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June 8, 2005

The garden this week
Posted by Teresa at 06:15 AM * 75 comments

Therese Bugnet’s first spectacular flush came and went along with the white lilacs and big purple German irises and those still-unidentified white things with the grasslike foliage that grow from bulbs. Mlle. de Sombreuil, Jean Keneally, Queen Elizabeth, and the Murgy rose have come along in their turn. Mlle. de Somebreuil was a particular joy, since I’d lost track of what survived and where it all wound up in the scramble to get my refugees transplanted last year, and had thought it was one of the casualties. Now that it’s identified itself, it’s clear that it’s doing exuberantly well.

The Murgy rose is an unidentified rescue. There’s a story. Many years ago, when Jim Macdonald was a growing up in Bedford NY, he had a rabbit named Murgy. The rabbit’s droppings were disposed of by dumping them off the porch of the Macdonald family’s Federalist-era farmhouse. The area where the droppings were being dumped promptly sprouted a rosebush which the family thereafter referred to as “the Murgy rose.”

It’s interesting. Its flowers are flat, quartered, 40-50 petals (do you count all the little bitty ones?) slightly smaller than Mlle. de Sombreuil, colored a nice Ispahan/Damascena pink, with a tight green-stamened eye. The leaves are on the small side, like The Fairy. It has a very faint scent, but if you take all the newly-dropped petals from a spent bloom and cup them in your hands until they warm up, it smells like an old rose. Jim says it reblooms.

The old red climbing roses (the big one in the corner, and the one against the fence that’s grown up into the magnolia tree next door) have exploded like the grand finale of a fireworks display, a testimonial to the beneficial effects of severe pruning. The unknown bush in the northeast corner under the lilacs has likewise come out in a prodigious number of blooms, which turn out to be an intense lipstick red.

The mint is rampant. The tomatoes are getting big and muscular, and are starting to sprawl sideways. I see cages in their future. There are about a zillion small tender green weed seedlings, reassuring me that I’m not going to run out of things to do.

Throughout it all, the Tradescantia virginia has been blooming profusely, mounds of blue-violet flowers every morning that are gone by afternoon unless the day is cloudy and damp. Last year they continued well into July, but that was an unusually cool summer. I’ll see how long they last this year.

I have finally figured out the strange structure my next-door neighbors put up along the fence line last fall: a descending row of tall 2×4s, with some kind of shallow metal roofing nailed along their tops, lintel to their posts. When I was out in my back yard during a thunderstorm a few days ago, I saw splashes of water coming off the top of the thing. It’s an aqueduct. They’re Azerbaijanis, used to dryland farming. They’ve channeled the runoff from their roof gutters into the back corner of their garden, where it can water their much-prized cherry tree.

Comments on The garden this week:
#1 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 09:37 AM:

Murgy's full name was Murgatroyd, and I rather suspect that rather than being a rabbit he was a Belgian Hare.

Hast photos of the blooms?

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 09:55 AM:

I have photos. I'll see what I can do with them. My camera's not talented when it comes to close-ups.

#3 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 11:04 AM:

Teresa: still-unidentified white things with the grasslike foliage that grow from bulbs

At the risk of making a nuisance of myself (I am powerless over horticultural conversations), I'll mention that I am a fiend for bulbs and may be able to identify them if you give more description.

#4 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 11:05 AM:

Actually, it's a commom misconception among amateur photographers that it is the camera that is not talented w/r/t close-ups. In fact, it is almost always the subject of the picture that blurs itself when approached too aggressively. These subjects are known as photo-shy, or "p shy", in the professional argot. Often you can bring them back into focus by offering them bowls of chocolate milk.

#5 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 11:11 AM:

Isn't it nice when you find something you thought you'd lost? I planted some very lovely ornamental alliums three years ago and they all died on me. Or so I thought. This year, suddenly, there they were, waving purple mini-trumpets high over the gerberas.
The only thing, though, next year, either they or the lavender will have to be relocated. Too much purple to one side of the bed.
I miss lilacs. I am looking forward to the day someone breeds a heat-tolerant lilac. Miami is not very good to them, I'm afraid.
We've had a great deal of rain this year, which is good for the water table and the weeds. And the ground orchids, of course. Those are multiplying at a ridiculous rate.
Sorry about the "zone report". It's amazing how much a garden grows on one. I was not interested in it at all, even house plants, until we moved to this house and there was all that space and my mother started planting things all over the place...

