Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The June Peak!

Unless you really have money to burn, a new garden takes time to reach any kind of maturity. Even if you do have money to buy large-size pots of perennials, or have moved them from somewhere else, they need their time to grow into each other, fill in the gaps and make an expanse of soil with plants in it look like an expanse of plants! Until they do, fast growing annuals can provide an effective if temporary foil. One of my favorites is Nigella damascaena, or "Love in a Mist." It's a close relative of the nigella that provides the pungent seed that's so common on buns and breads here that one friend said "It's really the national aroma of Turkey." N. damascaena seeds are also fragrant, but in a very different way - to me they smell just like Juicy-Fruit gum.

Of course one of the hallmarks of a truly "mature" (not to mention "well planned") garden is that it is satisfying year-round, or at least throughout the season you want to be in it. Still, after the spring flush, things gradually rev up for the next big show, which I call the "June Peak;" a time when well over half the things in the garden are in full bloom. One of the things I am trying to get better at is providing for the time following that peak bloom.

In that sense, I couldn't say my garden is "mature" by any means, but in this, it's third spring, it does seem to be reaching a sort of adolescence. Ground covers have covered, perennials have gained height and bulk, as well as roots deep enough to ensure that I don't have to brood over them with a garden hose. So let's recap shall we?

Here's what I started out with in March 2008. An expanse of borage, lamium and sparse weedy grass, as well as a shed that put Jed Clampett's place in Bugtussle to shame. Oh - and enless whips of wisteria covering everything.

And then the day after moving day, my entire old garden removed from the plastic garbage bags and quickly planted into the nominally-prepared soil.

For the same period in 2008 I don't have much to show. Some things were starting to fill in, but well, there's a good reason most of my pictures from that year are closeups! The garden view in this picture is obviously incidental. That year did see the removal of the grotesque rotting shack.

And here it is, June 1, 2010, it's really starting to feel like a garden. Not only have perennials filled out, but annuals have seeded themselves enough to make nice patches of temporary color and greenery that will die down as the perennials fill out. Of course it means I'll have to let fewer of them mature next year, but it's always a matter of maintaining a balance. Since I now have a sitting area at the end of the garden and the ancient apricot tree finally completed its death throes, I decided to use the big chunks of marble (actually the remains of the house's old-style Turkish toilet) to make a large raised planter, where I've planted Seminole squash that I hope I can persuade to climb up into the limbs of the tree. The red poppies in the foreground, by the way, are P. rhoeas but they're the form from the Aegean region, collected by a friend from Manisa. Whereas the northern form of P. rhoeas is scarlet-to-almost-orange, these are truly blood-red.

I also had some first time blooms this spring. Back in 2006 a friend of mine brought me five tall bearded iris rhizomes from Seattle. It was way past the optimum time (it was spring and they were nearly dessicated), so the first year was a matter of trying to revive them. The next year animals - probably martens - decided that digging up iris rhizomes was the thing to do. In 2008 they were getting better established, and then I had to move. In the spring. Since then they've been putting on some size, and this year one of them finally bloomed spectacularly, with enormous blooms (well, enormous if all you have around you is the old I. germanica!) and a fragrance that hit me 6 feet away.

Another plant that really doesn't like root disturbance is oriental poppies. This one came from seed I scattered in my old garden; it was putting on size nicely and then I dug it up and broght it here. At first I thought it was a goner but it pulled through. Last year it started producing a bud but then changed its mind and aborted it. This year, it sent up one husky flower, and then went on to produce six more! By the way, for those of you who haven't noticed, Papaver orientale smells like pumpkin!

Speaking of poppies, this is the first year California poppies have really performed well for me. The soil in the last garden supported nice growth through the spring but was so sandy that once the weather warmed, even they couldn't hold up. Here they're putting on a nice show in an area with slightly poorer soil. This is actually good for some things; if the soil is too rich they grow so exuberantly that they all end up just falling over. So this section of the garden is overwhelmingly Mediterranean in character.

A plant I'm growing for the first time this year is Lobelia laxiflora, a gift from an old gardening friend in Seattle when I visited in October/November of last year. It was the perfect time to transplant. L. laxiflora is not what we typically think of as Lobelia-like, though neither is the gynormous L. tupa which I want to try next. But then lots of common plants in the nursery trade have really unusual and less commonly grown cousins.

Lots of them also have really ugly and not-worth-growing cousins but if you're really passionate about, say, Oenothera, it's fun to know that there's a species two inches high that bears a few pale yellow flowers less than a centimeter across! Still I won't be ripping out everything for the sake of growing them...


DeanRIowa said...

You garden really has taken shape. Looks very nice!


Sazji said...

Tanks! If the snails had their way it would be an expanse of stubble and slime, but we plod on. :)