Friday, August 27, 2010
Yes, I have a Vegas story, but, as the marketing byline goes…
Oh, who am I kidding?! Here’s my dirty secret: I went to Vegas for a conference and gambled $1 at my hotel, which I lost within seconds. Blegh. Vegas sucks.
I gambled for the 4th time this week.
As I reported, some prized hostas in my rear shade garden have been stricken by a sudden outbreak of the fatal Sclerotium rolfsii, a soil-based fungus. Upon identifying the nodules (the sclerota), I began generously spraying the affected plants with a 10% bleach solution. Unfortunately, I realized that I disposed of all the yellowing leaves from June Plantain hosta in the ground compost pile (which fortunately I had cleaned out and harvested the good compost before I left for Europe). I lifted up the debris and witnessed a festival of white and red-brown sclerota, both ridiculing me for my stupidity and thanking me for adding to their ranks. Nasty.
My garden: infected. My cleanliness: made a mockery of.
What could I do? In lieu of resorting to fungicides, I decided to gamble.
I first tackled the compost heap and carefully bagged everything. I even scraped the pile down to the hard clay surface, and then exacted my revenge by spraying a 10% bleach solution over the surface, being careful to remove the worms first. I do hope they return.
Next, I set about excavating the affected plants by digging 14 x 14 holes around them (larger than the recommended 8 x 8 holes), carefully removed the root ball and surrounding soil, placed each onto large white bags, and then carefully removed the rotting segments and salvaged the healthy segments.
All horticultural doctor websites recommended removal of all affected plants and soil. But, upon seeing healthy crowns, firm, white and bulbous as could be, with delicious thick yellow-white roots descending from the crown, I concluded that I might actually be catching this fungus early, and so decided to gamble.
June Plantain had two remaining healthy crowns (3 were rotted), while all of Lemon Drop seemed healthy (the sclerota were few, and my shower of bleach, which seems not to have harmed the plant, apparently stymied their sordid deeds and bought me enough time to cleanse the plant of them). I washed the remaining crowns and root systems of all soil, sprayed the plants in their entirety with a 10% bleach solution, and then rinsed them thoroughly. My next act of gambling took the form of situating the plants back where they came (but only after I scraped the sides of the holes and sprayed the bleach solution into the hole and along the sides), along with rich humus and compost mixed with soil.
Thus far, my gamble seems to be paying off. I see no new infections, and the plants, assisted no doubt by the brief spell of cool weather, appear as vibrant as can be expected after such trauma. Of course I can't help but feel a sense of loss, especially when I see older photos of what Lemon Drop and June Plantain once were. But I take heart in being robustly proactive, and remain optimistic. They will return, and they will be gorgeous.
In the meantime, I’ve been inspecting twice a day. And in my “off times,” my little garden helper, Gramsci, keeps watch.
I’ll keep my dear readers posted, as I am sure Gramsci will keep me posted.
** For Judy, whose valor, intelligence, wit, charm and remarkable ability to run 9.5 miles (even while undergoing chemotherapy) inspire. Let's hear it for Judy!! **
Be forewarned, however: purple is lifeless, dull, and sullen in the sun. At dawn and at dusk and on cloudy days, however, purple (especially in mass) conveys multiple moods, and evanesces even in its most magisterial of tones. Thus I would urge the gardener to use a preponderance of the softer, lighter shades in sunny areas, and darker purples as accents, and the reverse in shadier parts of the garden. Together, some of the lighter shades like Tall Purpletop Verbena and Sedum Autumn Joy, set against the silvery hues of Provence Lavender on one side and a blood red dahlia on the other, can positively transform a space by adding, unexpectedly, both levity and depth.
Perhaps of all the colors, purple encourages the gardener to be playful and to be serious, to fortify and soften garden spaces, to enrapture and subdue.In this sense, we must extend our thanks to Vita for serving as purple's advocate, for extricating it from the confines of shadow and accent. If red is the vanguard of the garden, then purple is the proletariat that carries out and forwards the work of the vanguard. And in this sense, it is pure dynamism. Even Simone agrees.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Of course, such an admission assumes that (a) I am self-respecting, and (b) I am a gardener. For the sake of argument, let's just accept those assumptions.
True, I do not select, nor have I ever selected, hostas for their flowers (this defense sounds vaguely Clinton-esque, doesn't it?). Indeed, most garden centers sell hostas well before they sport their spikes of rather sparse and somewhat meager flowers, thus making it impossible to purchase based on floral display. But that is no matter, for hostas attract with, and are prized for, their foliage: ovate or lanceolate (acicular, acuminate, cordate, feathered, lobed, obcordate, obovate, sagitate, or serrated, among other types); smooth or rugose; viridescent, lutescent, or albescent; solid color (blues, greens, yellows, golds), variegated, medio-variegated, or marginally variegated. Diversity indeed!