#6 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 11:31 AM:

"It's amazing how much a garden grows on one."

Cue the Steven King movie music....

#7 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 11:36 AM:

Emma, I too thought that I didn't like gardening, and for several years our small front and rear gardens here were just rectangles of lawn, usually in need of a mowing.

Eventually we paved most of the rear as it was too wet for lawn, and I discovered that I like gardening, I just dislike mowing lawns.

#8 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 12:11 PM:

There's a duck sitting on three eggs in our garden. I hope she knows what she's doing.

The mulch pile is host, literally, to some fungus that comes out bright yellow, mellows to barfy looking orange, then turns grey and looks dead. I thought I saw beetles crawling on top, but what I saw turned out to look more like small, beetle-shaped dabs of molasses, which I didn't touch. I'm guessing the fungus lives inside the pile and this stuff comes up to the top. I can't tell you how the thought of trying to shovel all that up thrills me. Ghaaaah.

#9 ::: Duncan J Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 12:18 PM:

My transplant of a portion of the Murgy is not doing as well as yours seems to be.

On the other hand, the Drunken Lady rose is going like ganbusters since it's severe pruning. Don't kinow if it will bloom this year, but there is lots of new growth.

#10 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 12:21 PM:

An aqueduct!

What a wonderful sign of civilization.

#11 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 12:42 PM:

did any of the groundcover survive?

#12 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 01:04 PM:

Maybe in a couple of years when the Murgy is in full vigor in Miss T's garden we can try another transplant down to Sunny Virginia.

#13 ::: Fran ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 01:08 PM:

Theresa, I think the white things with grass-like foliage could be a general description of white daffodils, but then daffodils are a common garden plant and you would probably recognize them. It might be too late for them too--well, depending on where you are. The daffodils we have growing here have yellow centers, which seem to be a common (cheerful) variety. Could you maybe post some pictures of your garden somewhere, or maybe you have some posted already? I love looking at pictures of gardens.

My husband and I have a large garden. I used to have before-and-after pictures posted on my site--should put them back up, especially including this year's. We take pictures year to year, often season to season, and it's interesting to look back over them and see how the garden has changed. My husband's the real gardener in the family; I know the wild plants better. Wish we could grow more roses here! Unfortunately, we haven't have much luck with most. The climbing fancier roses he planted on one arch have only just started picking up--don't know the varieties. But "Robin Hood" roses (think that's the name) do grow amazingly, with their numerous cheerful tiny deep-pink blooms, and Rugosa roses usually do well around here. There's a tiny white-flowered and tiny-leaved volunteer rose at the front of the garden. Think there's a pink-flowered wild variety growing on the side fence.

For a brief period of time, the springs here in this area of the southeast are very beautiful with all the flowering trees and bushes, but I miss the generally more fertile and moist New York soils and lusher landscape the rest of the year; I especially miss the Long Island area. IMO, people gardening in New York somewhere (or in much of the northeast) are very lucky!


#14 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 01:16 PM:

Fhran - ghood lhuck whith yhour rhoses. (Rhemove thhe ehxtra ahitch fhrom 'Theresa" ahs whell.)

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 01:30 PM:

Julia, the groundcover is thriving. I'm fiddling with pictures. If I can figure out how to post them, you'll see. What's that gray one with the white flowers again? It's happy.

#16 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 01:33 PM:

Kip, congratulations. You have a slime mold. I realize you may not feel all that lucky contemplating it, but that could become some child's science project.

#17 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 01:41 PM:

Aha! Ornithogalum, Star-of-Bethlehem.

#18 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 01:43 PM:

Drunken Lady is a frighteningly vigorous rose. Mine should bloom soon, at which point we may find out its real name.

#19 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 02:16 PM:

In Winnipeg, a near continuous rain has slowed down the planting all over, and seems to be discouraging the young brand-new growth, though the stuff already in place seems to like it. Thus far, the only things growing well are the weed-bed my fiance incorrectly considers the "grass", and those things planted last year -- although this last pleases me in one respect, as it includes some pansies, of which not a single one actually grew the year they were planted.

However, so far my largest garden discovery is that there is no way the scientists are right and the core of the earth is made of magma et al. As far as my excavations can prove, the whole core fo the earth is instead a huge mass of lily-of-the-valley roots.

