Planting

– Posted in: Garden chores, Plant info
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My order from Judy Miller of Paradise Gardens Rare Plant Nursery (yes, the same Judy that wrote the post right below this one) came on Wednesday. All the plants looked as fresh as if they’d just come out of the ground. But I couldn’t plant until today, due to the fact that it was snowing when the package came, and Thursday was already committed to dentist appointments and other errands “in town.”

Judy has all sorts of unusual, off-the-beaten track kind of plants, and better yet,I can be fairly certain they will make it through the winter. I’m at the point in my gardening life where I don’t want to merely grow the run-of-the-mill stuff from the garden center, yet I don’t have the knowledge or the time to hunt out something both unique and hardy. Judy’s done that for me.

So, what goodies did I get? Well, the one that enchanted me most was the double Primula vulgaris ‘Quaker’s Bonnet,’ probably because it was already in bloom. It has double lilac flowers reminiscent of double bloodroot, delicate and intricate at the same time. To get an idea, take a look at this photo. I had written “any primrose–surprise me” on my substitutions list, and Judy had enclosed Primula cortusoides as a free gift. (It always pays to list substitutions, because many mail-order places do this at their discretion.) It wasn’t even listed in her catalog this year, so it certainly was a surprise. In last year’s catalog she described it thus: “Airy sprays of rosy-lavender bloom clusters with yellow eyes over soft rounded foliage resembling that of coral bells. Long blooming: very early spring to summer. [and mine does have a bud on it] Heavy bloomer, sweetly scented. Good moist woodland subject but takes fairly dry soil in shade.” I can hardly wait! The north-northwest side of my house is pretty moist, and other primroses are doing well there, so that’s where I planted them. However, first I had to remove some goldenrod (self-sown), several dandelions (ditto), and bunches of ground ivy, also known as creeping Charlie. Sure illustrates the maxim that a weed is merely a plant in the wrong place. Each of these plants exists in a cultivated form that people pay good money for. Even ground ivy is considered desirable for containers in its variegated form, and it is apparently used in homeopathic medicine as well.

While I was weeding, I kept my eye out for my favorite primrose from last year, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Since it didn’t bloom till mid-June last year, perhaps it isn’t up yet. It is just as likely that last year’s drought got it, and even possible that I pulled it up! But I think it is ‘Miller’s Crimson,’ which is pretty common, so I hope to replace it if it doesn’t show up.

I have a lot of Virginia bluebells growing and even self-sowing in the general area, so I decided to try mountain bells (Mertensia paniculata) as well. According to Judy’s catalog, this plant boasts “slender graceful stems and heart shaped leaves with clusters of truest sky-blue bells.” Not only that, but it is longer blooming and “more showy than its Virginia cousin,” and a “hummingbird magnet” as well. This came with buds on it, so I won’t have long to wait.

Also on this side of the house but in an area that gets a bit more sun, I planted the mystery columbine, Aquilegia jjh970746. The letters and numbers signify, I believe, that it was brought back by a plant explorer and that it is as yet unidentified as to species. The seed was collected “above 11,000′ in the former Soviet Georgia.” And–listen to this–it has “tea-cup sized flowers in blue shades.” Va-va-va-voom! This I gotta see!

Finally, there was only Saponaria officinalis ‘Double White’ left to plant, but I wanted to put it in a totally different location, which needed a thorough weeding that I didn’t have time to give it, as night was fast approaching. So I potted it up. But talk about weeds again–the common every day Saponaria is known as soapwort, or Bouncing Bet, and is regarded as a wildflower (pretty weed) around these parts, and considered a bit too invasive for civilized garden beds without some sort of restraint. (I am pretty sure I have Allen Lacy to thank for this assessment, but I can’t remember which of his books.) Judy says it is not invasive for her, so we will have to see. I’m not too worried, because all the plants in the bed I am going to plant it in are lusty growers.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

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