Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Adult Pleasures VIII: Indecision

The title may be a misnomer. Indecision is not pleasurable. That indecision debilitates is frustrating, deflating, denigrating, and downright embarrassing, especially when visitors remark on the number of plastic-container plants dotting the garden.

In the gardening world, indecision results when one purchases oneself "a little happy"--sometimes with distinct ideas of where said happiness should be placed. But upon return to the garden, decisiveness evaporates, or, more appropriately, explodes like a grape when caught in the snares of indecision's vise-like grip.

The result: a landscape of black (or green) plastic containers punctuating the only verifiable evidence of decision, that is, the planted garden itself. Somehow, the planted specimens and varietals do not attract nearly as much attention as the plastic containers.

I've already documented my arduous, painful process of decision-making (see "On Instincts, or, Anatomy of a Decision"). If that entry offered an instance of success in the ability to finally come to a decision, this entry focuses more on debilitating indecision and lack of success.

I have indulged myself of late. At the Philadelphia Flower Show, I purchased the hardiest Camellia varietal on the market: the autumn blooming Survivor Camellia (hardiness to Zone 6b). It provides a showy display of white flowers from early autumn until the first frost, and offers evergreen foliage (read: year-round interest) with a dense, upright growth habit. It sat in a pot from 12 March until yesterday, at which point I planted it in the spot I originally intended, bordered by two Sum and Substance hostas which I think will complement Camellia's yellow hues, while Camellia's dark green tones will contrast nicely with the more leavened hues of Sum and Substance.

MSW: 1. Indecision: 0.
Given the rapid growth of the Nandina in the front sun garden, situated as it is next to the very full Rhododendron, a mid-height void has developed (as the Nandina grows taller, the bottom leaves have dropped). I needed a nice little evergreen bush to fill in the gap--one that could handle morning sun, but could tolerate (and thrive in) the shade provided for by the rhododendron by late morning and through the day. I found the most exquisite Kalmia latifolia 'Minuet', or Minuet Mountain Laurel. A dwarf, it will offer 3 feet wide and high upright growth stalks with striking slender leaves in the shape of spikes. And in the late spring/early summer, it rewards with generous clumps of white flowers which open to reveal circular, maroon-red inner bands of color.

Yet I waiver. Should I place the Latifolia in that space or the equally exquisite Salix integra Hakuro-nishiki Dappled Willow? It too can tolerate morning sun and then thrive in the afternoon shadow of the rhododendron. Instead of flowers, it sports salmon-colored new growth that fades to a variegated creamy white. And its added bonus: though it may be deciduous, it compensates for its winter denuding by its chameleon-like ability to turn its bare stems from typical brown to crimson red!

Or should the Dappled Willow be placed in the west side shade garden (which does receive about 3-4 hours of interrupted sun throughout the day), between the Oak Leaf Hydrangea and the Lady in Red Lace-cap Hydrangea? It would provide a nice bridge between the two: it combines the white of the Oak Leaf with the pink (in the guise of its salmon/pink colored new growth) of the Lady in Red.

Might the flowers of Kalmia latifolia compete with the electric fuchsia of the rhododendron? Might the crimson-red stems of the Dappled Willow be lost on the burgundy stems of the Nandina?

MSW: 1. Indecision: 2.

And then there are the hostas. I purchased multiple bare roots of three varietals: Halcyon Big Blue Hosta; Brim Cup Hosta (its broad, irregular yellow to creamy white margins with deep green centers melts my heart); and, finally, Blue Ivory Hosta (the combination of creamy white margins with blue-gray centers is other-worldly; somehow, while gazing at its spectacular color combination, I feel transported into a Merchant-Ivory period film).  I have no clue where to plant any of them.

MSW: 1. Indecision: 5.

But composing this entry has given me some degree of certitude in where to place the Latifolia and the Dappled Willow. And before the nasty weather predicted later this afternoon until Friday morning (with potential snow on Friday morning!), I might very well take a break from the chapter I am writing to go and plant!

As I noted in my earlier entry on "Anatomy of a Decision," gardeners should learn to trust their instincts when it comes to design, placement of new plants in the existing garden, and aesthetics. Giving in to instinct might be easy in the gardening world, for there are few mistakes. If you do not like something, you simply dig it up and move it somewhere else. Unless indecision paralyzes and you wait until the roots of that tree you planted too close to the house have burrowed into your septic system and foundation, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage...

Perhaps that is the ultimate lesson in how not to be indecisive.

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