Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Green, Green and did I say Green?

Another wet day in the garden

The rains have returned and the weather is cold again, and I almost turned the furnace back on, but have resisted to just wearing warmer clothing. This is after having four days so hot that it warranted turning on the air conditioner on the third day of the heat wave. I know our Spring always reacts with fits of starts and stops but with these extremes it is insane to think that we, Earth inhabitants, are not mucking about with global climate. As you can see, it looks and feels humid like a green wet primeval forest sans the tree ferns. I am glad the weather changed in spite of my belly-aching. March was not as wet as usual and August can be dry, hot and tough on plants without a good wet Spring. How quickly we forget it was not too long ago that it was several feet deep in snow.

March Storm left a short lived , but effective covering of snow
Mallard checking out my neighbor's pond, female is roosting in the next neighbor's yard

The return of the Mallards has forced me to cover the pond with a net until they finish roosting, otherwise it would be Sashimi time!

Benefits of rain beating down on flowering trees.
It is not everyday that rain washes petals down the gutter.
Liriope front lawn is mounded and wavy. No fertilizing, weeding or mowing!
My front lawn is molting. I call it a front lawn but it is in fact made up of liriope that has been growing for about ten years. I say molting because, like a dog it sheds off its old coat for a new one every spring. As I have never cut it, the blades are almost 2 feet long and the look is very Veronica Lake when you comb it with a rake. Really, the liriope has a rather informal wave look like naturally wavy hair. Somehow the old blades disappear under the new ones and then decompose. The new, emerald green blades, replace all the old blades and the wave gets actually a tad taller each year.
Liriope muscari or Lily Turf is a member of the lily family that produces a grass like leaves that flower yearly. It is native to Asia and it's pretty durable. You can't walk on it like a lawn but it does make for a great groundcover. It comes in clumping or running forms that take a while to fully contain the coverage area. It also comes in varying shades of green and a variegated form. The flowers, are rather minor in appeal, but do make a show when the whole bed blooms at once. They range from white to varying shades of purple.
I fear to think what I would find if I pruned it as it hides debris from my gum tree and from my neighbor's two sycamores. I suspect there must be plenty of those spiky ball seeds decomposing under it all. Still, I have debated giving it a haircut because you get tender green blades spiking up out of the plant in a straight untextured cover. My base would probably look like a good stiff brush if I chose to mow it down, but then I would lose the wonderful effect of a wavy lawn that has taken all these years to develop.
New blades grow through to create new coat of leaves
Lavender Tree Peony this morning.

My favorite plant bloomed. Yes, one has already almost come and gone and the second one is about to start, but it will be gone in a blink. I have two Chinese tree peonies that have been growing steadily and delighting me with a few blooms each year for some time. I purchased them in one of those booths where you find all kinds of exotic plants at the Philadelphia Flower Show Marketplace. There were hundreds of these little runty sticks measuring no more than six to eight inches in length with fleshy looking leaves starting to unfurl for sale with grand pictures of what they would look like - some day. They looked strange like those Chinese Crested dogs that have no fur except for a patch on its head and another on its tail. I may think the dogs strange but I am sure they are loved by their owners, or so I hope.
I, digress the Tree Peony flowers are the size of dinner plates and fragile and exquisitely elegant. Plants grow on the spindliest of wood that and can get to be 4-5 feet tall, some taller. Mine are slightly fragrant although they vary. They come in in a variety of colors from soft pastel to more intense colors, the most prized is the brilliant yellow which is too intense for me. My favorite is a coral pink that is truly lights up its corner when it blooms and a lavender although I am open to others but have no well drained room for any more of them. Alas, they are short lived. In perfect conditions those delicate large petals will last a week, but when they get pounced by rain, like mine have this year, you are lucky if you enjoy them for three days. Then the wait starts until their return the following year.
A tree peony root like I purchased

The Tree Peony bud about the size of a large scoop of ice cream photographed last Friday

Another bud photographed Sunday becomes 10 inch wondrous flower.

My neighbor's tree peonies; notice how many blooms. This is one plant.

This year I noticed that a neighbor has the quite a massing of the same two varieties I chose. Possibly from the same source, but her plants make mine looked like they missed taking steroids. I have to ask her what she does to get her plants so large and glorious. The answer could be as simple and sun and drainage. They require extremely well drained soil and sun. I have mine in the driest part of my swamp with limited sun and that may not be enough to keep them from growing into better sized specimens.
After seeing her plants, I am devising a plan of action to get mine to go to the gym and feed them steak, if I have to, for a spectacle next year.


  1. Yes, I'm very happy about it.
    Nice to meet you!

  2. Hi, just started reading your blog after reading the article in today's Inquirer. I'm in Gloucester City, love your garden! Sorry I missed the tour, perhaps next year. I wanted to ask wherever did you find a coral pink tree peony? I have one tree peony in my garden that does bloom well, was supposed to be coral, but is a true pink instead...oh well, they need love too.