#20 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 02:18 PM:

Niall, the climax state of all my gardens is to have no grass at all, except for isolated ornamental specimens. Lawns are for large gardens in areas where grass is the natural groundcover, or for areas you're going to walk on. Otherwise I'd far rather have mint, oregano, thyme, salad burnet, houttuynia, ajuga, lamium, hostas, yarrow, violets, strawberries (all sorts), potentillas, santolina, iberis, creeping phlox, cerastium tomentosum, lamb's ears, prostrate artemisia, prostrate cotoneaster, prostrate roses, prostrate other neat stuff, daylilies, chrysanthemum pacificum, or cheap, willing annuals like nasturtiums, alyssum, portulaca, dwarf snapdragons, and wave petunias.

I've grown all of those. I'm sure I'm leaving some out. Lawns, ptui.

A good groundcover is something that looks better when it's growing more vigorously than you expected. Planting grass that has to be mowed is betting against yourself.

#21 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 02:45 PM:

Please please please post flower pr0n!

And if you have a newer digital camera, look for a macro button for closeups. I couldn't get closeups of any of my flowers to look right until I actually looked at the manual. Then I discovered that they made a button for that.

And I'd love an aqueduct. Or a rain barrel.

#22 ::: Fran ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 03:38 PM:

Ooops--I'm sorry about inserting the "h," Teresa. Guess I messed up there cause I saw the Therese name right at the beginning of the thread, and then the Theresa my Italian family (and friends) use is usually that longer version.

Sorry again,


#23 ::: Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 03:55 PM:

Yay garden!

I am told that Persian Lilacs are very heat-tolerant. People have gone so far as to suggest that I could grow them in Tucson, in a location that gets afternoon shade and is irrigated.

#24 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 05:05 PM:

What does a Drunken Lady rose look like?

We have a rosebush that belonged to my great-grandmother, or at least the original did. I'm no rose expert, but I'm wondering if someone here might know what kind it is, so I'll try to describe it:

It's very thorny, almost fuzzy with thorns, and sending out tendrils like crazy. It's nearly 6' at the tallest point, and we haven't had it all that long. The leaves are smaller than on store-bought roses.
The flowers aren't like store roses either-they're open, with small dainty petals of a delicate yellow, with a very definite "old fashioned rose" scent.

I think my mom called it a tea rose. Does that sound right, and are there different kinds of tea rose?


#25 ::: Duncan J Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 05:41 PM:

The Drunken Lady rose referenced here got its name from the story of how a sample was obtained. Seems that Mom visited a local Lady during our early tenure in Northern Westchester County for a Luncheon.
During the festivities, it appeared that the Lady in question was already past three sheets to the wind, and since the time was shockingly shy of Noon, she must have started at far too early a time for polite society.
On the way out, Mom stopped and collected a specimen of a rose that was growing alongside the driveway. She didn't recognize it either, hence the sobriquet.
The flowers are small, many-petalled, and of a vibrant red color. We await the mistresses' instruction as to its proper name.

#26 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 05:45 PM:

Lenora Rose, it could be that lily of the valley roots make up a significant fraction of the planetary core, but you have to allow for comparable masses of blackberry roots, kudzu roots, and Japanese knotweed suckers.

Request: I'd like all the writers out there, next time they're writing a story in which someone's mixing up a magical compound that will not be taken internally, to remember to mention the mugwort. All spells require mugwort, and are improved by adding even more mugwort than that. Lots and lots and lots of mugwort. And maybe some Japanese knotweed.

If we keep mentioning mugwort, the woo-woos will pick up on the idea and pass it back and forth until they believe it too. Then metaphysical supply houses will stock dried mugwort (and Japanese knotweed), and enterprising persons will go out and pull up all the mugwort they can get their hands on.

Make the world a better place: add mugwort.

#27 ::: Duncan J Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 05:46 PM:

The Murgy is still hanging on. I've cut it back to where only those portions which are showing any green remain. I've got a single stem with portions of new growth appearing where thorns normally would be, and a few leaves at the base of the stem at ground level.
I shall keep my fingers crossed. This rose has returned from worse treatment, and I trust that it will again. I'll keep the possibility of a new cutting in mind in case this one fails totally.

#28 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 06:14 PM:

The Drunken Lady rose... hence the sobriquet.

Perhaps "inebriquet" would be more appropriate here?