At this time of year, though, the hosta offers another bedazzling treat as it sends up tall spikes of white, mauve, or purple flowers that tower over its base, reaching towards the skies, its tubular flowers drooping as if paying homage to the foliage that begot them.
I know many gardeners who simply cut these stalks, for they do look a bit unkempt. What an act of theft, I say! Nay, an act of horticultural treachery!
Of course, trimming the untidy is no different than pruning a bush, for the method and the effect are the same: the deliberate act of manipulating nature to achieve a particular aesthetic. So it appears the snob is not the hosta flower foe who intrepidly annihilates the scruffy spikes, but me: the one who condemns those who do so, even as he merrily prunes and shapes a myriad of plants to achieve a desired look. Shame on me! (Why do these posts escape me ever so?!)
Monday, August 16, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
Finding the penny and learning soon thereafter about D's numismatic discovery was actually the 3rd coincidence of the week, and was a result of the 2nd, I am convinced. On Wednesday I wrote of the need and desire to renovate my east side shade bed, and identified 3 architectural plants that could tolerate dry shade and provide year-round interest. But, alas, my local garden centers did not carry those plants.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
Flowers, like life itself, have a way of escaping us. Their ephemeral beauty unfurls before our eyes, captivates the passer-by, and in an instant disappears.
I refer not to seasonal displays of a continual succession of blooms, a veritable florid parade, that all gardeners strive to create (save for those who are most easily seduced when creating their gardens and just happen, by accident of exuberance, to purchase plants that flower at that particular time). From the early spring bloomers—the tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, paper white—to the mid to late spring rhododendrons, peonies, and irises; from the unfolding of the myriad summer blooms, to the autumnal delights of the asters, chrysanthemums, camellias, and Sedum Autumn Joy (though mine, exemplary of 2010’s acceleration of time—August heat in June!—is already in full bloom), we delight in the ephemeral displays as the mutable palette of the garden (spring pastels give way to the intensity of summer flowers and soon to the more muted, autumnal burnt colors) offers new vistas, captures seasonal light in peculiar sorts of ways, and permits us to feel the existence and passing of each season (something we really no longer do in our air conditioned cars and offices, carried away by the rhythms of a non-agrarian work life).
Rather, I refer to the more specific, technical sense of ephemeral as captured by the word’s Greek origins: epi (on) and hemera (day).
I have two plants whose ephemerality arrests: Golden Kate Spiderwort (Tradescantia x andersoniana) in the partial sun section of my shade garden, and Blaze Starr Rose Mallow (Hibiscus coccineus) in the sun garden.
Golden Kate is a lovely, delicate, yet hardy addition to the garden. Her tri-petaled purple flowers with bright yellow stamens are set off by chartreuse flowing leaves that positively glow in the sunlight (though be warned: she does not like much sun).
I've written on several occasions about Rose Mallow, but never about her flowers as she has only recently begin to expose herself fully to the world. Her large, palm-sized plus flowers spend the early morning emerging from their paper-thin green sheaves; by mid-morning, they appear as fuschia teacups with deep-red waxy interiors; and by late afternoon they fully unfurl such that their green sheaves look like exploding five point stars set behind deep red petals which invariably accentuate the burgundy colored stalks.
This is not to say they only bloom on one day of the year and, should you happen to be on vacation or at the store, you miss their spectacular showing and are all the poorer for it. No. Each flower lasts one day, but the plant rewards or compensates as it were by producing a succession of blossoms.
Though a garden is ephemeral in the generic sense, a garden needs ephemeral plants in the technical sense. Somehow, they heighten our anticipation, awaken our senses of the unexpected, and allow us to appreciate the simple yet profound joys of nature.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
New York is not simply the neon electrifications of Time Square, but the collective of localized attempts to make the city one's own. New York is not simply the suffocating subterranean transportation system, or the actualized ruminations of architects who seek higher and higher into the skies, but the violent jolts of the unexpected and the creative resonances of those who inhabit (and, indeed, shape) the city.
And community gardens, as homegrown, sporadic, and organic as they are, represent the marriage of public spectacle and private ingenuity, and thus feed literally and figuratively, aesthetically and psychically, their creators and tenders, those who happen upon them, and the city as it imagines and lives itself.