Sunday, December 25, 2016

Does anyone grow Lithodora?

I would love to be able to grow lithodora (Lithodora diffusa) in my garden. Three or four years ago, I came across Lithodora for the first time in one of the big box stores, and its bright blue flowers called out to me. It is a low-growing groundcover with a growth habit similar to creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) or candtuft (Iberis sempervirens). I was not familiar with the plant, and neither was anyone in the garden center, but after reading the plant label, I decided to give it a try.

The plant I bought looked healthy and was loaded with buds. I planted in a partly sunny area and was careful to make sure it was well-watered as the heat set in. It quickly deteriorated and was dead by mid-summer. 

The next year, I was again lured in by the bright blooms in the spring, so I decided to try it again. This time I planted in a different area and gave it less water. Same result.

I decided that it was one of those plants that really wasn't suitable for our area and initially resisted when I saw it in the garden center this spring. But then I found a large group of it on the clearance rack and the plants looked completely healthy. So I decided to try again, this time planting in an area with excellent drainage but keeping it well-watered. It lasted long enough to get my hopes up, but by the end of summer, dead again.

So if there is anyone out there who has had success with lithodora, please share your secret. How much sun does it get and is it morning or afternoon sun? What is the soil like and does it tend to be moist or dry? Do you speak to it with encouragement or threats? (Just kidding about that last one, unless threats are working for you.)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Fall, Leaves, Fall

One morning while having breakfast last week, my eye caught a delightful scene outside the kitchen window: leaves drifting to the ground like a mass of butterflies. It was a still morning, with little indication of a breeze, and yet the leaves had decided it was time to fall.

Seeing the leaves fall reminds me of Emily Bronte's short poem about falling leaves and the cycle of life. Even decay has its place in the cycle.

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.

I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night's decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

 I use to be a person who couldn't enjoy the beauty of fall for thinking about the cold and barrenness of winter. Jack use to accuse me of being sad in late June because the arrival of the summer solstice means that days will be getting shorter. And it is true. I do not like the long nights.

But, realizing that every season, both in life and nature, has its purpose, I am having some success in changing my attitude. Rather than sitting around in the winter, moaning about the cold and wishing for spring, I will enjoy the opportunity to rest from the garden and do other things that get crowded out when there are flower beds to be cleaned, and seeds to be planted, and grass to be mowed. Don't get me wrong--you'll still find me moaning about cold and wishing for spring. Hopefully, just not quite so often.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Fall Color . . . Finally

Last week I was complaining about the lack of fall color this year. I was guessing that the drought we experienced throughout the fall was to blame, and I assumed that we would be robbed of the beautiful reds, golds, and yellows that we usually see in November in the Midsouth. 

It has been true that the fall has been less colorful than usual, but there are a few species of trees that never seem to disappoint. One of these is the ginkgo. Jack and I had visitors in town for the St. Jude run this weekend, and they were asking about the beautiful yellow-leaved trees they saw along the run. After some questioning, it became clear that they were referring to the ginkgo. Here's a picture of one at the Germantown library.

The shrubs in the foreground of this picture are burning bush (Euonymus alatus). This is a gorgeous planting in most years because the burning bush turns bright crimson just as the gingko turns bright yellow.  This year the burning bush seems to be suffering from too little water and too much pruning, but, even so, the grouping is beautiful.

Another group of trees that never disappoint are the Japanese maples. The neighbor's pair of maples across the cove delights us every fall.

Our own Japanese maples (which received irrigation) were also colorful this fall. This little red weeping Japanese maple is red in spring and fall.

This yellow cultivar, 'Waterfall', is a pale green in spring and summer. In the fall, it develops a complex mix of orange and gold that looks almost fluorescent.  The tree in the background is a kousa dogwood. It also develops nice fall color.

So, I guess Mother Nature has proven to have the last word, yet again. There was an advertising slogan some years back that said "You can't fool Mother Nature." I guess you can't rush her either.