#29 ::: Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 06:16 PM:

Yay, a garden thread! Perhaps someone will have an answer to my lilac question. In my tiny front yard (I live in a Brooklyn brownstone), which is about three feet by twelve feet, there is a four-foot tall volunteer lilac. I've lived in my apartment for over a year and a half, so it's had two chances to bloom, but hasn't. I'm soliciting opinions: does it get one more chance, or does it get the shovel? I'm soft-hearted, but space is at a premium. If it hasn't bloomed yet, is it likely to start next year?

What needs to go in the tiny front yard is a purple smoke tree. I just have to go out and find one.

#30 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 06:40 PM:

it's a sage of some kind. It appears to be deathless.

#31 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 06:57 PM:

Threads like this are why I want a house.

#32 ::: Fran ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 07:12 PM:

Rose, here are two links about growing lilacs; the first has specific info about lack of blooms:

Rose of Sharon (one with pinkish purple flowers--it was so beautiful in bloom!) grew really well at my parents' Staten Island place. If you don't have success still with the lilac, you might want to look into the ROS, though some kinds may be too large for your yard, especially if you don't prune them. They're actually doing really well here too, seem to be reliable bloomers so far....


#33 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 07:22 PM:

My sister had her lilac bush for years before it bloomed. It was supposed to be yellow, but turned out white.

#34 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 07:25 PM:

Aw, and here I thought there were catalogs with "Drunken Lady Rose" in them.
Sounds almost like the bush in my front yard, actually...


#35 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 07:46 PM:

Garden talk is a great delight.

#36 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 08:32 PM:

Melissa, what does and does not get called a tea rose is one of the vexed questions of the field. Let's see what we can figure out. Could be worse; could be pink.

What shade of yellow is your rose -- intense? pale? orangey? Does it fade in the sun? Does it turn red in the sun?

How many petals does each bloom have?

Does it have a visible graft a bit above ground level?

Does it bloom on new wood, old wood, or both?

Does it bloom more than once a year? If so, how often? Is it constantly throwing out a bloom or two, or do they come in waves?

If your rose is sending out tendrils, you have something very unusual indeed. It sounds like it's sending out canes -- long, single-minded new branches. Is that the case?

Duncan, I hope I can call the D.L. If anyone else wants to join in: very vigorous upright growth to 6'+, open lime-green foliage, medium-size leaves, suckering habit, sets profuse sprays of small flowers like The Fairy --

and, by damn, it looks like it's started blooming since I left the house this morning. Back in a sec. I'm off to the back yard.

Okay. Buds are just starting to open. This unseasonably warm weather is setting off roses like popcorn in a microwave. The bits of petal I can see peeping out are a bright magenta-pink.

Rose, I can't help you with lilacs. I'm still making their acquaintance.

All: There's no rose that's officially named Drunken Lady, though there ought to be. But if it's any consolation, there is one called Tipsy Imperial Concubine.

#37 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 09:01 PM:

Wow-I'll answer as much of that as I can from memory and pictures, since it's pitch dark and stormy out there right now.

Remember the Lemon Yellow crayon that used to be in Crayola boxes? Like that, but softer. Doesn't seem to fade or change color. About 10 petals, in 2 layers of 5.

Can't tell about grafts. One of the new canes (yep, that's probably what they are) has flowers on it already. There's such a mass of flowers on it I assume it blooms on old wood too. It blooms once a year, right about now, with so many blooms the bush looks yellow. Wave is the right word-it looks like a cascade, which is why I thought tendrils. They spill right to the ground.

Is there a way to post pictures? My husband's taken a pile of them.


#38 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2005, 11:00 PM:

Wow, I'm such a piker. I went out and deadheaded the roses yesterday with the threat of a storm overhead (which did NOT pan out). All but one of the former Hybrid Tea roses are now plain red (scion stock) but they're darn pretty. One has coiled around one of the cranes on the piers of my front porch (concrete bird, not machine) and the flowers looked darn nice. (plus they grow in terminal clumps and are easy to deadhead....)

Our next crapshoot is the cherries. They're ripening but we may not have had enough rain (Until now, we had a severe thunderstorm that marched throught about 45 minutes ago, causing power pops and our gigantic house to actually quiver a bit due to the high wind). Last year we got a bonus crop, I still have at least one bag in the freezer, but the year before there wasn't enough rain and even the birds left the bitter cherries alone.

Otherwise, I don't care as much as I should.

