Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sweet Patch

Among the many treasures Patrick gave me when I first started gardening was a large tuft of sweet woodruff. As I couldn’t recall the growing requirements for everything he gave me (there must have been starts of 20 different plants), I planted it in full sun. Ouch. After realizing my mistake, I transplanted the bedraggled remains to Cleo’s Garden, beneath the Norway Spruce.

Almost two years later, my sweet woodruff patch is full, lush, and so vigorous that I had to prune it back into it’s semicircular shape (echoing the shape of the bench). I happily spread the prunings to other shady areas in the front yard. I love it’s low, creeping habit, whorled stems, and fresh green color.

I’ve read that some gardeners dislike this plant. They find it aggressive. So far, I’ve found it to be very well mannered, but I have a lot of new, shady ground to cover. If one ends up with too much sweet woodruff, it makes a nice potpourri. When dried, the plants release a sweet scent reminiscent of vanilla and hay. Or, it can be steeped in white wine to make May Wine. I did this with the pieces that didn’t survive the pruning. I advise allowing the leaves to steep at least a day in a pitcher of white wine to fully release the flavor. Poured over ice, it makes a refreshing evening drink in the garden, like drinking liquid sunshine.

I’m hoping Patrick can make my open garden, so that I can show him how much I appreciate his gift of sweet woodruff.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Annual Experiment

Last year, I experimented with annual poppies as fillers in my magnolia bed and was thrilled with the results. It was the first year I made large use of annuals from seed. This year, to continue The Annual Experiment, I decided to sow nigella seeds over the bare spots left by the tulips. The only problem was, I couldn’t find nigella (aka Love in the Mist) seeds locally.

After coming home empty-handed, yet again, from the garden center, I remembered that I had a large container of nigella seeds, to be used as a spice, in the kitchen cupboard. I had bought the seeds after copying a number of Iranian recipes out of a novel last year. (I wish I could remember the name of the book. It was a great story about a pair of Iranian sisters who immigrated to Scotland and opened a restaurant there.) I’ve heard of people growing poppies (papaver somniferum) from the seeds available in the spice aisle of the grocery store, so nigella seeds should work too – as long as they weren’t toasted.

I sampled a seed to try and detect if they had been cooked, but, honestly, I couldn’t tell. They tasted dark and spicy, a little like a black mustard seed. Having never tasted nigella seeds before, I didn’t know if I was tasting the pre- or post-toasting flavor. Praying that my seeds were uncooked, I sprinkled them over the fading tulip foliage in early May. The perforated top of the container’s inner lid was quite handy for sowing.

It turns out that the seeds were NOT toasted. I have lots of thriving nigella seedlings pushing up through the tulip husks. Hooray! I’m looking forward to the other-worldy flowers. I doubt they’ll be in bloom by the date of my open garden, but I can always hope.

Now I’m wondering what else I could grow from my spice cupboard. An annual experiment, indeed!

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Friday, May 25, 2007

My Favorite Spot, May 25th

It’s that time of year again: when I’m utterly delighted by the alternating lamb’s ear and East Friesland sage I’ve planted along our front sidewalk. This is the last of the cool colors in the front garden. Soon, yellow sundrops, orange butterfly weed, and hot pink yarrow will spice up the border. For now, silver, purple, and blue dominate, adding a cool note to the sultry May weather.

This is one of my few successful experiments with a cutsey, alternating plant scheme. Usually, it just looks trite. For the third year, though, this combination thrills me every time I walk toward the house, making it my favorite spot.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

BBB: Sweet William

Reading other garden blogs, I don’t think Sweet William is in any danger of disappearing from the garden soon. Still, I think it’s an unappreciated plant. I can’t say I’ve ever seen it for sale. I think, as a biennial, it is probably difficult to sell to the average nursery-goers. Even the discriminating gardener finds its biennial habit frustrating. I remember reading Amy Stewart’s post in which she rails at the fact that no matter how large and robust the plant she buys, it still doesn’t flower until the second year.

Like the rest of my biennials, I grew Sweet William from seed, using the winter-sowing method. I don’t recall major problems with germination, but, as I only ended up with six mature plants, it could not have been that good. I planted them into the candycane bed last fall. They bloomed this spring.

