A Gardener’s Prayer
O Lord, grant that in some way it may rain every day, say from about midnight until 3 o’clock in the morning, but, you see, it must be gentle and warm so that it can soak in; grant that at the same time it would not rain on campion, alyssum, helianthemum, lavender, and the other which you in your infinite wisdom know are drought-loving plants–I will write their names on a bit of paper if you like–and grant that the sun may shine the whole day long, but not every where (not for instance, on spirea, or on gentian, plantain lily, and rhododendron), and not too much; that there may be plenty of dew and little wind, enough worms, no plant-lice and snails, no mildew, and that once a week thin liquid manure and guano may fall from heaven. Amen.
– Karel Capek, The Gardener’s Year, 1929
There’s plenty of work to do in the Winter garden, cutting mostly, but the real fun and soreness begin in Spring. Propagating, transplanting, bed-making and two cubic yards of high-stench compost from the City compost sale. Life is good. The whole place smells like cabbage and horse poop, joy to this gardener’s nose. All photos by Dayton Segard 2013.
Redbud, Cercis canadensis (above), is weedy in Kansas. Seedlings are deep-rooted, hard to pull and persistent. They pop up by the thousands after April rains. A wet, heavy snowstorm in February pruned a significant portion of the maturer garden, snapping 30-foot trees in half and bringing down many brittle redbud branches.
The top halves of these elms came down in a snowstorm this year. My biggest garden priority for 2013 is to clear out all the brush piles, the largest being 25 feet long and more than six feet tall. In this garden, most of the work is woodlot management, a process of careful subtraction. But the corpses are now piled too high to be forgiven as rustic ornament.
Called Creeping Jenny, Pennies from Heaven, Moneywort or Little Golden Loosestrife, Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’, is always a flamboyant harbinger of Spring. We’re leery of the loosestrife clan in Kansas–purple loosestrife strangles our waterways–but while Jenny is vigorous she’s easy to pull and moderately fecund, to be tucked in the edges of pots of white Pelargoniums, draping streaks of gold. I keep Lysimachia nummularia in a bed by the pond, in three hours of brutal afternoon sun, surrounded by paving. With a little extra water, the trailing, ground-hugging foliage stays bright through June.
I’ve always heard that bulbs shouldn’t be moved once growth starts but I confess to doing so on a regular basis with very good results.
I’m corralling all the little clumps of bulbs planted throughout the property, most languishing in the dense shade of the overgrown and tenacious bush honeysuckles, our dreaded Lonicera maackii. Spring is the only time I can spot these bulbs, mostly daffodils and naked ladies, when their leaves break ground deep in the leafless thickets. Cool, overcast days and barely damp earth assuage transplant shock and removing the bulb in a generous clump of soil helps keep the majority of the roots intact. A fistful of compost and water in lightly.
To date I’ve moved Narcissus, Galanthus, Lycoris, Muscari, Crocus and tulips, all in active growth and some in full flower, with very few losses and only the occasional skipped bloom cycle. I was pretty cavalier with Camassia in California but those true blue flowers never failed a season. Bulbs are tough; Colchiums bloom from the naked bulb on a sunny windowsill, and hyacinths and daffodils are forced by the millions each year in tap water.
I have a real-looking plastic lizard (iguanas, of course, don’t survive Kansas winters), and a rubber rattlesnake that I place in appropriate locations in the garden to delight visitors. Every Spring, when I’m cleaning out the deadfall, I rediscover these fellows and scare the crap out of myself. Last week, I made an instantaneous 10-foot lateral move when I found the snake in a drift of leaves under a Thuja. Even the suggestion of a snake has a powerful effect on human reflexes. There are several garter snakes in the garden, welcome residents, but they too give me a start at first encounter.
Euonymus fortunei “Coloratus,” aka Wintercreeper, is, to my mind, the kudzu of the Midwest–except that kudzu is palatable and nutritious to man and beast. Wintercreeper quickly makes a greedy, semi-woody and rooty groundcover, becoming a woody shrub or small tree over long time, or climbing 30 feet into trees, rooting into bark. While I favor a “no bare earth” policy, this Euonymus verges on punk. Dainty, bright orange seed capsules are pretty with snow but the leaves are generally dark and dull and it can stretch under a driveway slab and scramble house walls. I remove far more than I keep, though it can be useful in wilder places–even attractive, with burgundy-purple winter foliage–within the mower’s reach.
Seeds sown to date 2013
- Allium christophii
- Amaranthus tricolor “Illumination”
- Amaranthus “Hopi Red Dye”
- Amaranthus “Leaf Karl Ramberg”
- Beans “Yard Long”
- Borago officinalis
- Browallia americana
- Calamintha “August Clouds”
- Centaurea cyanus “Blue Boy” – Bachelor’s Buttons
- Chrysanthemum “Becky” – Shasta Daisy
- Dianthus “Sooty” – Sweet William
- Digitalis ferruginea – Rusty Foxglove
- Dill “Dukat”
- Echinacea purpurea – Purple Coneflower
- Eryngium yuccifolium – Rattlesnake Master
- Heuchera villosa “Autumn Bride”
- Iris sibirica – Siberian Iris
- Kale “Siberian”
- Lavender “Munstead”
- Lespedeza thunbergii – Bush Pea
- Malva sylvestris “Zebrina”
- Mizuna mixed species
- Monarda punctata – Bee Balm
- Mustard “Southern Giant”
- Nasturtium “Cherry Rose”
- Nasturtium “Moonlight”
- Nicotiana alata x mutabilis “Bella”
- Nicotiana “Lime Green”
- Nepeta cataria – Catnip
- Okra “Cowhorn”
- Patrinia scabiosifolia – Golden Lace
- Platycodon “Sentimental Blue” – Balloon Flower
- Polygonum orientale – Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate
- Poncirus trifoliata – Hardy Orange
- Pumpkin “Jack O Lantern”
- Rudbeckia maxima
- Rudbeckia triloba
- Senna marlilandica
- Solanum atropurpureum “Malevolence”
- Solanum quitoense – Naranjilla
- Spinach “Space”
- Spinach “Summer Perfection”
- Tagetes “Disco Red”
- Talinum paniculatum – Jewels of Opar
- Thalictrum pubescens – Meadow Rue
- Tithonia rotundifolia – Mexican Sunflower
- Tomato “Chocolate Cherry”
- Tomato “Beefy Boy”
- Thunbergia alata – Black-Eyed Susan vine
- Verbena “Buenos Aires” – Tall Verbena
- Watermelon “Crimson Sweet”