Sunday, 8 September 2013
You told me in your comments on 'Blue Gardens', that especially in Australia, Ipomoea is a wicked weed .(See also Rosemary's lovely post http://wherefivevalleysmeet.blogspot.de/2013/09/unloved-and-unwanted.html)
Now I read in Barbara Damrosch's 'Garden Primer' - a no-nonsense book - about the Perennial Pea - under a headline I don't like very much: "Perennials That Spread". She writes:
'Perennial Pea. Lathyrus lotifolius. The flowers are handsome and long-blooming clusters in shades of pink, lavender and white.'
The following sentence has a somewhat threatening undertone, which pleases me even less:
"Its evils are described on page 145.'
Fluttering I leaf through:
' But if someone offers you Lathyrus lotifolius (...) say "Thanks but no thanks.: it does not just crowd other plants - it obliterates them. Once perennial sweet pea is established, you will never get all of its roped roots of your garden.'
THAT Gertrude J. hasn't told me. She praises the white Perennial Pea (see above), which she planted in a very tricky procedure under the delphinium that - once it has withered - makes a sort of climbing aid. Of course I had imitated that immediately, but the slugs munched away the delphiniums, and the perennial pea disappeared after two years.
But pink coloured ones climb behind my realization of Vita Sackeville-West's Sweet Briar Hedge. Should I now cry "Thanks but no thanks!" Or is that too late, and my garden is doomed and utterly infiltrated by roped roots?
And that is not the only garden plague - on page 145 I find quite a lot of my other darlings which had filled me with gardener's pride and joy because they were so vigorous. Till now...
As there are:
The evening primrose. The bushy aster. (At least I hadn't bought scarlet monarda, because I never liked her). I tried to remove 'Bouncing Bet', saponaria officinalis, without success, as three pale pink clusters of flowers in a bed show. Damrosch cautions against coneflowered rudbeckia - though I love her heart- warming yellow in autumn. But why does she not speak about sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus), also called Jerusalem artichoke? That is really VERY vigorous. When I bought it in a garden center, a customer warned me, but I thought: "Oh, that's good - the more the merrier." Now I saw at the farmers' market as a last resort that you can eat the tubers, but I still hesitate.
But let's go on with Barbar Damrosch's list of plants, which I now secretly call 'boors in the garden'. There is 'campanula rapunculoides'. The 'Ribbon Grass', which the English call fanciful 'Gardener's Garter'. It is this pretty light-green-blue grass with the white stripe. Of course I have that too, though it gets less and less. And of course Centrantus ruber, which by now foams all around the house. Viola odorata - oh yes, that's true... And - because I don't own it, I am pleased by the combative spirit of 'The Confederate Violet':
"It will march through your garden faster than Robert E. Lee." says Barbara.
Here his troops haven't arrived.
Thursday, 5 September 2013
When today I saw the post "Student vegetable plots" on the blog 'What ho Kew?' it reminded me of a text I wrote 14 years ago.
"Why", asked son, "don't you have a kitchen garden?" (which in Germany is called a Nutzgarten - profit or utility garden).
I am surprised. Son has French cousins, but this would be the first French character trait I was about to discover:
"A glimpse into French gardens shows you the equal concern of the Frenchman of his country and of cooking. Fruit and vegetable have priority over flowers and ornamental shrubs",
writes Brigitte Tillney in her book "Culinary pleasures from the French Kitchen Garden".
Under the text we see the photograph of a rather sullen looking little French boy, aged maybe 5, loaded with courgettes.
Well, definitely son had beamed much more when he, at the same age, hold our harvest in his hands: a lot of cocktail tomatoes from a single plant at the warm wall of the house (where now vine and clematis grow). These tomatoes had impressed him so much that he almost couldn't wait for the day to come back from our holidays! In my diary I found this entry about our arrival home:
"But first he ran into the garden: he had spoken of it so often in Amrum, even dreamed of and asked: "Maybe a very fat pumpkin will block the garden gate - what will you think then?"
I haven't forgotten the year before when he had sold a splendid kohlrabi and a few courgettes to the neighbours in our street - with the distinct reminder "These are organic vegetables!" (The amused neighbours told me).
The shallots were safe, though: we had entwisted them into long plaits, and they lasted the whole winter. Now the organic farmers offer them at the market, and that's why I don't plant them anymore. Besides, there is almost any place here, everywhere flowers are on the rampant.
Under the sun shade the gaze of son becomes speculative. "I would turn all this into a kitchen garden."
I grow pale: "You can do that - when the garden belongs to you. But I will come at night and spook, I will point with pallidly glowing fingers to those prosaic heads of cabbage and hollowly ask: 'What have you done to my flowers?!?"
That does not impress him because he already thinks out a perfect sprinkler system for long rows of planned beans and peas - for the "optimum gain". He reminds me of de La Quintine, who gave up jurisprudence to become Royal Gardener in Versailles. (Till now son always wanted to study law. But maybe he'll fall in love with a flower garden in advanced age?)
As a compromise I now suggest an English cottage garden, where at least vegetable and flowers live harmoniously in the same bed, even to the benefit of both.
And tell him of wartime (which, being born thank God later, I hadn't to experience), in which in England hungry people dug up the lanes to plant potatoes. And President Roosevelt recommended the Americans to lay out 'Victory gardens', and not to waste anything, and the American women really accomplished to earn over a million tons of vegetable, which was half of what the home front consumed.
This impresses our son.
But I am glad that nowadays we don't have any 'Victory' but only 'peace' gardens. Full of flowers.
PS: In 2013 I have to add that son studied successfully law. And read Churchill's biography. The love of gardens will follow, I'm sure of that.