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February 23, 2005

Mulch -- of the verbal kind.

Doubtless, at least some of my fetish for creeping, weeping and curly plants comes from having been around my grandmother the gardener, when I was a kid.

I don't even know if it was so much the stuff she planted as it was that the plants in the pictures that hung in her room all looked sort of curly and weepy -- it was a style of painting somewhere back before Art Deco became the 'next big thing,' perhaps Moderne? Classicism? I don't know that much about the visual arts, I confess, especially about the characteristics of movements that filtered down to the popular art people hung on their walls in certain eras. It was post-Victorian, and pre-Impressionism, that's about as far as I can go with any confidence.

I don't know that she had all that many odd cultivars. Most of the ones I'm seeing so widely available now, or even buying for my own garden -- like the weeping cedar and the corkscrew hazelnut, for instance -- probably were killed off when they were found because they were thought to be defective, back when she was my age. She liked plants, and often worked harder than one might deem practical or practicable to keep plants that were out of zone, more trouble than indigenous stuff. I suspect this had at least some effect on me as a kid, and manifested itself once I actually had a house with a decent yard, and a moderate budget to use toward socking roots into the dirt within the boundary lines.

She always had lots of rosebushes, as susceptible as they are here to black spot and Japanese beetles. I don't really care that much for them, though the easy ones are okay, and I've actually gone out of my way to find one of the ones she had because I do actually like the way it looks. Even though it'll probably wind up denuded by Japanese beetles before the dog days, just like the red climber in the corner of the kitchen 'bump-out' has been every year since we bought the house.

What's the deal with them, anyway? I know we had a few 'Japanese beetle plague' years when I was younger, but it seemed like the general thought was that they'd pass -- I don't remember them denuding rosebushes every year like they seem to do mine, these days. Guess the yard's probably more full of them than I ever admit, though. I do find the larval grubs under the turf, when I rip out grass to put in flowerbeds. I never paid enough attention to how many -- maybe they're not even the problem, since aphids also feed on roses. Don't know. All I know is, I don't remember Japanese beetles being around this area at all, thirty years ago, and all of a sudden they're a foregone conclusion every summer.

From looking at the gummint maps of 'bug vector' for the progressive Japanese beetle infestation in the U.S., I have to guess we would have been at the crest of the wave of westward spread a few years back, when it stopped being 'occasional infestation' and became 'oh, crap, they're here for good, now.' So I actually watched it go from not at all to everywhere, it wasn't just my imagination.

Better that than rose rosette, I guess. The rosebush out front seems to recover from having all its leaves eaten off pretty well come spring, and it's usually bloomed itself out by the time the beetles come and commence to defoliating it again. I'll have to think about doing something about the little shits when I sock two more rosebushes in out front, though; that'll be a bit more problematic than just one denuded, healthy, single-blooming bush I didn't even plant.

The stump grinding was done Friday, and I have to say from the look of things, the guy did a great job. He even hauled some of the sawdust out back to the slope, though I can't say I blame him for quitting on that eventually -- there must have been several hundred pounds of the stuff, once he got done.

I tried to go out Monday and shovel some of it into the wheelbarrow to haul back there, but it was just that annoyingly wrong temperature for me -- just cold enough I couldn't go out underdressed and hope working would keep me warm while I did it, but not so cold I didn't feel bad about not doing it. I tried, but I had to overdress (which restricted my movement), and my wrists started to hurt immediately -- I had to cop to the fact it just wasn't warm enough. Last thing I need to do is mess my wrists up now, on something that doesn't absolutely have to be done for at least a month.

Even when I was twenty-five, I had trouble with my wrists and shoulders and neck if I went out with them bare in cold weather -- you can imagine that's improved a whole bunch fifteen years down the pike. Right.

I guess I'll start some seeds this weekend. I figure six weeks is about right for most of the things I want to plant -- by the middle of April, I should be able to set up the shelves we use for the container plants as cold frame/mini greenouse setups with some plastic sheeting. By the first of May, I ought to be able to put them in the ground, if not earlier. That's usually around the time we start looking to put tomatoes and peppers on the shelves, so the timing would be okay (if the plants and the weather comply, which of course they won't ...).

Yeah, dream on -- something weird will happen, like a late-April tornado (has happened before), or a snowstorm in June (my dad used to swear he remembered one). This is, after all, Ohio, the birthplace of 'if you don't like the weather now, wait fifteen minutes -- it's bound to change.'

