Monday, May 12, 2014

Maybe May After All

            The photos from a year ago in May look, by comparison, like a rain forest. By comparison, that is, to the retrograde status of the green and any other color showing in this year's perennial flower garden.
            It has been hard to find much to cheer about this spring until the last week or so. I've been more aware of what isn't there -- a bleeding heart that's been with us for about five or six years; the remains of the purplish-leaved Aceana groundcover, a New Zealand native that I've been nursing through the last five declining seasons (just utterly gonzo). All four butterfly bushes, reduced at present to mere collections of sticks, a few leaves struggling out of mostly bare branches. Great bare spots in backyard beds that to the best of my recollection were all pretty full of foliage this time last year.
            Happily, after last weekend, and a lot of hands-on attention, I can go back to celebrating life once again when I walk through the gardens. At least I have some views to look at now, something to see, so I don't dwell on whats been lost.
            I'm pretty much focusing on the return of the little guys these days.
            One of the expanding floral nations of the back garden, those portions given over largely to groundcovers, is the Ajuga shown in flower in the top left photo. Both the foliage and the flowers have more of a purple tint than this image captures. You can also see the tiny white flowers of the Sweet Woodruff. That's a plant that once dominated this area but is now in retreat. Expansion, and collapse: Waves of succession in the free-for-all of a garden habitat where plantations are allowed to roam, with some interference from me, as they do in nature. I think I like the waves of purple more than the unified field of white.
            Vinca Minor is the strongest of them all. It's everywhere and I will have to take steps to corral it. Here (in the second photo) you see it, in flower, pushing out to the brick walk and shoving up against the yellow two-toned leaves of a low Euonymus.
            You can see some of the blue blossoms of the Speedwell in the third photo. Speedwell is another happy May bloomer. Its flowers range from a beautiful sky blue to pale blue, maybe depending on the mineral content of the soil. In the back you can see Sweet Woodruff filling into this area, but I won't let it take over.
            The fourth photo is "Spring Vetch." I think it's in the pea family (it's also called "Spring Pea"); the genus is Vicia. It only flowers for a couple of weeks, but its little pink-purple blossoms are charming.
            The fifth photo shows a patch of common violets, they're all over the property this year. This is my favorite blossom variety, a blue so pale it's almost white, with darker spots in the petals. The bright light in this photos appears to have overwhelmed the dark spots.
            The sixth is a gathering of pale violets, contrasted with the darker foliage of the Labrador violet, some spikes of a star-flower that hasn't blossomed yet and the background of dusty-gray Artemisia.
            The last photo here shows the return of the Mazus. I was afraid for a while they weren't coming back; it took a few warm days to induce the blossoms. This is what I wrote about them last year:
            "The Mazus probably give us more brightly flowering color per unit measure than any other groundcover we have planted, but their colonies consist of completely separate very small plants with remarkably thin and shallow roots. You can pull up individual Mazus plants, especially when you don't want to, just by looking at them. Their roots are mere threads. So when you pull up the intruders in their midst-- violets,for instance, and any number of those nameless of 'weed' varieties whose appearance and MO I am all too familiar with -- you're more than likely to get a few of the Mazus as well, no matter how carefully and surgically you manage these removals. Then you mutter to yourself, displeased with your effort, over the waste of pretty flowers."

            Can't say fairer than that.