A Good Soak

A strange thing happened about two weeks ago.  Without any warning or cause, the gardener here snapped out of his lazy spell.  I think it started out of necessity, with plants that were purchase for next door… and weren’t all that cheap and had to be planted before the heat and forgotten waterings took their toll… but then it took on a life of its own.  Weeds were pulled, lawns edged, trees pruned, plants planted.  You’re probably  thinking to yourself ‘well of course, I’ve been doing that since March’, but here that hasn’t been the case.  Here neglect was creeping in.  Here they’re hoping this new gardener stays on and the place is brought back to halfway decent shape.

potager beds

The potager doesn’t look too impressive with its beds of yellowing tulip foliage, but the most rank weeds have finally been pulled and a few legitimate plantings have taken place.  There’s even a nice supply of lettuce coming in as a first harvest.

I’ve noticed that the gardener’s ambition rises and falls with the weather.  Last weekend was cold, and for as much as everyone else was full of complaints and misery, the gardener here was reinvigorated.  “How long have you been out there?  Your cheeks are freezing”  was the question, and “all day” was the response.  Even when the rain was pouring down the gardener was dragging out (way too many) stored bulbs, potting up (way too many) purchased caladiums, and starting (way too many) unnecessary seeds.  I think the gardener knows that there are few if any empty spots to plant, but he doesn’t seem to care.

potager beds

The nicer end of the potager where the gardener would often sit rather than work.  ‘Purple Splash’ is finally settling in and will hopefully scale the arbor, but as of this week the gardener still doesn’t like it.  He claims it’s very nice, but it’s not “beautiful”, and all roses should be beautiful or at least movingly fragrant.

Even if the gardener is getting some work done, he’s still just as easily distracted as ever.

calycanthus aphrodite

Calycanthus x ‘Aphrodite’ is more beautiful in a sculptural way than many roses, but like ‘Purple Splash’ also lacks a decent scent.  It looks like it should be wafting a fragrant cloud across the pepper and tomato plantings, but sadly the gardener smells nothing.

Roses have been a distraction, and even the lazy version of our gardener was spending a good amount of time planting the new ones and fussing over the older bushes.  He misses the scents of iris season, but now when the fruity fragrance of rose drifts by it’s not as bad.

rose westerland

‘Westerland’ is beautiful.  I love the color and am thrilled it see it settling in.

The gardener is hoping that 2021 will be his first exciting rose year since the small cuttings and bareroot plantings of the past two years are finally beginning to amount to something.  I’ve told the gardener that some regular fertilizing and water would do the roses wonders and probably have them topping arbors within a year, but the gardener is stubborn on top of lazy, and the roses are raised “tough”… which you probably know isn’t a thing, it’s just an excuse for them not growing as well as they could.

digitalis mertonensis

The first strawberry foxglove (Digitalis mertonensis) is the one that planted itself right on top of a snowdrop clump.  Foxgloves were one of my first plant fascinations btw.

Not to get distracted yet again but the foxgloves are coming, and although they don’t do well for me, even a poorly grown plant looks exceptional.

digitalis purpurea

The first common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) to survive to blooming in years has me excited, so of course I was crushed to see the wall of foxgloves a friend was enjoying this year… but if seeing nicer gardens is really discouraging I would have quit this years ago!

Of course one lone foxglove in bloom had me imagining all the amazing things the gardener could do with foxgloves so that brings me to the reason I’m enjoying rain while the rest of the country bakes under a bubble of heat.  I was distracted.  I was fantasizing about the latest offerings from the little Rhode Island Nursery known as Issima.  They had a common D. purpurea but with cool grayish foliage and a light fuzz to it, and I hemmed and hawed over D. purpurea ssp. heywoodii long enough that it sold out (which happens rather quickly to this ’boutique’ nursery) so of course I bought other stuff instead.

So I blame indecision for the reason this post has been in progress for four days now.  That and a party at our house for a dozen teen and pre-teen girls and of course other stuff.  There’s always other stuff and it’s usually good, but not always.

Hope your other stuff is good this week 🙂

Thursday’s Feature: Digitalis x mertonensis

I’ve said it before that I’m not much of a joiner and I’m far too disorganized to keep up with most weekly or monthly memes, but I’m going to give this one a try.  Kimberley over at Cosmos and Cleome has brought back the “Thursday feature” and it’s a chance to highlight any one particular plant which caught your fancy in the past week.  This week among all the wonders of June a foxglove has caught my eye and it’s just a little bit different than your average foxglove.

digitalis mertonensis

Fuzzy leaves, a strawberry color, and a 3-4 foot bloom height are trademarks of Merton’s foxglove and/or the strawberry foxglove (Digitalis mertonensis).

The strawberry foxglove (Digitalis x mertonensis) is a hybrid formed by the joining of your regular tall, purple (biennial) Digitalis purpurea and your shorter, mellow yellow (perennial) Digitalis grandiflora.  The offspring was a tetraploid child with perennial-ish tendencies, larger flowers, and a rose color that holds just a little bit of yellow (you can always count on me for these vague made up color descriptions!)  They come true from seed, and although most sources recommend moist, fertile, well-drained, soil in part shade, mine suffer along just fine in a dry sunny spot which also grows sunflowers well enough.

I noticed a few seedlings earlier in the year and should really round them up for a more suitable home.  This foxglove is one which seems to do well enough in my garden (unlike the common foxglove, D. purpurea which rots away in our winters) and deserves more respect than I give it.  Maybe this summer I’ll finally start up some of those other Digitalis seeds which are sitting in the seedbox, and we could have a family reunion with all the foxglove cousins and kin.  I think I’d like that.

As I’m sure you know foxgloves (Digitalis) are extremely poisonous and their heart slowing toxin was the inspiration for the digitalin drug group.  I’m not the one to go on about medicinal uses, but if your concerns lie in the area of its toxicity please put that one to rest.  Apparently some brave soul has found it to be extremely bitter, and a side effect of ingestion is vomiting which conveniently removes the poisons.  Give this one a try I say, and also give Kimberley’s site a visit to see what other gardeners are finding interesting this week.  Enjoy!