Monday, July 12, 2004

a test

Chan of The Bookish Gardener came up with a taste test for gardeners. Kathy at Cool Climate Gardening has encouraged many of us garden bloggers to provide our own responses. So here goes:

1. Lilies: oriental or asiatic? -- I have no lilies in my garden. I keep thinking about it, but its not my favorite flower.

2. No-till or till? Tiller for the vegetable garden, but not for the perennial beds. Nothing better than a spading fork and soil amendments to mix in the topsoil. I used to double ditch, but kept reading about research that pointed out why that was not such a good idea in terms to breaking up valuable fungi and soil nutrients.

3. Bare hands or garden gloves? I enjoy bare handed best, but as I get older I tend to at least start out with gloves. A Park Service horticulturalist in DC once told me about using latex painter gloves, and I've done that since. They're easy to slip on, one feels things better with them than clumsy work gloves, and if they get a hole, you just dispose of them and put another pair on. He said if you put hand lotion on before you put the gloves, you get a beauty treatment for your skin. Never did that. For heavy pruning, I use work gloves.

4. Garden tchotchkes, no or yes? Not really. I have a birdbath that has been tiled in broken pieces of blue and white dishes, and I am not against any ornamentation or sculpture in the garden -- in Texas, we had a 3 foot concrete statue of a cowboy in the middle of my 8 parterre bedded herb garden (it was a stone ranch house, much more perfect than a classic urn or ornament). But less, frankly is more. Not much in the pre-fab line is worth putting in your garden, and cutesy stuff drives me nuts.

5. Clay or sand? It is my lot in life to garden in heavy clay soils. I've never gardened in sand. I've read about sandy soils, but wouldn't know what to do with them. Grow watermelons, I guess.

6. Shrub roses or hybrid teas? My snobbery around roses is to ignore most modern hybrids (I do have a Queen Elizabeth growing in the front) and to look for either antique roses or David Austin English roses. Indy is particularly a very hard place for roses, requiring more chemicals than I like to handle. Lately, I've begun to think that my roses are mere food for the japanese beetles.

7. Hollyhocks: single or double? Another plant I've tended to ignore in the past. I threw some seed out in late winter and now I have large-leafed plants up about two feet high or so. Since they're biannual, I look forward to seeing what I put out next year. What's not to like about hollyhocks, single or double. They remind me of the Wizard of Oz. I think single blooms are easier to look at,
8. Foliage: gray or glaucous? I tend to personally prefer silver gray greens.

9. Hemerocallis: flava (yellow) or fulva (copper)? All hail the lowly daylily. Wonderful plant, cheerful, not asking of much (except space from the fulvas). My druthers? Flava over fulva, but frankly I am delighted at the more common oranges. I loath stella d'oras, the energizer bunny of daylilies and quite common in all kinds of landscapes. Just hate them.

10. Impatiens: double or single? I long ago gave up planting most annuals (big exception for cosmos and self seeding flowers and rocket snaps), but particularly any plant that requires hooking up a waterhose daily to keep them perky. I know the newer guinea versions require less water but they're not part of my regular gardening.

11. Calendula or tagetes (marigolds)? See above. Actually, marigolds, zinnias and periwinkle are the mainstay annuals in hot, hot climates. But no, I have no opinion. Don't plant them.

12. Arborvitae or juniper? Easy. Arborvitae. They are soft, sculptural, manageable. I'm from Central Texas where invasive juniper cedars crowd the countryside. Hard to prune. Look ok young but turn gnarly and tough as they age, and the foliage is untouchable. Also causes pollen allergies in Central Texas, called cedar fever that makes life miserable for affected folk.

13. Spaded edge or "edging"? Hmm, interesting question. The first is more labor intensive, so that is a consideration. I don't like the plastic edging sold at big box stores, but think metal edging is subtle, unseen, mostly, to the eye, and ok. I like brick or stone in bed edges but often cannot afford in the quantity that I would need to buy.

14. Asters or mums? Asters, hands down. Both can require monthly pinching. I usually think of mums in general as being too gaudy in color, too unnatural. Asters are often more pastel in color, and provide color just when you need it. I still pinch mine back to make them shrubby, like I would if I had mums. But I prefer them. I particularly don't like yellow and orange-red varieties of mums.

