Wednesday April 16, 2014
Many of us think "Holland" when we hear talk of tulips. That's not where they come from originally, though. Tulips originated mainly in central Asia. Still, the Holland connection is understandable. Perhaps no other people has ever gone as head-over-heels for tulips as have the Dutch, not even Tiny Tim fans.
The time period from the late 20th century to the early 21st century has seen an Internet bubble and a housing bubble in the U.S., but such bubbles are nothing new. In 17th-century Holland, tulip bulbs were allegedly so prized that they were traded as a sort of commodity. The frenzied trading in tulips at the height of "Tulipomania" led to a bubble. The subsequent bursting of the bubble is believed by some to have wrought considerable havoc on the Dutch economy.
We're unlikely to witness a repeat of Tulipomania, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to "go crazy about" regarding tulips. Tulips are many people's favorite spring flowers.
In her encyclopedic volume, Bulb, Anna Pavord says of the tulip that it is "the queen of all bulbs, producing the sexiest, the most capricious, the most various, subtle, powerful, and intriguing flowers that any gardener will ever set eyes on." Consult my flower bulbs book review for more information on this excellent read.
Though a tulip lover, myself, I won't attempt to support Pavord's bold claim. But I do provide helpful growing tips in my full article on planting tulips.
Photo ©2010 David Beaulieu, Landscaping Guide (licensed to About, Inc.)
Thursday April 10, 2014
There are some shrubs that you can prune early (late winter or early spring), without worrying that you're going to cost yourself some flowers during blooming time. That's because they bloom on new wood. Today I'll be talking about a few examples.
Butterfly bush is that controversial shrub named not for what it looks like, but for what it attracts. Why controversial? Because in many regions, it's invasive. I discuss a cultivar in my article that is touted as being a non-invasive improvement. Some people hack butterfly bush right down to the ground.
Beautyberry is another with which one can be ruthless in pruning. This bush is grown for its berries, not its blooms (although, of course, you can't have the former without the latter).
Another deciduous shrub grown primarily for something other than its flowers is red twig dogwood. In this case, it's the bark color of the plant that is most valued. Since the bark is most colorful on the new shoots (which you can generate by pruning off the older branches), this is a bush that you'll want to practice rejuvenation-style pruning on regularly, as I explain in my article.
My final two entries for today, though, are definitely grown for their flowers. In fact, the blooms of bluebeard shrubs and rose of sharon are an important source of color for the late-summer yard.
Wait, did I actually just make a reference to late summer? Believe me, it pains me to do so. And not because ragweed pollen will be causing allergies when late summer rolls around (although, to be sure, it will); there are, after all, allergies to deal with in spring, too. No, my reason is a psychological one: namely, having just made it into the fair-weather months here in New England, I'm loath to even think about anything that far into the future. I want the present to drag.
Do you feel the same way? Then try not to think of late summer when you're pruning those bushes and performing other tasks in the spring yard (contemplate something more pleasant, such as stimulating your feline friend with catnip). But speaking of pruning chores, Marie Iannotti, About's Gardening Guide, lists some more shrubs to prune in spring.
Photo ©2008 David Beaulieu, Landscaping Guide (licensed to About, Inc.)
Monday April 7, 2014
Like me, many of you would, undoubtedly, characterize yourself as "nature lovers." But what do those words really mean? Well, there are different kinds of nature lovers, and my intention in today's blog post is to portray one type (mine) -- a type bound to be more plentiful, I suppose, in regions that experience four distinct seasons (or more; Amy Campion makes a compelling case in her What Blooms When blog for recognizing a far larger number of seasons). This type of nature lover lives by a "seasonal calendar." It's not a calendar you hang on the wall; it's a calendar you "read" by opening your heart to nature.
Nature lovers of this sort behold the drama of the changing seasons every year as if it were being played out for the very first time -- such is our immersion in the grand performance, as the curtain closes on one act and opens on another. In fact, we identify so intimately with the drama, that we almost think of ourselves as performers in the play, rather than mere spectators. Every fall, we feel cruelly deserted as darkness waxes strong and daylight wanes. Every spring we feel "brand new." We take it all so personally.
Our seasonal calendar is thus a four-act play. We mark the year's progress less by the conventional calendar than by our own interaction with the signs of the seasons. Of course, different individuals may recognize different signs, or may ascribe greater importance to one sign than to another.
For me, spring fully arrives when I affirm the peepers' announcement of such. I commence summer with my annual trip along the coast of Maine around solstice time; I put all those daylight hours to good use, searching for, among other things, the glorious blooms of the golden chain trees (picture). But when rose of sharon blooms burst upon the scene, I know that summer's days are numbered.
The first hint of yellow, orange or red in the (healthy) trees warns me that autumn is imminent and that it will soon be time again to set up the outdoor Halloween decorations. "Warns," I say, out of trepidation for the season that succeeds it, the season-that-must-not-be-named.
But that's old news now. Spring has mercifully returned; Act IV's antagonist has no lines in Act I. Do you feel brand new again?
Photo of golden chain tree raceme ©2006 David Beaulieu (licensed to About.com)
Saturday April 5, 2014
Would you like to be able to make the claim, "My lawn doesn't have weeds in it"? Well, you can. And no, it doesn't require an obsession with lawn maintenance and hours of digging weeds or dumping herbicides on them.
Not to go all Clintonesque on you, but, you see, it really boils down to how you answer the question, What is a weed?. According to the great American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, those who refer to this or that plant as a "weed" simply haven't discovered its virtues yet.
So if you boldly tell the guy next door that your lawn doesn't have any weeds in it, and the incredulous neighbor points to all the wild violets (picture) or dandelions growing amongst your grass blades with a quizzical look on his face, it's easy enough to have a comeback line ready. Just cite one of the virtues of the weed in question. If you're unable to do so (yet), tell him that you're still in the process of discovering its virtues and need to have it around to study it. Citing Emerson would give you some credibility, too.
If you truly believe what you're saying, you should be able to pull it off without a glitch. Otherwise, it would help to be able to put on a poker face while delivering your lines.
Seriously, though, it's a good idea to learn something about a weed before you begin fighting it (if it turns out that you cannot find any virtues in it, that is). For example, is it an annual or a perennial? Crabgrass is to be fought in quite a different fashion from dandelions, because the former is an annual and the latter is a perennial. Knowing this kind of thing will save you time, energy and money, believe me! Here I tell you all about some common lawn weeds, including how to fight them.
Photo ©2012 David Beaulieu (licensed to About, Inc.)