One amusing aspect of growing plants from seed is that each is an individual – unlike the clones for sale at the garden center. (Not that I don’t like clones.) My plants vary a bit in stature, but the most striking difference is the flower color. They are all a deep, dark, almost black, maroon, except for one plant with cherry red flowers. The oddball plant adds a note of discord to my sweet curves. The scent isn’t as variable as color. They all possess a light, clove fragrance. I do wish it were stronger.

Like most biennials, Sweet William plants can last longer than two years, but still remain short-lived. I plan on direct sowing additional seed into the bare spots, between the plants, as insurance for next year’s crop. It does self-sow, but I’d like to experiment with deadheading in an attempt to encourage a second flush of flowers late in the season.

Germination: medium difficulty (but my seeds were old)
Culture: easy
Form: neat and lush
Scent: light clove
Color: shades of red and pink

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Goldfish and Bullfrogs

This year, I’m trying some different forms of mosquito control in the pond. Last year, I used guppies. They seemed effective and they multiplied, but they weren’t very visible. I want fish that will entertain me, as well eat mosquito larvae.

Although the goldfish died last year, I was swayed by the 12 cent price to try them again. Mike wanted to buy 100 goldfish, so that our pond would be reminiscent of the koi ponds in Okinawa: so thick with fish it looks as if you could walk on their backs. Although I’m coldhearted, consigning 100 fish to death by overcrowding is even too cruel for me. We bought 10, for $1.20, which seemed still seemed like a bit of an overkill. In the end, I’m glad we bought so many, because we now have only four or five hardy survivors. They seem to be doing well enough, despite any filtration or mechanical oxygenation in the pond. Nature must be keeping them be well fed because they show little interest in the flakes I occasionally sprinkle on the water’s surface in the evenings.

I went to buy water lettuce for the pond, to add some shade and cover for the fish, and saw that the Monfort Aquarium had tadpoles for sale. When I asked the price, I was astounded to learn that they were $2 each or 3 for $5. That’s a lot of goldfish. I took one look, and I realized why the large pricetag. They are bullfrog tadpoles and ENORMOUS. They are also hideously ugly. They eat both underwater insects (like, I’m hoping, mosquito larvae) and plant material. I’m also hoping they’ll help with my algae problem.

According to the man at the fish store, the tadpoles will not eat my goldfish. Although the adult frog will eat fish (and even bats!), they should take a few years to reach goldfish eating size. By then, if they survive, the goldfish should be too big to eat. If not (or if I have to replace the fish each year), I don’t think feeding bullfrogs 12 cent fish is going to bankrupt me anytime soon. If it gets too expensive, I guess we’ll be having frog legs for dinner.

I’m having fun with the pond this year. Both the cats and I enjoy watching the little aquatic world in the backyard. Next year, I may even try water lilies!

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Monday, May 21, 2007

First Harvest

I made my first big harvest from the potager this weekend. The radishes were bolting, so I added them, along with cilantro from my garden, to the Asian Coleslaw I prepared for a picnic. I was so proud to bring a dish containing things I had grown myself! Despite a degree in botany, it still seems like magic to me that I can tuck a seed in the ground and, voilá, a few weeks later I have food.

The radishes weren’t entirely successful. A number of them didn’t develop bulbs at all. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to those that developed and those that didn’t. For instance, I found this enormous radish next to some with nothing more than a red root.

For the record, I DID wash it before eating. (It was actually added to the salad.) And, despite its large size, it was sweet and juicy. Mmmm….proud, magic radishes.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

My Favorite Spot, May 18th

Wow. I can’t believe it’s already Friday and time for “my favorite spot” again! This week, I’ve chosen another shady nook, the NE side of the deck. (For the uninitiated, my house faces SE, so I have to resort to odd directional facings to describe my garden beds.)

Like most of my garden, this area was grass (please click on the link for a SHOCKING “before” photo) when we moved in. It was one of the first places I identified as future garden space, if for no other reason than to conceal the deck’s “legs.” Initially, I created beds that simply wrapped around the deck’s three sides, at a depth of only about 18 inches. After attending a few garden tours this summer, I added curves to the candycane bed and this side of the deck. The result is pleasing to the eye and allows more plantings to hide the deck’s nasty underside.

Along with the shape renovations, this area has undergone a number of plant edits as well. Initially, it was planted with clematis, trumpet vine, ostrich ferns, spiderwort, and Francee hosta. I am ashamed to admit that I planted the last three in a repeating pattern, wrapping around the NE and NW sides of the deck. Now, this semicircle contains the same vines, but more ostrich ferns and the addition of two Golden Lights azaleas (still very small), daffodils, repeat-blooming hostas (from a neighbor), primula japonica, and, my favorite groundcover of all time, sweet woodruff.

