patch.
After years of regarding my wild violets as the universal solvent for bare patches, I have come to the point of recognizing the need to simply recycle these to the mulch plant instead of trying to find new homes for them somewhere else in the yard. They’re way too adept at finding their own new homes.
The Mazus and the thyme aren’t the only borderland patches that require policing. Things don’t stay in their places, they don’t respect other species’ places, and some plants (like my columbines this spring) simply pick up their roots, pack their bags, and travel to another spot in the garden they like better. Only big shrubs or trees with deep roots and a happy connection to the conditons of their neighborhood seem secure from year to year. Or solid native colonies like day lilies. Almost everything else has a mind to wander, and requires minding by me.
It’s probably my fault though, because that’s the way I like it. Something different every day.
I’ll get that path back, by the way, but only after the Mazus stop flowering.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Its blossoms as big as your hand, the “tree peony” was voted the “unofficial national flower” of China following a nationwide vote in the nineties.
The tree peony grows taller and has more of a classic branching-out tree shape than the more common peony shrub. It has a woody trunk and branches like a tree, and you don’t trim the woody parts back
And it seems to bloom earlier. I was surprised when it bloomed early in May last year. This year it bloomed in April.
The blossoms are large. It’s hard not to stare at the them, if you’re in the area. They’re the neon signs in the Times Square of springtime’s Nature City.
I purchased ours six or seven years ago from the little garden shop in the Wollaston, our part of Quincy. The store owner had a few on hand in part because the red color of the blossoms appeals to the local Asian community. In China, red is the color of good luck.
According to an internet source (okay, Wikipedia), the common name “tree peony” has been given to four different species of peony. But judging by the photos, the variety we have is clearly “Rock’s tree peony” named for a Joseph Rock, who added it to the western catalogue of nature. The more interesting point is that the plant is in fact native to the mountains in the middle of China in a province called Gansu and in some of its neighbors.
The plant is widely appreciated in this country too.
A place called Linwood Gardens near Rochester, N.Y., has an extensive display of these peonies with blossoms in various colors. Describing itself as “an island set apart from the everyday world,” Lindwood Gardens is so proud of its collection of tree peonies that it celebrates their spring blossoming (in May) with a special event called the “Tree Peony Festival of Flowers.”
That’s kind of how I feel too. By the time the big red blossoms of the tree peony open every year, life is good and the garden season has taken hold.
Temperatures were cool last weekend and it’s actually raining today, May Day, so I’m hoping the blossoms will hold for a while. Like anything that’s truly perfect, they don’t last long.