I would like to speak to someone in charge. I ordered this:
Instead, I got this:
The following rant is dedicated to the people who make a living making you feel bad, the authors of what I like to call the Fantasy genre of garden literature. They hold out the promise that if you simply do A, you will surely get B. They also have a warning: whatever you do, you must never do C.
For the past two months I have been suffering from a flea beetle epidemic. The trouble started, as usual, on my Rudbeckia, one of those "indestructible" natives you're supposed to plant to get that Snow White effect. If you think that flea beetles only like eggplant, think again. They adore Rudbeckia.
I wanted to give peaceful co-existence a chance, so first I tried flicking them off. But it turns out they are a very mean-spirited bunch and used my "walk softly" approach against me. If you drive them off one plant, they attack another. That is the nature of flea beetles.
Flea beetles are almost impossible to eradicate, unless you intend to pull a Monty Python and bring out the heavy artillery. But who thinks in terms of eradication? All I wanted to do is control them, and that's hard enough. For starters, they seem to be impervious to biological controls. I should know. I have more biological controls than you can shake a stick at. I've got bees buzzing, butterflies fluttering, and birds chirp-chirp-chirping. I have all kinds of beneficial insects, hundreds of frogs and lizards, and the occasional box turtle. Snow White has nothing on me.
Yet it turns out that even biological controls are subject to the Peter Principle. They are effective up to a point, but eventually they meet their match. In my case, their match was the flea beetle.
With the birds on strike, Nepeta (which is said to repel flea beetles) entirely useless, and soapy water a joke, it was time to step up the program. Neem, which supposedly makes the plants taste bad, held them at bay for a few days but had no long term effect. Dusting with diatomaceous earth helped with the Rudbeckia infestation. However, it did nothing to help my coral bark willow, where hundreds of beetles were massing along the branches last week, decimating the foliage and withering the stem tips.
There is an old Henny Youngman-style joke that goes something like this: if a husband speaks in the forest and his wife isn't there to hear him, is he still wrong? By the time I reached for the pyrethrin, I felt a lot like the husband in the forest. Whatever I did, I was going to be wrong.
The pyrethrin worked. The flea beetles are (mostly) gone. All that's left are an inferiority complex and a guilty conscience. Nice going.
Since Juneteenth is being celebrated across the country this weekend, I thought now would be an opportune time to highlight the daylily named in its honor. Behold Hemerocallis 'June Teenth,' which has been blooming for the last week in my next door neighbors' yard.
First, a little Civil War refresher for those of you who, like me, were unfortunate enough to have a soccer coach as your 11th grade American History teacher.
The Emancipation Proclamation officially took effect on January 1, 1863. But in reality it was not until June 19, 1865 - one month after the Civil War had ended and two months after Lincoln's assassination - that slavery finally ended in America. That was the day that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas and enforced the emancipation of the country's last remaining slaves. June 19, or "Juneteenth," has been celebrated as a holiday ever since.
"June Teenth" is one of the many (somewhere between 50 and 75) unusual daylily varieties gracing the garden of my next door neighbors, Mark and Cheryl. In total, they have about 100 plants, a few of which are shown on my Guest Gardens page. All came from Holly Hills, the now defunct daylily farm in Moncure, North Carolina. Owned and operated by the famed daylily breeder Dr. Jim Massey, the farm was a pilgrimage site for daylily fanatics, who happily traipsed through acres of lilies in search of that perfect something their neighbors wouldn't have.
Holly Hills closed its doors in 2011, but not before Mark and Cheryl had pretty much cleaned out the place. All their lilies are beautiful, but "June Teenth" seems to be their pride and joy. The name alone would make you want to own it, but everything about it - the color, the huge flowers, the height - is eye-popping. And since Mark and Cheryl's "June Teenth" was one of only ten and is not commercially available, its price-tag was equally eye-popping (I'm not telling). All in all, it's quite a conversation piece.
Meanwhile, over in my yard, I've got a rather pedestrian assortment of daylilies blooming, including that perennial (no pun intended) object of scorn, Stella de Oro. Personally, I think Stella gets a bum rap - is it her fault that she was marketed to death? She's actually quite lovely if you stop sneering long enough to take a good look at her. But she's no "June Teenth."
And as much as I like Stella, and Hyperion, and a bunch of other plain-Jane daylilies, I have to admit that those Holly Hills specimens are pretty spectacular. I wouldn't mind having a few for my garden. The bad news is, Holly Hills is no more. The good news is, Mark and Cheryl have a good portion of the inventory. How lucky for me that they live next door.
I'm planning to be very, very nice to them.
Thanks to Carol at May Dream Gardens for hosting the June 2013 Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.
A few years ago, when the official word came down from Garden Command Central, I ran out and bought some Verbena bonariensis.
It's done amazingly well in my garden. The bees love it. The butterflies love it. The goldfinches love it. Ron loves it.
Unfortunately, I kind of hate it.
To me, Verbena bonariensis is the most over-hyped and over-rated plant out there today, starting with the color. Some call it rose-purple. Others call it lavender. I call it blah.
The plant's common name is "Verbena on a Stick," which gives you a good idea of its habit. Garden designers say it's airy and architectural. I say it's spindly and weak. Mine are nearly 6 feet tall, and since the stems at the flower heads are particularly thin, a good rainfall - or a half-ounce goldfinch - can easily bend them. By September the plant is a mess.
Shall I go on? It self-seeds everywhere, with a grows-between-cracks vigor that makes annual Vinca look like an amateur. For good measure, it gets powdery mildew every year, no matter what I do. The mildew doesn't seem to hurt the plant, but it doesn't do much for its looks, either.
And yet it stays. Every winter I vow to rip it out and plant something else. Every spring it gets a reprieve. Partly it's because I'm outnumbered - Ron, the goldfinches, the bees, and the butterflies all like it, so that settles that. Partly it's because when I'm in a generous mood, I will concede that it has a few good qualities. To wit: it flowers like an annual, even thought it's a perennial in Zone 7b. It's better than having a goldfinch feeder - no need to buy niger seed, plus you never have to refill it. The seedlings, though plentiful, are easy to identify and easy to pull. And in a certain light, at a certain angle, after a glass of wine, it can look pretty.
Even so, I'm still not sure why Verbena bonariensis became the "It" plant. Inevitably, the fad will peak and the now ubiquitous VB will meet the fate of the Stella De Oro daylily: a victim of its own success. Landscape designers will shun it (too cliched) and serious home gardeners will roll their eyes at the mere mention of it (too common, and doesn't make up for it by being native).
Gardeners are one tough crowd to please.
The Galloping Horse Gardener is a native New Yorker who packed it in in 2005 to live under the radar in Cary, North Carolina. In 2014, she removed to a new secure location somewhere in Raleigh.
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