The plants are doing well. First the daffodils emerge to conceal the deck’s underpinnings, then, the ostrich ferns, which have multiplied this year, emerge to provide an even thicker screen. As the azaleas are still very small, the primroses provide some spring height and color. The hostas, transplanted last summer, are thriving. Although I’m eager to see the azaleas grown to their promised 5 foot height and cover themselves in golden blooms, I’ve found pleasure in the “right now” of my favorite spot.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Goodbye Grif's Gardenia

I’ve made all sorts of stupid plant choices in the name of scent. I’ve bought and tried to coddle along demanding or marginally hardy species in the hopes of a singularly fragrant bloom. I think I should no longer visit the Fragrant Plants forum on Garden Web because it just sends me into another tailspin of wasted money, time, and effort. Garden catalogs are no better. For instance, I totally fell for Park’s Seed’s promise of a gardenia hardy to zone 6. Ha!

I purchased and planted two Gardenia augusta Grif’s Select in Fall of ’05. I dug a large hole for each plant and backfilled it with heavily amended soil, hoping that I had provided adequate drainage. The following spring, after a lengthy wait for signs of life, I yanked them from the ground and abandoned the plants in a corner. I later discovered that one of the gardenias had indeed survived, but just barely. I kept it watered over the summer and then planted it in a different spot in Fall of ’06. This spring, it was yanked again. Now, it is really dead.

I can’t say for sure whether it was our nasty clay soil (gardenias abhor clay) or the zone 6 winters that killed the gardenias. Global warming may make outdoor gardenias in Cincinnati a true possibility in the next few years, but I think I’ll just stick with the hothouse variety, kept in the sunroom during the winter and on the deck in the summer, for now. Upon reflection, I guess I haven’t learned much of a lesson at all. I still go through an extraordinary amount of effort for a novel scent.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Big Pile of Sticks

What does the lone range sing as he takes out his trash?
To the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump!

That’s what I was singing as Mike and I tackled our big stick pile on Sunday. (Well, actually, I was singing “Goodbye to Pisces,” by Tori Amos, but “To the Dump” sounds more appropriate.) These are the dratted sticks that Toby left all over our yard when he trimmed and even cut down a few honeysuckle trees. I won’t put ALL the blame on Toby. Our ice storm in February also brought down a few limbs. (As you can see from the photo, the sticks were making mowing difficult.)

Clean-up was a team effort. Mike cut the sticks into manageable pieces, I stacked them in Tim’s trailer, and Tim hauled them away to the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump. (I'm sure that's what Tim was singing as he drove along.)

Despite filling Tim’s trailer, we still have quite a bit of brush remaining. Next weekend, I’m hoping Tim will be kind enough to back his trailer into our driveway once again. We have even more sticks hidden beneath the three remaining honeysuckle trees on our property, so I think we have at least two more trailer-loads to take to the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

My First Peony

My first peony! Well, actually, my first peony blossom. And oddly enough, it’s from the latest peonies I planted.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what a peony was a few years ago. I was enlightened when my neighbor, Mary, rushed to the garden fence in May of 2005 with a fistful of blossoms in her hand. I was enraptured by the enormous, frilled, intensely hued flowers. She invited me to smell them and I buried my nose in the silken petals and inhaled a sweet rose-like fragrance. I was smitten, but completely unready to plant a peony of my own.

Two years ago, I had just begun gardening. I received a trunk-load of plants from my friend Patrick and had just started planting in the sun bed. I was fighting the first of many battles with our sticky clay soil and nursing along my first winter-sown plants. I was addicted to the Garden Web forums and delighted in soaking up every detail I could find on cottage gardening and perennials. By October, though, I was a veteran and when Margie gave me my first peony, I was thrilled! I imagined those luscious flowers would be mine, all mine!

I planted my first peony in the candy cane bed that fall. Early, the following spring, I added two Sarah Bernhardt peonies. May came, and nothing bloomed! My first peony and my second and third were total busts. I started to think I couldn’t get peonies to flower in my yard.