My gardening is by whim, the actual hard work is done by a lawn service person who used to work with one of my partners, retired, got bored and went into the landscape business.

#39 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 12:29 AM:

Grew dahlias for the first time this year. The first bloom is in a vase by Hilde's chair at the moment. The thing's the size of a dinner plate! I had to cut it and bring it inside because it was so top-heavy it was breaking its own stalk.

I've been taking photos of the various blossoms as they occur. I'll probably be posting a selection on my own blog sometime in the next week or so.

#40 ::: Therese Norén ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 02:14 AM:

When I was ten (or so), my mother decided to plant roses outside our new house. We were looking through the catalogue together, and I got to pick one rose. Of course, I chose the Therese Bugnet. Which ten year-old can resist a rose with her name on it?

They grew surprisingly well, for such a northern climate. (A hundred miles from the Arctic Circle.) More than ten years later, they were the only thing left from the first incarnation of the garden.

#41 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:13 AM:

Waah. Now I want a rose called Tipsy Imperial Concubine and I don't even know what color it is. Google here I come.

(We've planted to yellow climbers on either side of the front gate and they're putting out new canes like mad. But it's still darn cold here. Well, by my standards.)


#42 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:15 AM:

Oh, it's pink. Never mind.

Should I ever again be so fortunate as to walk into a lady's clothing store/dept. and not feel assaulted by pink I shall throw a wild party in celebration. Pink champagne for everybody!


#43 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 04:24 AM:

Unseasonably warm weather, hey? Here it's raining. In the San Francisco Bay Area, where it does not rain in June.

#44 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 05:48 AM:

Some features of Melissa's rose sound like Rosa Rugosa, particularly the fuzzy with thorns and the canes shooting out everywhere.

Does it grow big colourful rose-hips if you don't dead-head it? Are the leaves rugose?

#45 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 06:41 AM:

Niall, the canes sound similar, but the flowers have more petals. Maybe they're related?
No dramatic hips. The leaves are slightly toothy.


#46 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 06:48 AM:

With "rugose" we're moving into Lovecraft territory; I'm waiting for "squamous" before I run gibbering toward the horizon.

#47 ::: epacris ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 07:37 AM:

"still-unidentified white things with the grasslike foliage that grow from bulbs" -- could they be Zephyranthes - also called Zephyr lily, Fairy lily, Rain lily (because they often flower irregularly, following rain) - Official listing from part of - a wonderful resource, BTW

#48 ::: epacris ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 07:49 AM:

Tipsy Imperial Concubine (well, I am a flower). Perhaps it's the colour of a flushed cheek, or just slightly blowsy? (Hope your browser does ideographs)

#49 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 09:01 AM:

I think the obsession with lawns is actually a class thing. An English country house is surrounded by acres of velvet lawn, and therefore every suburban garden must aspire to a little square of grass.

This is bad enough in Britain, which is at least a reasonable climate for grass, but in places where grass must be watered it strikes me as beyond senseless and right out into deranged.

However, for people who really want something low and green to walk on, clover's very nice, doesn't need mowing, and fixes nitrogen. Mint smells great and is practically unkillable.

#50 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 10:35 AM:

Jo, here in South Florida lawn grass is a way to fix the sandy soil and keep it from flying off, specially off coral rock. And, believe it or not, houses with large gardens are considered a liability in the market because they would require too much upkeep and most people aren't interested.

The grass I have has these huge suckers and will grow through ANYTHING, including a layer of black anti-weed mesh and river rocks (which I learned to my dismay while trying to provide access to the vegetable beds). I have been seeding it with clover and oregano just to make it more interesting and keep down the weeds. I live in the Kingdom of the Weeds, you see... And oregano is a champion weed suppressor.

Niall I hope you come back for a look see and get all the way down here: where do you garden?

#51 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 12:08 PM:

Arizona's rainy spring has driven the roses here in Prescott (mile-high, more or less central AZ) into a frenzy. My favorite kind, with a medium-size single bloom on its stems, starts as a vibrant orange and turns pink with age. The most aggressive plant, a huge bush that keeps threatening to take over the communal staircase toward my side of our condo building, has zillions of clusters of small, multi-petalled deep red blooms (currently drying to the color of bougainvillea). I've just learned that the groundskeepers leave the owners to deal with these and I was supposed to cut everything back every February, but the Neighbor Who Knows Roses is impressed by how the big shrub has been flourishing without care.

