I love getting emails from my readers. It’s the only way I know who’s out there reading. Sometimes gardeners ask me for help in solving their gardening problems, and more often than not I don’t know the answer. Not wanting to admit my ignorance, I look through my many garden books for the solution, something anyone can do.
I like to think of Weeds and Wisdom as primarily entertainment with a few bits of helpful information thrown in. I would make a very poor teacher. But now that I come to think of it, working in my perennial border is sometimes as difficult as trying to control a class of 3rd graders.
When school begins each spring, my students are on their best behavior, all arriving in class looking very neat and tidy. The bright blue clumps of Chinese forget-me-nots along the front of the border look as if they were marching in uniforms. The groups of daffodils are so attractive they should have their pictures taken, and most of my other pupils are too new to misbehave.
I’m sure all teachers have kids whom they consider dead-heads. Iris is the one that comes to my mind. She comes to school looking absolutely beautiful, her dresses so colorful, but after a few days she starts to look pretty drab, detracting from the other Irises. Of course removing deadheads from the class is easy. It’s when these girls start crowding each other that problems begin. Rhizomes that start fighting for space provide a perfect environment for diseases, which means they must be dug up after blooming and be replanted. If I put them in a large circle with their stems facing out, they will all grow away from each other and do well for three or four years
|Many Deadheads Picked Clean|
|Granny Bonnet Columbine|
Now you might think I’d consider Miss Peony a teacher’s pet after raving about her in my last column, and she definitely deserves an A in almost all her subjects. If given the right seat (so her “eyes” are an inch below the soil) at the right time of year (late September) she will do her homework, producing handsome foliage and sweet smelling blooms that are long-lasting when picked for a bouquet. Where she fails is in deportment.
Such poor posture! I’ve tried several ways to keep her upright. Nothing works very well, but I’ve found that chicken wire does best. Put over the newly sprouting stems and gently raised as the stems grow, the wire becomes invisible when the plant is fully grown. After a heavy rain, however, the blooms usually lean over so far they’re touching their toes.
Another teacher’s pet you might not love as much as I do. It’s feverfew. This pretty little daisy self seeds so readily that I often find new ones suddenly appearing under the apple tree or even in the vegetable garden, but if you consider that bad behavior, they can easily be removed. Feverfew never seems to get sick and is always alert and attentive throughout the school year. If she looks a bit scraggly after a year or two, she just needs a haircut to continue looking well.
Below are photos of some more students who usually behave well all through the school year.
It’s hard to believe that last one is a geranium, Its Latin name is Geranium himalayeuse Birch. It can make a perfect circle of flowers at least two feet across.
I haven’t mentioned the new students I add each year, the annuals. They are always a big help – tall ones like cleome, and short ones like alyssum, and some colorful zinnias in between.
I don’t think being a teacher is half as much fun as being a gardener. But by the time October comes, we gardeners are definitely ready for a vacation.!