I was still willing to give it a go when, last fall, my friend Joy decided to remove the large peony patch from her front yard and replace them with knockout roses. For the price of my labor and advice, I took home five, very hearty divisions. (She had such a large patch that we probably ended up with 20 plants.) I planted the divisions in the pink and white bed. I wasn’t entirely sure they would flower there, because they only get morning sun. Still, in anticipation of the blossoms, I read an entire book on peonies while soaking in the hot tub in Gatlinburg last October. A girl can dream, can’t she?

This spring, I was excited to see buds on the new peonies AND the Sarahs. The new peonies, despite their shadier position, developed first and, as you can see, rewarded me with their first bloom on May 14th. It may be a week or more before the Sarah Bernhardt peonies bloom. And my first peony? It’s in its second spring and, still, no buds. The foliage is lovely, though.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

My Favorite Spot, May 11th

The SE side of our yard was a mess when we moved in. It’s shaded by a Norway spruce, 3 holly trees, and an enormous burning bush. The remaining spaces were filled with ivy, an Annabelle hydrangea, scraggly grass, and lawn violets. I smothered it all with leaves in the Fall of 2005. This week, my favorite spot is a portion of that border, beneath the female holly tree and just south of the shade bed.

This is sort of a rescue/wild area. One of our neighbors announced her intent to redo a portion of her backyard that had been the previous owner’s attempt at a wildflower garden. I transplanted at least a dozen columbine and several solomon’s seal. (I also successfully rescued a redbud, but that is planted elsewhere.) I added ‘Francee’ hosta that had been unhappy near the deck, ferns from along the SE side of the house, brunnera from the SW shrub border, and a Nikko Blue hydrangea that I got a great deal on at Funke's. Finally, I’ve added more wildflowers – toad lily from Pam, trillium from Tim, bleeding heart from Meijer (I’ve had really good results with the boxed, bareroot Dicentra), and Virginia bluebells from some mail order company. (And all these plants are just in the small circle around the holly. I’ve got even more interesting gems on the other side of the path!)

The columbine are currently blooming and I love the effect of the pale pink and deep purple blooms against the last of the bleeding heart and brunnera. It isn’t too far from the wallflower, so I get to enjoy sweet perfume as I pull tree seedlings from the leaf litter. Later in the season, I’ll enjoy orchid-like toad lilies, outrageously plump hydrangea flower heads, and the heady scent august lilies. I expect this to be my favorite spot more than once this season.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Open Garden: June 24

I've done it. I've committed to hosting an Open Garden this June. It will be an all-day, drop-in event, complete with tours and refreshments.

I've made so many gardening friends through my blog and work and plant swapping and the bus and theater and . . .you get the picture. I can't stop talking about my garden and people keep asking me when they get to see it, so I suppose I ought to open it to visitors.

Expect many anxious posts between now and June 23, as I frantically try to address the nasty spots, like the north corner and the pile of brush I've had next to the house for months (thank you, Tim, for agreeing to help me out with that on Sunday).

If you are in the Cincinnati area, and would like to attend, leave a comment here. I'll try to ascertain whether you are a crazy, killer stalker and then send you an invite (because only crazy, killer stalkers are welcome).

*Edited on 5/11 to change the date to 6/24.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

BBB: Dame's Rocket

I picked up a packet of Dame’s Rocket seeds at Big Lots during the summer of 05. Because spring had passed, all the seeds were deeply discounted. I hadn’t a clue what Dame’s Rocket was, but the package advertised it as a perennial. After a little more research, I learned that Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis) is classified as a “short-lived” perennial or biennial. While I found that a bit disappointing (this is before I started my BBB cause), I was thrilled to note that it is fragrant!

I also winter-sowed these seeds. Germination was easy. The plants developed into tidy rosettes, not unlike wallflower. I planted them into the garden in late summer 2006.

I chose to site the dames in my SE shrub border, which I had recently converted from grass to garden. The border runs along the southeast side of our property. It doesn’t get much morning sun, because the neighbor’s oak shades it, but it does get a blast of hot, late afternoon sun. It’s a difficult spot: too shady for sun plants but too hot and dry for shade plants. I gave the Dame's Rocket additional water during August and September to help them establish. They seem to love their home.

This spring, the rosettes shot up into gangly spurs (again, not unlike wallflower). However, they have reached up to four feet tall. The flowers are an unremarkable mauvey-purple, and quite fragrant. They are reputed to be more heavily scented at night, but I haven’t conducted a sniff test.

