They say that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I have always thought that cliché was a little dubious when applied to people; what doesn't kill you is just as likely to wear you down until you just can't take it anymore. But what about flower buds?
That is the burning question posed by my annoyingly late-blooming kniphofia rooperi, commonly known as red hot poker or torch lily. This obnoxious tease of a plant sucked me in at a summer Plant Delights Open House about 5 years ago. It wasn't flowering, but I knew it had flamboyant orange and yellow blooms in early fall, and thought it would look fantastic with my swamp sunflowers. Into the garden it went.
That was July. September came, but no buds. October came. The swamp sunflowers were in their glory, but still no buds. Finally, at Thanksgiving, an army of buds appeared. They were a day late and a dollar short - the sunflowers were long gone and the garden was in winter mode - but I figured the plant was just settling in to its new home and would bloom at the proper time next year. Not surprisingly, a few days later the temperatures dropped and the buds bit the dust.
Yesterday I experienced the season’s first official deer invasion, with two adults, two teenagers, and two babies making themselves right at home in my back yard. It had to happen sooner or later; deer are a year-round presence in my neighborhood, and fall is when they tend to be out and about as a family. Six at one time is nothing unusual. I shooed them away before they could damage what’s left of the euonymus, although I really wouldn’t have cared if they ate it all. Help yourselves. God created euonymus to keep deer away from camellias.
Nevertheless, another round of Deer-Off is probably in order. Oh yes – and the dog needs a haircut too. I have no idea if my haphazard attempts at deer deterrence are doing any good, but my guess is that they help a little, since my camellia was still there the last time I looked (although that was an hour ago).
I am well aware that my anti-deer regimen could use a little work. Other than dog hair and Deer-Off, it consists exclusively of regular visits to the back yard with Schmoogie, the aforementioned dog. He’s a poor excuse for a terrier, but the deer don’t know that, and I like to think our patrols make them a bit less inclined to trespass. In any case, there’s no getting rid of them (fences are not an option), so I try not to get too invested in the outcome. Which, by the way, is easier said than done.
At least I’m not a weekend gardener, like my friend Elaine. On Fridays, Elaine drives 2 ½ hours from her apartment in Manhattan to her house in the country in upstate New York, where deer quite possibly outnumber people and groundhogs eat what deer leave behind. Like me, Elaine is a bit of a galloping horse gardener. She has to be, since she has absolutely no control over what happens during the five days her garden is unattended. It must be hard to pull up on a Friday night and find that half your plants have been eaten. But she doesn’t let it get to her. She is the Zen Master of galloping horse gardeners.
Elaine’s beautiful garden is the second of this blog’s guest gardens, and you can read her account of her triumphs and tragedies here, in The Hazards of Country Life. She calls her garden pseudo-English; I call it Darwinian – its design principle is survival of the fittest. I particularly like the hazmat suit she dons to work in the yard.
Deer, groundhogs, poison ivy, Lyme disease – is it worth it? Of course it is.
In gardening, as in life, sometimes it's hard to let go of a fantasy. My fantasy was Daffodil Hill.
The inspiration came from the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens' Daffodil Hill, one of my favorite spots in New York City. After a bleak, gray winter, there is no happier sight than that host of golden daffodils, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Our house in Cary is a corner lot with a steep hill on the side. When we moved in, said hill was covered with grass - or rather, "grass," that special North Carolina blend of Whatever Grows in Compacted Clay. Mowing it was like riding a roller coaster. First you chug slowly and laboriously up the hill, praying all the while that you will not slip backwards. At the top, you do an about-face, then you and the lawn mower go flying downhill at breakneck speed. After a few brushes with death, the thrill wore off and we decided to let the adjacent ivy take over. That's when the fantasy kicked in.
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.
Follow the Blog
Problems signing up? Send me an email and let me know.