Of Wonders and Weeds:
By PAULENE POPARAD
Truly, the best is yet to be and even the lousy Spring we've had is a sweet
reminder of why we tolerate Indiana's harsh winters, no snowbirds we,
fleeing at the first sign of frost only to return with the mosquitos.
The first crop of early bloomers is a memory, with a second flush of late
spring flowers now taking center stage. I've been told by a nursery owner
that if we cut down our old-fashioned bleeding heart right after it blooms,
it will rebloom, but I've been too chicken to try this.
Is it my yard or is Nature's timetable askew? Late varieties of the
herbaceous peonies that die back each year are now coming into bloom, yet
several varieties of iris have been blooming for weeks. And many daylilies,
including "Moonlit Madness, " a large cream beauty with a wild purple
eyezone, are fully budded.
During our recent conversation on bloom times, experienced gardeners Dave
Stegeman and Dan Coffman both agreed the flowering seasons are all mixed up.
But Dave pointed out that's not a bad thing for hosta hybridizers. In my own
yard "Francee," a dependable favorite white-edged green hosta, is throwing
flower buds as is a fine unnamed hosta I purchased at a sale, a cross
between "Nigrescens" and "Blue Whirls."
Having hosta bloom out of sequence gives hybridizers access to pollen from
one species at a time when it's not normally available; some hybridizers
freeze pollen and have varying degrees of success, but the real thing is far
superior, I've been told.
The frost early this month turned my hosta "Lakeside Cha Cha," planted last
fall, to mush. The frost also tinged Hydrangea "Nikko Blue" and others
plants, although they're still fine and I've left them alone. I cut off the
damaged "Cha Cha" leaves and the plant is rebounding. Next year I"ll try to
protect that hosta somehow a little longer.
Speaking of hostas, hostaholics said they saw "Embroidery" for sale in Lake
County for $100 a plant. It must have been a good size. Catalogs sell small
divisions of it for between $60 and $75 each -- if you can find it. The
hosta reportedly can't be duplicated quickly by making thousands of hosta
babies in a laboratory (known as tissue culture) and can only be divided
from a mother plant.
This will be my first full year's test for "Jean Gymer," a reblooming iris
that flowers again in the fall.
The peach-sherbet heads cast a soft glow, albeit shorter than the tall iris
also blooming now. Andre Viette Nursery offers several varieties of
rebloomers, and their shorter stature but full-sized flower head are an
advantage when I see the other tall-bearded iris flopping over, reminding me
why I didn't like growing them before.
The roses I didn't cover until February all sprouted from the bud unions and
are about to flower, apparently not a one lost. As usual, the robust, coral
"Christopher Columbus" is growing the fastest. "Columbus" is so vigorous I
have to cut out canes to ensure good air circulation. Usually, "Sonia" or
"Garden Party" is the first to bloom, but this year it appears "Miss
All-American Beauty" will win.
Portage rose expert Dale Fadely recently recommended I try miniature roses
and I bought two. He said all you do is pile some leaves over the top of
them in the fall and they return dependably each spring. If they're that
easy, I'll definitely make a place for them somewhere.
A plant I especially enjoyed this spring was epimedium rubrum (Fairy Wings,)
aptly named as its new heart-shaped leaves are splashed red.
The 10-inch tall clump marches slowly in a neat circle, while some varieties
are much more vigorous; Martha Stewart even recommends them as a
groundcover. Blooming in April, epimedium's small yet delicate flowers are
worth a close look. Plants Delights Nursery has a large selection. This is
the kind of flower to enjoy in a tiny bud vase on the kitchen windowsill
above the sink.
Often, one plant can get lost in the shuffle, like the epimedium, but a
clump of four pulmonaria (lungwort) blooming very early with the hellebores
really caught my eye. The vivid blue flowers just yelled, "I'm tired of snow
and I can't take it any more." And when the low, long-bloomer is done,
pulmonaria's fuzzy green leaves with silver spots is a good foliage
I'd share the specific name of the pulmonaria with you but somehow, I, uh,
lost the label.
To my dismay, many plants I thought were labeled are not. Now someone will
say, who cares, a great plant should be appreciated for what it is, not who
it is. I agree. But it just simplifies things so much to know what you have,
and where it is. At the Crown Point Garden Walk last year I believe one man
had 188 different plants, trees, groundcovers, vines and shrubs LABELED,
numbered and listed on a hand-out sheet.
I've found that several shrubs, not just a few, fell victim to some gnawing
critters over the winter and the shrubs required brutal pruning. The dwarf
Japanese lilac and the tree peony, both so nibbled, sent up lots of new
shoots to compensate. In a few years, everything might just be better for
the experience. Until then, they look pretty lopsided.
A few years ago I started deadheading lilacs and rhododendron to force
energy into the flower head for next year rather than letting them make
seeds. The rhodies have seemed to really respond, although this must be done
carefully so as not to knock off next year's flower buds.
The benefits of deadheading -- cutting off the spent flowers -- cannot be
overstated. We can even cut out a few stalks of the just-opening phlox, as
well as many other flower varieties, to force new shoots to grow in time for
a smaller, second flush later in the year.
As late in the gardening season as it seems, the buddleia davidii (butterfly
bush) is just starting to take off. These are the wispy, lilac-imposters of
summer that get quite large on one year's growth. My cousin Dave in South
Bend always dug his up and threw it away each year, thinking it was dead
instead of just still dormant. Buddleia transplant easily, although the
roots can be 30 inches long and the plant may sulk the first year.
I recently became aware of buddleia alternifolia (fountain butterfly bush)
which blooms in the spring on last year's wood. Tolerant of poor soils, it
should love it in Burns Harbor.
Recently Karen Hix, a member of the Portage Garden Club, was installed as
President of the Garden Clubs of Indiana for a two-year term and feted at a
reception at Woodland Park. Karen helped organize the local Duneland Garden
Club; she is a generous, gracious woman especially active in encouraging
youth gardening. Karen will represent Indiana on the National Council of
State Garden Clubs Inc.
How many of you received a garden gift certificate for Mother's Day?
Mine are already spent. I purchased a Romantica "Auguste Renoir" rose, which
promises to be "nearly disease-free," at Chesterton Feed and Garden, and
three each of phlox "Natascha" and eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed) "Cori" from
White Flower Farm.
Do I have my family trained or what?