Garden Diary - July 2001

Gardeners rarely get time off in summer. Oh sure, by the end of June all the tender perennials and vegetables are planted, or at least they are supposed to be. But weeds seem to grow with some vegetable steroid bulking them up from inconspicuous to hulking monsters overnight. If one could be said to have a favorite weed I think mine must be jewelweed, Impatiens capensis. I can fill a bushel basket in 15 minutes, tidying a large area and making it look as though I've really been busy. Even the largest can be pulled with ease by my 8-year-old granddaughter.

BelleWood Gardens is, unhappily, infested with other weeds that are more obnoxious. My nemesis is garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata. Seed drops in mid- to late summer, and some of it germinates that same fall. Small rosettes of round leaves stay green all winter. The rest germinates in spring. Plants mature their second year, producing tall stems topped with small white four-petalled flowers, lots of them. This weed is so vigorous that if I pull plants, leave them on an asphault driveway in full sun until they wilt, then toss them into the compost heap, they'll revive and mature their seeds. Remembering the old adage, "One year's seeding is seven years weeding." I resolved that this would be the year I made a concerted effort to reduce their numbers. I have been weeding. Chris, my 6-hours-a-week head gardener has spent some time weeding. When my daughter (designer of this web site) was here with her husband and three daughters I had them all weeding garlic mustard. (How's that for staff!) We filled about 8 of the large black plastic bags wrapped around a bale of Pro-mix, packing them in really tightly. And every week I've been tieing one up and putting it out with the trash. Of course there are numerous immature plants to keep me busy next year, but let's take this one year at a time.

A friend told me that if you wait until the seeds are just forming, then weed-whip the fading flower heads off, it also works. The garlic mustard "thinks" it has completed its reproductive imperative, does not reflower, and, as all biennials must after flowering and seed production, dies. The green seeds, separated from their nourishing roots, shrivel. This sounds like a great method where there are large patches of garlic mustard overgrowing short perennials.

Did you read in my June diary entry about the Mahonia bealii seed I collected? I cleaned the seed and sowed it on June 25th. In only three weeks, on July 14th, there were numerous little seedlings just emerging from the soil. It will be several years before they reach flowering size, but at least that is now a possibility rather than a wish.

Gardening is truly the never-ending story. Here it is the height of summer, with cicadas just starting to shrill in the tree tops at midday, and fireflies rising from the lawn as the day dims to dusk. Am I enjoying the here-and-now? Surely, and I'm also looking ahead to this fall and next spring. Translation: I've ordered my bulbs: some great tulips like 'Estella Rijnveld', a flamboyant red and white parrot with those lush, laciniate petals, and 'Spring Green' whose smooth white petals have a leaf green streak for a cool combination. Two Darwin/Triumph tulips to mingle together: deep dark almost-black 'Queen of Night' and delicately blushing 'Pink Diamond'. I need moisture-tolerant bulbs for Magnolia Way, so my order includes the little Guinea hen flower, Fritillaria meleagris, with its fat bells checkered in purple and white, summer snsowflake, Leucojum aestivum 'Gravetye Giant', with several green tipped white bells dangling from a taller stem, and three different camassia. Camassia esculenta and its cultivar 'Blue Melody' both have star-like blue flowers closely clustered on a 2-foot tall stem, but the cultivar has a narrow white stripe edging its green leaves. Camassia leichtlinii 'Blue Danube' is another, somewhat darker blue camassia. And some daffodils, a few Grecian wind flowers . . . .

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