Most people enjoy their gardens from afar. Park the car, stroll down the front walk and notice the daylilies are blooming. How nice! Maybe even give the roses in the backyard a sniff.
If your home has a “landscape”, return on investment and curb appeal are most important. The bed edges must be sharply cut, the lawn neatly trimmed.
But if you have a garden, you’re paying closer attention. Gardeners are more like children, thrusting their noses into every blossom, noticing every oddity, every subtle joy the garden offers. And there are many wonders to ponder, not only flowers, but leaves, bark, and buds.
The emerging Spring growth of Mahonia ‘Winter Sun’ (above) is amazing, seemingly an alien life form waiting to pounce. But only if you’re looking.
Each form of mahonia is quite remarkable, with distinctive flowers (in late Fall or late Winter, depending on cultivar, at left Winter Sun in November) followed by grape-like fruits. The leathery leaves are sharply spined, so care must be exercised in placing it away from passersby. Of course mine are planted where I brush them constantly, but are available for frequent inspection, so I will bravely suffer the occasional wound.
Each trip through the garden reveals new treasures if you’re willing to take notice. Appreciate the deeply veined, huge blue leaves of the old Siebold Elegans hosta, the subtle coloration of the leaves of the variegated native dogwood ‘Cherokee Sunset’ (above), or the wonderfully complex markings of the Peruvian lily (Alstromeria, at left).
My daily stroll through the garden includes a stop at the large swimming pond to feed the koi. The big ones swarm and splash the boulders at pond’s edge in anticipation, while babies, now more than two inches in length, circle excitedly, though they are still too small to consume the feed pellets. The first prolonged heat of the season has resulted in noticeable growth of the tropical elephant ears, bananas, and cannas.
The ground cover sedum Angelina tumbles over boulders that border the patio next to the pond, blooming on stalks inches above this low growing gem. I’ve had success with many sedums, but Angelina grows relatively quickly, even when given a hot, dry, rocky spot, and looks happy to be there.
Nearby, squeezed between boulders and planted in a mix of soil and gravel, are hens and chicks (Sempervivum). The drier, rockier the location, the better they seem to like it. In late Spring an odd looking stalk appears, then opens to small, unusual flowers. Hardly noticeable, but worth closer inspection.
I can hardly imagine a more ideal perennial than hosta for any area with shade a part of the day. The range of colors, sizes, and variegation patterns almost makes the blossoms superfluous. There’s no reason, short of running out of space, not to purchase every one you can afford. Even then, yank out some of those old hollies and plant a few more.
Yes, I know that deer snack on them. Spray one of the deer repellents once a month and the problem is solved. The repellents are safe, with natural ingredients that won’t harm your dog or kids, or even the deer. Don’t fall victim to fears that rain will wash it away. I’ve had serious deer problems in prior years, but have had barely a nibble this year despite overly plentiful rain.
My wife’s calendar is marked, so she reminds me every month when it’s time to spray. I use a small half gallon sprayer, and my one acre plus garden takes a half hour to hit all the susceptible plants. I’ve had over a hundred hosta varieties at times in the past, (though deer have made a handful disappear) but I’m confident that it’s safe adding more. If only I could afford it.
Today’s stroll through the garden hasn’t covered much ground. Too much time has been spent of few plants, but what rush is there? More wonders await down every path. We’ll get there soon enough.