One note of caution is that this plant is listed as an invasive plant and noxious weed. It reseeds aggressively and can crowd out native wildflower species. I would advise against planting this in your premium garden space. It’s best used in the difficult spots where pampered plants won’t grow.

Germination: easy
Culture: easy
Form: neat first year, gangly second year
Scent: sweet floral
Color: pinkish purple

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Monday, May 07, 2007


Merry Christmas to us! We finally used the $50 Home Depot gift certificate that Mike’s sister gave to us for Christmas. With it, we purchased a Black and Decker Grass Hog. I love it!

Prior to this purchase, we had been using a $2, gas-powered line trimmer from an estate sale. It didn’t work so well, and Mike finally abandoned it. Because I was afraid of both the gas engine and the whacker itself (my father always behaved as if it could take a leg off), I was left to trimming my beds with scissors. Yes, SCISSORS. Now that I have four island beds and ten or so borders, the scissors and I can no longer keep up.

So, last night, after a big beer at BWW, I did some drunk shopping at Home Depot (Mike drove) and then some slightly intoxicated weed whacking (which sobers one up pretty quickly). I did have the presence of mind to don my safety goggles. While I doubt that the line could actually amputate a limb, grass in the eye could really hurt. Using the trimmer was a little more physically demanding than I thought it would be (rough on the wrist), it was much easier than scissors and my beds have never looked so good. I’m a now a whacker!


Friday, May 04, 2007

Big Jack

It’s been a rough week. By yesterday (Thursday) I was thoroughly confused about what day it was. At one point, I thought it was Friday, so I published “My Favorite Spot.” Whoops. So, today, in place of the usual Friday offering, I’d like to share more pictures of my loverly Jack-in-the-Pulpit.

Reportedly, Arisaema can grow to three feet tall. I’d like to see that! I am thoroughly impressed with my 20-inch specimen, which sports a nearly 3/4 inch diameter base. Regrettably, I couldn’t get Zoro to pose with it again, for scale.

Even if they hadn’t grown to be such monsters, I’d remain enamoured with my Jacks. They are so secretive, with the odd flowers tucked beneath the tripartite leaves. The subtle green stripes of the spathe glow when backlit by the sun. They encourage me to indulge in a bit of imagination play. I like to pretend I’m only 6 inches tall, and walking through a magical forest of Jack-in-the-Pulpit. In fact, if I were so small, I could crawl inside the spathe myself. I wonder if Jack would mind making room for me in there.

I’m meeting a swapper from my plant swap group this weekend, and he’s offering me more Jacks, along with bleeding heart, in return for a few of my seed-grown Heuchera. How could I say no?

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

My Favorite Spot, May 3rd

My Favorite Spot is back!

And it’s the Magnolia Bed again! (For those new to the blog, this bed is named for the Sweet Bay Magnolia in its center. The magnolia was the first thing I planted at my house.) Currently, the tulips, phlox, wallflower, and Centaurea montana are blooming. The brighter tulips have expired, and the remaining colors bear more resemblance to those pictured on the “Apple Blossom” mix I purchased. The lamb’s ear and Asiatic lilies are still tidy and fresh. (Unlike the sprawling monsters they’ll become later in the season!)

I believe entangled suggested combining the wallflower with tulips. The combination is pictured here. Stunning, no?

Just wait until you see next week’s Favorite Spot!

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Arbor Installed

Last May, I found myself an extra $200 richer and promptly spent the cash on an arbor. I convinced a very grumpy Mike to put it together and we set it up at the entry to the front walk. We live in a sheltered area, so I assumed that the 7 inch metal spikes at the bottom, meant to be set in concrete, would properly secure the arbor if inserted into sand. Tie on a couple of freshly planted honeysuckle as anchors, and it should remain standing for years. Well, a blustery October day proved me wrong and the arbor blew over. Thankfully, the only damage was to one of the honeysuckle, which was cruelly plucked from the earth.

After procrastinating all fall, I committed to installing the arbor this spring. I was hesitant for a few reasons: I’m afraid of concrete, I wasn’t sure how to suspend the arbor and keep it level as the concrete set, and I didn’t want to involve my grumpy husband again. I figured out solutions to the first two problems and just avoided the last. So here is how I, a complete idiot, managed to levelly install my arbor.