Of more general interest, there's an article in the NY Times gardening section about efforts to bring scents back to contemporary flowers (if anyone needs a link, I can look it up).

#52 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 01:22 PM:

I'm all for less grass, as is my husband who mows our lawn. (Flat just isn't something you find in WV, which makes mowing...unpleasant.) But the place where grass is a problem--where we have to do maintenance to keep the yard from turning to dirt--is heavy shade, under a large sugar maple with dense foliage.

What groundcover, other than grass, grows in heavy shade? I've tried phlox, which hasn't died, but it certainly hasn't spread. Nothing I've tried from seed has done anything--except grass.

#53 ::: Deborah Roggie ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 01:43 PM:

I've had good luck with pachysandra under my maple tree. It fills in very slowly, though.

#54 ::: Francine ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 02:33 PM:

Michelle, you could really work with the tree's presence, and maybe try mulching or "mossing," or both. Moss will normally grow in deep shade and it can be encouraged to grow really densely and beautifully. There are recipes around for doing so, which may require extra sulfur, and/or I think beer and other stuff being applied. You may already have some moss growing under your tree--check under any fallen rotting leaves, especially in the curved spaces between large roots where soil depressions collect moisture.

We have a big maple with shallow large roots. When we moved in, Steve planted "perimeter" plantings of shrubs (yews, azaleas), lilies, lantanas and other stuff about ten to fifteen feet from the trunk; planting anything under maples really can be tricky. Steve keeps the plants (and the tree) mulched with the tree's leaves that naturally fall there, and he's also added a bit of mulch/compost. The plants are growing nicely now, but I think people doing this need to be careful and not cover too much tree roots with dense applications of extra mulch especially as I've read that a certain percentage can possibly kill a tree. That's something we don't want to do; the maple is one of the reasons we bought the place.

You could try searching the web for "growing moss" and "sulfur/sulphur," "beer," "recipes," etc. Just did a search and found a place that apparently sells moss for transplanting:

Don't know anything about the company though, if their stuff works. When I find moss growing here, I leave it alone, try not to step on it too much, and hope it spreads. "Low-maintenance gardening" is my motto!


#55 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 03:06 PM:


You definitely need to be careful with surface roots. Covering them with dirt or mulch can damage or kill the root, which can in turn damage or kill the tree. (Overmulching can cause a similar problem if the mulch piles up against the bark of the trunk.)

My biggest problem with this area is that it's around my front steps, so this is what people coming up to this house see. When we first moved in it was dirt/mud and incredibly ugly (in fact, the maple was so overgrown that you had to duck to walk up the steps. We've now got the maple trimmed, some grass there, and I've planted several shade loving plants along the walk (bleeding heart, jacobs ladder, something else I can't remember...), and it look nice, but it irks me to have to worry about stupid grass. Especially in an area where trash regularly gets thrown. (Major problem with living on the edge of a student housing area.)

I think I may be stuck with grass, since shade loving usually = slow growing.

#56 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 06:12 PM:

TNH: "If we keep mentioning mugwort, the woo-woos will pick up on the idea and pass it back and forth until they believe it too. Then metaphysical supply houses will stock dried mugwort (and Japanese knotweed), and enterprising persons will go out and pull up all the mugwort they can get their hands on.

Make the world a better place: add mugwort."

Montgomery County, MD, has mugwort in its parks and considers it such an invasive non-native plant that they hired goats to eat it. At the same time, the local South Koreans would love to pick it and dig it up, but you aren't allowed to take things from parks.

Mugwort Woes

#57 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2005, 06:52 PM:

Emma, my little garden is right bang in the middle of Ireland, and if you stand out in it and stay still you can hear the grass growing. I'm down to just a roundy blob of lawn maybe 6 or 7 meters across now, something to walk on while looking at the beds surrounding it. You can get an idea of how small it is here. You may just be able to see in that shot that the lawn needs mowing.

My own Rosa Rugosa has simple white flowers, and is hairy with thorns.

#58 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 07:06 AM:

Michelle K: I've had excellent luck with Creeping Jenny/moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia), ajuga, dead nettle (Lamium maculatum), and sweet woodruff (Asperula odorata). (I'm in a hotter climate than you are, so shade is welcome even for sun-lovers; YMMV.) Depending on the light the area gets, you might also think about periwinkle (Vinca major/minor). All these grow quickly under good conditions and mosey along under bad ones. They won't bloom in heavy shade, but should still spread and cover the ground. (Sweet woodruff and dead nettle look especially nice with Jacob's ladder and bleeding heart.)

