The assistant gardener

Once temperatures have warmed in late May to the point where there is not the slightest hint of coolness, my wife will occasionally accompany me as I wander about the garden. Several times recently she’s met me at the garage as I arrive home, and I think “oh no” when I see she has pruners in hand. For too long she has carried on a vendetta against any stem or leaf that happens to cross over the stone paths or onto the patios, and whenever she’s spotted with pruners, this usually spells trouble. Supervised or not, she’s a ruthless pruner. Fortunately, it seems that she is having some trouble finding stems to hack away at early in the season (or possibly she’s hiding the evidence by throwing her clippings into the woods now, instead of the trashcan). When she does find something to butcher, it’s proved to be relatively harmless.

There is a definite distinction to my thinking between butchering and pruning. When the intent is only to chop back ivies, hostas, and nandinas, the pruning is too often performed without a care whether it is beneficial or unsightly, and this is my concern. But, since my wife’s actions have been fairly harmless thus far in the spring, you won’t hear another word from me until the problem becomes more serious late in the summer. I’m afraid that it will, and I dread when I have to leave her at home for a week or two while I travel. Sometimes, it’s not a pretty sight when I return. But, back to our wanderings through the garden.Bletilla striata in early June

My wife has taken a particular liking to the ground orchids (Bletilla striata, above) that I planted a few years ago, and no doubt this is an exceptional plant for a spot with a bit of sun and well drained soil. In an area that is damp more often than not, they have struggled, but in drier ground between larger shrubs they have doubled in size, then doubled again. I planted only a few handfuls, and now I wish I had planted many more, though they are relatively expensive. As I recall, my wife squawked loudly when I purchased these, and if I had purchased five times the number I suppose I could be out on the street.

Now that my wife has been won over, I believe that I could be safe in planting more ground orchids, and between shrubs at the edge of a planting bed I can hardly conceive of a better border plant. Even when past flowering the foliage is pleasant enough, so they are not like daffodils that you are anxious to cut to the ground immediately after flowering, though the foliage is most certainly not the reason to plant an orchid.jack in the pulpit in early June

In slightly damper soil where orchids struggled I’ve planted scattered varieties of Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum, above and below), and though these have not caught my wife’s eye, I’m quite pleased with them. There is a bit of trick to figuring if soil is too wet or dry, and I’ve lost a few in the process, but it seems I’m catching on. I don’t know if this will be a formula for other small open spaces, orchids in dry soil and Jack-in-the-pulpits in damp, but for now it’s working out.Jack in the pulpit

Oso Easy Paprika rose in bloom in September

While we are in complete agreement concerning the orchids, I have reservations about my wife’s preference for the ‘Paprika’ rose (Rosa ‘Chewmaytime’, above). I will grudgingly admit that the flower is a lovely color, but this rose that was branded under the Oso Easy brand, is hardly easy. With the spring’s first heat it declined slightly. By midsummer there are few blooms (usually none) and the leaves begin to shed, not as badly as some roses, but far worse than the brand would have you believe. Other Oso Easy roses have been worse for me, and certainly no more will be planted .Blue star in late May

On recent strolls my wife has also proclaimed her preference for Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrichtii, above) and false indigo (Baptisia australis, below), and how nice for her to take a liking to such practical (and affordable) choices. Both are sturdy clumpers that require no attention to fill open spaces with marvelous blooms, and excellent foliage. It’s almost scary when my wife and I agree on much of anything in the garden, but there’s plenty of time for disagreement in the months ahead.Baptisia in mid May



One thought on “The assistant gardener

  1. I also was disappointed with the ‘Papricka’ rose and pulled it out after a few years. It was lovely in the spring and then leaf dropped and black spotted it’s merry way to ugliness. I refuse to deal with bad attitude roses. Hate it when roses are described as dead easy and then are not. Maybe in someplace with no humidity…..Nice to hear of your success with bletilla. I had them planted in a favorite vole munching area. Will try again. I have a wonderful spot for jack-in-the-pulpits and also have the A. triphyllum but it self sows like mad and is looking to be a bit of a thug.

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