15. Reflecting pool or coursing waterfall? Out here on the country estate partner and I call home, I have a bird bath in the back, and a small grassy ditch in the front that drains off water when it rains. I like the sound of water in the garden but tend to hate fake waterfalls as well as many home fountains.

Some of the better water features that I've seen include: a lovely art deco brass fountain that had small cups at the end of arms that dumped water to arms below, causing an almost wind chime sound as the water fell -- this was in Austin at a private home that was designed by Abner Cox (1850s), the fellow who designed the Governor's Mansion. It was moved to a bluff close to Lake Austin (I think). Very pleasant surprise to come across it in the garden. The Chicago Botanical Garden has a brick fountain that is a triangular pool, raised about four feet. The water falls over one edge, creating a quiet, mirror like wall of water. I also like Italian wall fountains, too.

But generally, think about garden ornamentation. If it's cheesy looking, and you don't want it to be cheesy looking, then don't do it.

16. Morning glory blue or forget-me-not blue? I am a great suckery for any blue in the garden. I dream of blue poppies but never live in such a place that would allow me to plant them. Can't deny any blue plants. Brunera (sp?), or false-forget-me nots, are all over my shade garden. Morning glory blue doesn't return the next year from seed true to the original color, does it?

17. Lettuce: leaf or cos? I like leaf, probably a reaction to growing up where iceberg lettuce was the only choice.

18. Hyacinth bean or red runner bean? Never planted either, but have enjoyed hyacinth bean in others gardens.

19. Orange or pink? I prefer pastels to orange or red, so I usually plant too much pink, purple and rose. I've gotten better about allowing other colors but tend toward those.

20. Garden bed shapes: formal or informal? Depends again on the garden, but like much in life, I fall right down the middle, preferring some formal shapes with informal plantings.

21. Garden bed planting schemes: informal or formal? See above. I think form is helpful in creating views and spaces, but am not slavish in wanting to recreate Louis XIV's views. I particularly like parallel lines, and even patterned beds, as long as the plantings aren't tightly formed. I am bored by extremely clipped hedges and detest Victorian planting beds.

22. Hydrangeas: lace-cap or mophead? I lost my heart in England a few years ago upon witnessing gray-lavender lace-caps. Stunning, graceful, not gaudy, not top-heavy, just quiet beauty. DC has blue hydrangea mopheads by the score on every block. I never planted any. My own garden in Indy has white hydrangeas that are mop-heads, but smaller than the popular variety. I also like oak-leaf hydrangea. But I ordered a purple lace-cap for my backyard garden this spring. We'll see if it survives our winters (zone six being pushed into our zone five).

23. Spirea japonica: dried flowerheads standing over the winter or in bloom? In my younger days I was overzealous in cleaning up debris in the garden once the plant had died down. Then I moved to the midwest where the harshness of winter robs me of looking at things outside. So I tend to leave the last blooms of anything out, giving some formation to remind me that I have a garden. Sadly, I let the asters stay up and I have asters like weeds everywhere. I probably won't let them do that this fall. As far the spirea, I tend to let it stand. But in my front bed, I have 3 of them, and I recently cut them back quite a bit. I do this to get them to rebloom, and also because suddenly they were getting to large.

24. Japanese beetle drowning medium: kerosene or dishsoap solution? Ancient curses and not much else. I don't have the fire in my belly to really fight them. I have a friend who is obsessed by them and often takes out his stress by personally crunching them. But if I were more energetic, I'd use dishsoap solution.

25. Garden stroll time: dusk or dawn? Either is fine, except that mosquitoes are also thick during those times. The muted light, and shadows and highlights, make the garden look better than in broad daylight. I also don't mind walking around my garden in the dark, long after the sun has set. It calms me to be outside under the sky, with only a little light reflecting on the plants, dark and mysterious. I am a garden geek.


Kathy said...

"I am a garden geek." Love that last line! I am sick of Stella d'oros, too, even though I have some in my garden. The gold is a nice foil to the dark purple flowers I have in one bed. But I have to admit, when I ordered it through the mail, it was described as canary yellow, and it does not look like any canary I ever saw. They are definitely overused, or at least, unimaginatively used. I would much rather see 'Happy Returns' in many of the Stella plantings.

Bill said...

I like to walk in the garden at night too. White flowers look especially nice. One of my favorite writers, Scott Ogden, has a book about the garden at night.