Just as likely, they'll do fine until I put them into the ground and then croak as soon as the sun hits them. Seen that one, too. I've told Tony that's the problem with starting anything in the house -- if it's in the house, it's subject to my black houseplant thumb. If I can get it outside and keep it alive more than a week, it'll live itself to death out there.

I have all kinds of stuff to start -- mostly flowers. I decided I'd try to start some lobelias this year, since I always plant some and they're a wee bit pricey to buy, for annuals. Mine haven't self-seeded, or if they have I've found them indistinguishable from weeds and pulled them up, so I almost have to plant new ones every year. Also bought some forget-me-nots. I never see them at the garden stores, and they're supposed to be fairly easy to keep alive, they smell good, and they're quasi-perennial -- like pinks, they're supposed to last about five years.

I also bought one packet of pinks. I should have harvested the seeds again this year, I did it last year and had some success replanting, but I just ran out of steam and didn't do it last fall. I'll probably just buy those as flats, though. It's less annoying to pay six bucks for a five-year perennial than it is to pay even half that much for an annual plant, if I can get them to start here. Of course, I may not be able to, in which case I'll be down at Siebenthaler come June, buying a flat of lobelias again.

I've got a pack of delphinium, too, which I've never tried before -- but it looks pretty on the package (danger, Will Robinson!). I've got two greenhouse starters that have 144 peat pots between them, knowing my luck isn't always the greatest. Somewhere, out of all that, if I can keep the local fauna out of them (the cats love to mess with my plant starters), I might save a few bucks on buying slips at the garden centers. One of the kits has a heating pad, and I have another heating pad left over from a few years back, when I bought another greenhouse kit (the lid got mangled, so I can't use it). I'll give it a shot.

I don't even know where any of this is going to go yet, and I still haven't figured out whether I want to mail-order plants and pay postage to a place that's less than forty miles from me, or just take my chances that I can find what I want at Siebenthaler or some other local nursery. It's not all that exotic, but I went through seven kinds of hell a few years back finding the flowering almond (last year, Groby's had about a dozen; I have this way of anticipating trends, such that any time I look for something like a bastard, it's the most popular thing going the following year).

Same with the sweetheart (Cecile Brunner) roses, I guess -- there'll probably be a big fad for old garden roses in 2006, and you'll be able to buy a Cecile Brunner rose out in front of Kroger.

No, seriously -- I just noticed the other day, after all those years of the grafted weeping cherry trees (prunus subhirtella pendula), the Snofozam cultivar I have out front is suddenly the 'next big thing.' Of course, the 'subhirtella pendula' grafted ones grow taller (that's why I didn't want one -- wanted something that averaged ten feet for the spot where I put my Snow Fountains), and it may well be that whoever owns the patent on the (registered) Snow Fountains version just has a good sales staff, I don't really know. I do know this tendency of corporations to copyright seeds, starts, slips, etc. was the biggest reason I hustled my ass to get hold of the Cecile Brunner this year. Next year, it may not be available due to lowered demand, and then the only rose you'd be able to get would be some generic-looking thing that looked just like everybody else's roses that they bought at Wal Mart. Like my neighbor -- I think all hers are probably newer, subzero or otherwise heavily hybridized and trademarked roses.

Honestly? To me, they look like plastic. You see, I'm not really in it to say "look, everybody! I have a yard full of roses!" Don't really care if anybody notices -- they're not for anybody but me to enjoy, that's why I picked an old garden rose that reminds me of my granny instead of a bitchin hot-pink rosebush that blooms the size of a dinner plate and can withstand temperatures to fifty below. Because to me, they're kind of ugly. Not in the 'oversized SUV/duallie pickup truck' sense of ugly, more in the garish, too much color sense of ugly. The empty flourish, the meaningless possession type of ugly that ... well, I've managed to resist for most of my life, so far.

But, that's just me, and I know I'm in the minority. Why else would I have to walk through gardening centers for six months to find one plant I've wanted for a year or more? Because I don't want what everybody else wants.

Well, not this year, anyway. Next year, everybody will want it.

They often do.

Posted by Melinda at February 23, 2005 06:24 PM


A better spray for roses uses tmotao leaves. Make a solution of tmotao leaves in your vegetable juicer, add 4-5 pints of water, and one tablespoon of cornstarch. Strain. Spray this on your roses. For your other pests, try a garlic spray. Chop a few cloves and add them to a quart of water (better if you can mix in a blender). Let the solution sit for several hours, then strain through a cheescloth before spraying. Lots of pests do not like this, but on the other hand, your roses may not smell as nice either.

Posted by: Rishi at December 7, 2012 09:20 PM

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