#59 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 10:07 AM:

Niall, that is a beautiful garden! Roses are difficult for me: too close to salt water and too windy. Today, we're having the outer bands of tropical storm Arlene; that means that by next week I'm on black spot patrol. Still, we have two climbers that do beautifully in a protected corner bed and a bush with tiny, tiny red blooms (smaller than a quarter) that WILL NOT allow almost anything to grow near it.The thing is HUGE! Plus, of course, all the potted roses.

#60 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 02:56 PM:

Niall, I'm still shaking my head at you saying you have a "little garden" and are "down to ... [a] lawn maybe 6 or 7 metres across" when my typical inner-Sydney property is only between 3 and 4 metres across entire. The front gardens in this row of terraces are one of the larger types in this area, being 8 feet on a side, the back yards rather larger; longer, but narrower and hemmed in by high fences and buildings.

Until everything fell apart, I was able to get a bit of interesting flora growing, which also attracted useful fauna. When I let it go, it flourished beautifully - with Darwinian selection through the drought - but the council & neighbours found its fecundity very threatening, and I was forced to destroy a lot of the greenery.

It was amazing the amount of naturally-built-up soil, mulch and organic matter that had accumulated on top of the solid base of asphalt and concrete that comprise the substrate throughout. Worms and praying mantis and all sorts of other invertebrates were all happily existing in the middle of the surrounding urban wasteland, but people were worried that certain unpopular mammals might also find it a nice home.

Your garden does look very attractive. It's good to see a relatively small space that can still support proper trees.

#61 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 03:24 PM:

Fran, Rose: I have grown Rose of Sharon in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Is "grown" the right word? Perhaps not. Okay, I have failed to adequately discourage Rose of Sharon. We're talking ladders, ropes, saws, biiiiiiig hedgeclippers, fire, sword, and an unending war on seedlings.

It crowded out Ailanthus altissimus. Its seedlings were observed sprouting triumphantly from a solid drift of last year's maple seeds. It sneered at kudzu.

The flowers were awfully pretty, though.

Get a variety you really like, prune it severely to keep it from getting leggy, and learn to recognize its young.

#62 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 03:39 PM:

Rose names: I published a collection of my my favorites, back in '02.

#63 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 04:33 PM:

I'm connecting the list of rose names with the "Slush: Noted in passing" topic...

#64 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 10, 2005, 05:17 PM:

Teresa - a good point about the Kudzu and blackberries and their roots, though even blackberries, (if actually willing to go fruity) would be a vast improvement over the last unrescued chunk of back "lawn", which is roughly a foot tall with unmowable weed. My problem is I'm a lazy gardener after the initial Spring Spurt of weed-digging and planting, and I'm working to reclaim a yard alternately torn up by construction projects and neglected for roughly five years, next door to another yard-neglector (I keep wishing the wild rhubarb all over their fenced area was growing in the space by our side path, where I could ask permission to harvest.) I think we *could* have a good garden and a teeny grass lawn someday, but that day is not now.

One friend of mine has said she's constantly astonished by the obsession over inedible grass and deliberate poisoning of all kinds of edible things, including the good ol dandelion.

I'll agree with her on the grass, but I did want to point out to her that living in an apartment might not make the difficulty of dealing with dandelions quite so obvious to her. I concede her point that they can actually make a very pretty lawn when they're yellow, but then they get real ugly...

#65 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: June 12, 2005, 09:37 PM:

False White Pet sounds like something that blooms during the day and leaves its bush in the evenings to sit on the back porch mewling for a snack.

#66 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2005, 11:56 AM:

Damn, it's hot out there.

Tomatoes, partly staked. Garden, partly moistened. Some tradescantia tied up. (It's reached the flop-like-a-cat stage.) Stressy flowering tops removed from basil; basil watered, told to stay in school, not throw life away on first pollinator that comes along.

In short, no vast accomplishments today. Retreated back inside anyway, because it's just too hot out there.

Melissa, I've always thought False White Pet sounded sinister, like one of those animal hauntings, or a code nickname for someone engaged in a 17th C. plot that ended in blood and tragedy.

Lenora, how does slush connect with weird rose names?

