Dear Dee and Carol, (April 5, 2009)

Dear Carol and Dee,

I am still entertaining myself by spending long hours (too many) ogling back issues of Gardens Illustrated and making plant lists as I go along. Betwixt & between horizontal snow flurries, driving rain & what I swear to you are unseasonably cold temperatures, I wander aimlessly along the flower beds, notebook & pen in hand. I am creating and recreating knock ‘em dead planting schemes for the warm, scorching days I know are coming.

A compulsive list maker, I have four going right now: ideas for containers, new perennials & trees, combos I want to try and “heavy stuff I need help with”. A sampling:

Ideas for containers
I am seeing rhus typhinia ‘Tiger Eyes’ used to great effect; I will try two of them as the “thrillers” in some jumbo pots.
Guara, the deepest pink, for “fillers”. That blowsy look is good.
Callibrachoa did really well for me last year. I will try a hot pink one for the “spiller”.
I ordered some Espresso glads from Select Seeds. They should be arriving in the next day or two. I’ll manage to cram these into the containers as well. Dee, you talked me into the glads. Now how do I plant them?

Pendulous, weeping Blue Atlas Cedar. They look especially nice against the peach color of my stucco, and I want to get one established with the penstemons grasses. What? You say I should have STARTED with backbone plants like conifers? Conifers are pricey, and I, like so many other gardening enthusiasts, have been known to do things backwards.
Mooncarrot (a pudgy Queen Anne’s lace look-alike)
Veronicastratum (gotta have it cuz Piet O. uses it all the time)
Rattlesnake master (I saw this in the Lurie and Piet O. was responsible)
Persicara ‘Firetail’, doing really well in the front bed, need a boatload for the back perennial garden
Rhus typhinia ‘Tiger Eyes’
Sambucus ‘Black Beauty’

This brings me to the next topic, the back perennial garden. When we re-graded the back area, we made borders on each side, plus a long expanse of mixed fescues for a wooly and untamed look. Well, Flyboy can’t help himself and has to mow the damn thing. This defeats the whole intent of wild and wooly when it’s mowed and clipped to parade rest. I have been campaigning for two years to do away with this motley mess of half-assed turf. It’s not doing well as a turf lawn and not allowed to grow wild, therefore, not thriving. He has reseeded and reseeded the bare spots. I am not sure how to prevail, but know that I will. I want to plant the entire area as a shrub and perennial garden w/a wandering path of gravel through it.

If “turf wars” aren’t enough to make me tear my hair out, I am having some planting issues. I tried to sit outside last night, just long enough to admire the sunset and have a glass of wine. The entire frigid yet bucolic scene was cut short when I thought I saw fresh gopher mounds exactly where I had just planted the digitalis ferruginea, and where my coveted eremurus are popping up. Then I spied the cattywampus clods of plants cast about and realized who the evil doer was: Cash the Wonder Dog. I changed his name to Mud.

And now, ladies, I bring in the big guns. Sometimes you just have to get yourself a good man or three. In my case, I caved last year and hired a team of big, strong guys to tear out old shrubs, limb up the 25 foot deodora, dismantle a sloppy 50 yr old stone retaining wall, and haul all the cuttings and stuff out of here. These fine fellows are coming again on Monday, over the feeble objections of Flyboy.

Tactic: “Honey sweetness, why don’t you go fishing with your brother? I’ll pack your lunch and flyrod.” He fell for it. So, I’ll have three men here for about two hours, taking out the straggly Diablo ninebarks, lifting and splitting the miscanthus gracillimus (to be replaced with the much shorter Adagio), and yanking out the hideous school-bus-yellow rudbeckia ‘Herbstonne.’ In my garden, that color is like fingernails on a chalkboard. I would not be surprised if some of the ailing turf happens to disappear on Monday. Ahem.

As for keeping up with the Joneses, yesterday I started the seeds for heirloom tomatoes and Italian roasting peppers (thanks for sharing Dee), basil, Giant Indiana Cockscomb , Turkish Orange Eggplant and nictotiana mutabilis. My thought is to direct sow some of the nicotiana and cockscomb outdoors when the time comes and see which plants do better.

Yours in mud and sunshine,
Mary Ann

Ps, all the greens I planted are up. In 6 days. Teen-ninesy but up!