1. Dig some holes. Really, I redug the original holes – the holes filled with sand. It was easy work. I dug two rectangular holes, to accommodate two spikes in each, but you could probably dig four, one for each spike. The holes must be deep enough to fully insert the spikes.

2. Cut some wood. I didn’t mention this earlier, but I also had the fourth problem of being terrified of my new (second-hand) miter saw. I involved grumpy husband (problem #3) long enough to help me set it back at 0 degrees and unlock the handle. Then I donned my safety glasses and chopped up some wood. I even managed to keep all my fingers!

3. Build a bridge. I used my cut wood to bridge the holes. The intent was to set the arbor on the wood so that its weight was on the bridge, rather than the spikes. This also enabled me to…

4. Level the arbor. I had to go back to step #2 a few times, because, damn, I needed a lot of pieces of wood. I also had a brand new package of shims for the fine tuning. To level the sides, I simply had to set the level on the crossbar of each side. To level it from left to right (as you enter the arbor), I laid a piece of molding (the only unwarped wood I could find) across the crossbars and set my level on top for a reading.

5. Make some concrete and pour it in. This is the part that had the neighbors giggling behind their curtains and me fuming. I initially bought 25 lbs of “anchoring” concrete. It was all powder, no rocks, and the devil to mix. I poured the dry mix in a bucket, added water, and tried to stir. The stuff at the bottom refused to mix. The stuff at the top was overly watery and I sloshed it all over myself. I must have looked like some sort of witch, squatting over my goopy bucket, stirring it with a ragged, broken stick, muttering curses. I also thought it would be too much work to bring the hose to my project, so I would stir at the spigot, and then run, slopping concrete down the walk, to pour the badly mixed slurry into the hole. After suffering my way through the first 25 pounds, I had to return to Home Depot for more. This time though, I bought 120 lbs of the cheap stuff, with the rocks in it. And, I unrolled the hose so that I could mix at the work site. Both decisions turned out to be great moves and the rest of the step #5 went well. I added concrete to the two holes (about 100 lbs in all) until I had reached the top of the metal spikes and the base of the wooden legs.

6. Put the dirt back. Ummm….yeah. I haven’t done this part yet. I sort of added A LOT of water to my concrete mix, so I wanted to be sure it was good and set before I covered it up. I don’t anticipate problems.

Finally, here is my magnificent, level, permanently installed arbor. It may not look level in the photo (because SOMEONE did not squarely attach the legs and because it is on a slope), but it is. I’m quite pleased with myself.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

BBB: Wallflower

I think biennials have fallen out of favor. I can understand why. They must be difficult for a greenhouse to sell. Most customers would be reluctant to buy the plant during its first year, without any blooms or even a promise of flowers that season. By the time the second year rolls around, it has to compete with annuals, which are (1) cheaper and (2) more likely to bloom all season. In fact, the only biennials I’ve seen for sale is foxglove and the occasional hollyhock.

I wouldn’t have bothered with biennials either, except that so many are recommended in books on fragrant plants and cottage gardening. There were also a few I unwittingly purchased as seeds that were marked “perennial.” I ended up started a number of biennials from seed during the 2005/6 Winter Sowing extravaganza. This season, I’ll reap the benefits of my preparations. In an effort to Bring Back Biennials (BBB), I plan to highlight the plants as they come into bloom.

This week’s profiled plant is wallflower, which is almost always mentioned in older fragrant gardening books. The specific variety I grew is Erysimum x allionii, from Swallowtail Seeds. I germinated the seeds through the winter sowing method and got good germination rates. In fact, I ended up with so many plants that I didn’t have space to plant them all. (A number of them are bravely blooming in the Pit of Despair.) I planted the nicest plants into the front garden last fall. At that time, they formed neat little rosettes.

This spring, those rosettes expanded into gangly, and somewhat weedy-looking, stalks. I suppose the garish orange flowers are a little coarse as well. The scent, though, more than makes up for the 2-year wait and any ungainliness. I seem to recall that the scent was described as “clove-like,” but I think wallflower smell like a citrusy rose. Like most heavy scents, the perfume tends to sink, so it is best appreciated while weeding nearby. I hope the plants will self-sow because I’d like to see the garish orange, but sweetly scented, blooms every spring. (I love the combination with the forget-me-not, another biennial, in the photo.)

Germination: easy
Culture: easy
Form: neat first year, gangly second year
Scent: strong citrus rose
Color: slightly muddy orange