#67 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 14, 2005, 01:15 PM:

Not with slush: With the topic, and the various silly name discussions therein. I imagine a story wherein Elise Sauvage and her fiance Albert-Georg Pluta-Rose have to solve the mystery of the Cemetary Keeper's Peach Tea in time to stop the dastardly Comtesse Icy Hardegg from...

Of course, it would almost certainly be called Madness at Corsica.

#68 ::: Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2005, 12:54 PM:

Thanks for the lilac links, Fran!

I've had a good talk with my young lilac, and we've decided that it has one more spring to show its stuff.

Rose of Sharon isn't in my future; I only have room for one more tree/bush item in the front area, and I have my heart set on a purple smoke bush, Cotinus coggygria; I just have to pick the variety, and find a nursery in the area that has them.

#69 ::: Francine ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2005, 02:52 PM:

You're welcome, Rose. I'd suggest mail-order companies for the purple smoke tree (I remember seeing them in several catalogs), but, in my experience at least, ordering plants through the mail is a risky business, largely depending on the specific company and plant involved. Some mail-order companies are better/worse than others; some mail-ordered plants do better/worse than others. And the plants you'd think would survive the process because they're supposed to be easily grown aren't necessarily the ones that DO survive. Though, really, I guess you could say the same about gardening in general--it can be so frustrating, so unpredictable! You've ultimately just got to plant stuff in your little microclimate/locality and see what happens.

With an often high failure rate, gardening can be very expensive, unless you buy from places that allow dead-plant returns. We've certainly had our frustrations here: plants that were supposed to grow like gangbusters that dropped dead practically on the spot. But then there were the happy surprises: plants that were likely to drop dead on the spot that ultimately grew like gangbusters--that's a rarer occurrence though for sure! I think that simply the act of transplanting itself kills a lot of plants--or at least forces them into a dormancy. Here's a tip most gardeners probably know already: if a plant seems to drop dead shortly after you've transplanted it, especially a shrub or a tree, give it another year, if you can afford to leave the space bare. Often enough, plants just go into "shock" for a year, or maybe two; then they come back and can actually turn out to be very hardy plants, maybe partly because they've been dormant in the ground and microclimate for so long that it's almost as if they were "seeded" there originally.

I suggested the Rose of Sharon both because I thought you might have a difficult-to-grow-things-in garden area and because I thought you seemed interested in purple-colored more delicate flowers. Though the ROS flower is on the large side and can seem gaudy head-on, the petals themselves can be very fine in thickness, almost like tissue paper, with a wispy jagged edge, which can actually make them delicate-looking overall. I don't normally like gaudy-looking domesticated flowers; ROS is one of the exceptions to that "rule."

We haven't yet had the invasiveness problem Theresa had with the ROS. If that happens here, I guess we'll do what we usually do (partly out of laziness, partly out of method, but then we can afford to do this because we have a large garden): just leave most of it alone and let the garden itself sort it out. Conventional wisdom usually says, aim for lots of control. I'm a nonconformist; conventions are quickly chucked out the window around here. In my experience, it's often best to let most things get on with their own business and not coddle them too much. We plant densely, mulch densely, and don't weed too much. Using this method in gardening often seems to set up a "survivalist" type garden, where the plants are seriously competing with each other and are forced to do their best or drop dead. We've got bushes that are only supposed to grow eight-feet tall that are now over ten-feet tall, very leafy-lush, and are still growing. Again, though, a down-side to this method is: we can lose more plants, waste more money this way.

Happy gardening, everyone!


#70 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2005, 06:15 PM:

I've had good luck with using SuperThrive to reduce transplant shock and to revive many seemingly-dead plants. And the label is fun to read in much the same way as the Dr. Bronner's soap label.

#71 ::: Dallas Culvahouse ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2006, 01:24 PM:

To whom it may concern:

Call me foolish but I am in love with the Kudzu plant? I live in Northern Michigan and would LOVE to grow this in my home as an ornimental in a large pot. I love the smell and the flower. Have you heard of kudzu as a house plant before. And how can I get a cutting to start? Other than driving to a state that has it wild?

#72 ::: Spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 02:41 PM:

Spam from

#74 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 03:14 PM:

Do you HAVE to identify it so precisely? I mean, yuck. Spam is spam...and much more offensive than piss!

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2007, 03:18 PM:

Do you HAVE to identify it so precisely?

Can't help myself, Xopher. I'm a computer programmer.

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