Archive for June, 2003
Oh, how I dread the arrival of the Japanese Beetles.
There are moments in my garden when it feels like Eden and then there are the times I feel I’ve stepped into the killing fields. Everything seems intent on eating everything else. It started with the piercing distress calls of the Brown Towhees who had obviously watched Fraidy the cat haul away their baby– which i found shortly in the basement. The unlucky fledgling did not survive and my attempts to quarantine the cat until after nesting season are only marginally successful. Meanwhile the garden is a mass of chewed, mangled, stripped, shriveled and uprooted plants. Something is boring holes into the buds of the hollyhocks, Mexican sages, and pentstemon leaving empty bracts and mangled half-blooms. The newly planted pimentos have had their stems ploughed by slugs and snails. Aphids cover the new rose buds in a chartreuse cawl. Japanese beetles are snacking on the open rose petals. Cutter bees have turned the rose leaves into green half-moons. The Towhees are doing their hopping dance in the dirt to find bugs and kicking up seedlings. The squirrels and Scrub Jays are excavating my herb pots. And I watched a Cooper’s hawk carry off a small songbird in its talons yesterday afternoon. My garden–it’s a cat-eat-bird-eat-bird-eat-bug-eat-bud world.
Gardening is about experimentation — I’m learning. You plan, you organize, you research. Finally — you order.
At the front of my perennial garden I was looking for a low growing, easy care plant that bloomed in spring in blue and white. Campanula carpatica seemed to fit the bill nicely. The looked great in the catalog too — short mounds covered in flowers.
So in they went.
They grew quickly and boldly and bloomed early. The shape of the plant was just what the catalog promised. But the flowers, well, were microscopic. Literally. Maybe they were blue, maybe white, I’m not sure. I never bothered to bring out my magnifying glass.
Uncertain, I decided to let them continue — maybe this wasn’t the bloom at all. They rewarded me with a huge shower of seeds fanning out in a perfect wind-blown arc. Now I have lots of little harebells coming up everywhere they could take root.
They’re not too much of a bother to rip out, so I’ve been pulling out all the babies (I’m sure there are more waiting to spring up!) and they were followed into the recycling bin by their parents.
In went three white and one blue Nemesias. In bloom, not exactly short, but a fine front-of-the-bed perennial.
Plan, organize, research, order, plant. Mulch.
You might recall (see my April 21 entry) that I bought some Summer Phlox and Hardy Geraniums to plant in one of my little beds. They arrived as the most extremely bare of bare root plants I’ve yet received. Nothing above ground at all — just a little crown and some roots.
I dutifully planted the pale rootlets as instructed, and have been watering and waiting for something to poke above the soil.
But no, nothing has appeared. I called the company (Dutch Gardens) and they sounded as sad and disappointed as I was. Yes, after two months, the plants should be going strong. Yes, we’ll give you a full refund.
So my little bed remains empty, except for an assortment of weeds (mostly rye grass and oxalis). I’m still trying to decide what to put there. I’m so off annuals, but it’s also so late in the season.
To salve my wounded green soul, I went and bought some lovely little Delphinia (Magic Fountain strain) from the nearby garden center, ripped out a (different) bed of haggard, finished Foxgloves, and plunked in the new plants.
I’m not sure if you saw Jamaica Kincaid’s garden book review a few weeks back in the June 1 Sunday NY Times. You can re-find it at
This is easily the oddest garden book review I’ve read — just what you expect to happen when you unleash a nutty novelist/poet on the prim world of garden writing. She manages to both praise and mock at the same time, and writes as much about herself as the books she is purportedly reviewing. For example:
“It is practically a commandment that a gardener who lives on top of the North Pole will long to grow bananas and that a gardener who lives in a place where bananas are endemic will long to have an Alpine scree. All of which is to say that the general idea of this book is correct but only in your dreams. ”
I have no idea if any of the books she reviewed are worth owning, but it was fun trying to figure it out!