Saturday, July 07, 2007

Flattened Poppies

Saturday, July 7, 2007

A foggy, damp morning here at Vermont Flower Farm. The sun is pulling its way above the mountain and showing some sign of hope for a brighter day. There was another half inch of rain last night and once again we have been spared the hail storms that have frequented the surrounding area. We are at 1530 feet elevation here and the hail has come within 200 feet several times now.

I just came in from my morning walk, wonder-dogless this morning as Karl snores away in the bedroom with Gail. We had company for a couple days and there were several little kids with high pitched voices and random movements that irritated a dog that prefers his domain to be in his control. It tires him. I haven't walked without my friend for a while and noticed that the walk is quicker and quieter when I don't have to remind the professional sniffer that he is that it's time to move on. Change is good.

There are a few earlier blooming plants which have started their decline and deserve some discussion. I'm talking about plants that draw lots of attention because of their color, quality and profusion of bloom. These same plants decline towards the end of their bloom and just don't look attractive. The problem is just a suggestion that you more carefully site the plants so you can enjoy their beauty but not have to relive the fallen foliage.

The blue bachelors button that is a perennial has a great blue that catches people's attention. Gardeners love the color blue and when they see this one in its glory they want it. This perennial comes in a rosy color too. As the blooms are about 80% spent the plant is tired and succumbs to fungus which discolors the foliage. If you cut the plants back to 4", they will spurt regrowth and bloom again in August. If you don't do anything, you'll have a hole in your garden and a messy looking affair that you'll walk by quickly when giving garden tours. We don't sell it but I have seen Gail give away a few clumps this year, asking only for a promise that the giftee won't tell where they got it and won't hold the gift against her when it declines.

Another plant is the Oriental Poppy. The poppy hybridizers of the world have come up with some great colors but have never "fixed" the fact that as the flowers fade, the foliage flattens with the rain from the plant's center on out. This creates a bushel basket sized hole in the garden that can't easily be replaced.

Here at VFF we postpone the inevitable as long as possible and then trim the plants to 4" and grab a large pot of something or other and fill in the hole. That's easier for us to do because we have so many pots but it can become a chore for the average gardener. The pinks, roses and ruby reds are very nice too and I expect the hybridizers will keep working on new colors but will continue to fail on making a sturdier plant.

As poppies go to seed, a beautiful seed head develops. Each contains thousands of seeds and it's best to remove these so the "hole-in-the-garden" problem doesn't grow larger from year to year. We cut the heads, wrap a rubber band around them and hang them upside down to dry. They make nice additions to fall flower baskets.

The final plant I'll include here is the red baneberry. This is not a common plant or one you'll typically find at garden centers because it's a wild flower. In Vermont we have white, pink and red baneberries and the red has great clusters of shiny red berries right now. As soon as the plant matures and the berries ripen, the plant moves quickly to dormancy. With the red baneberry that means the berries drop to the ground and the leaves blacken and shrivel all in a little over a week's time.

When I planted the lower hosta and shade garden I left all the native plants in place. By now the baneberries have grown in numbers and in a few weeks they will become unsightly and people will frequently ask "what happened here?" In the meantime they will beg me to dig more than the twenty I put up for sale this year and despite my answer they will repeat their questions as if I'll change my mind. People who do this are usually new visitors and they don't know me yet.

The lesson then is that whatever plant you purchase or bring home from a friend's garden, think about it's life cycle and plant accordingly. Some parts of good gardening require that little extra piece of thought to go with the good planting job. In the end, everyone is happier.

Now it's time to sound revelly and get ready for a busy day. Karl will be the easiest to get going. He stretches but he doesn't protest. Others who live here will.

With damp gardening thoughts and dry wishes for a great day,

George Africa


James Trundy said...

As one who loves all three of the plants discussed here! I can appreciate George's educating the public and only hope that with the knowledge gained, gardeners, old and new, will continue to plant and enjoy these plants!

I am one of the ones who happily and excitedly purchased the red baneberry! Two of them! one for the new "North Garden" and one for the "Hammock Room".

They will be enjoyed tremendously for the portion of the season that they display their glory.

If any of you readers have never been to The Vermont Flower Farm.. you must make the trip! EVEN if it means an over night trip!!!

VFF is a Vermont Nursery "Gem" and warrants multiple visits a season.. I doubt you can leave without some great additions for your garden! I know I never can!!

That is all from the lovely Vermont Village of McIndoe Falls.

Elizabeth (Brookfield) said...

I inadvertently solved the flattened poppies problem by having a large stand of rudbeckia varieties grow up in front of them. While the poppies were thriving, the monarda growing up behind got shoved around, but once the poppies were cut back hard the monarda have come into their own.

Of course after the huge thunderstorms of July 9, many things are flattened!