Nov 24, 2009

Bulb Time

I’m no longer so optimistic about the prospects of a wet winter, but nevertheless, the weekend-after-Thanksgiving plan is to get a heap more bulbs in the ground. I probably go a little crazy on bulbs. How can you not? Last year I put in 250, distributed around the yard. I got them in fairly late—Christmastime—owing to delays associated with the protracted Ivy War. And bulbs were last in the planting queue, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about inadvertently digging them up while planting other things. Despite their somewhat late planting, they did not disappoint—March brought pretty pink powder puffs of Allium unifolium, and by April the whole yard was dotted with the ultramarine of Triteleia laxa (Ithuriel’s Spear), with a dash of variously-colored, swoon-inducing Calochortus (superbus and venustus) sprinkled in. For reasons I don’t understand, and someone with more botanical knowledge can maybe fill me in, the Calochortus produced several blooms per bulb, whereas the Allium and Triteleia produced one inflorescence per bulb. This year though, I’m hoping for a real treat, because I know these bulbs have been busy multiplying. I occasionally accidentally dig them up while pursuing ivy insurgents, and have been thrilled to find three to six bulbs, depending on conditions, wherever I’d planted one. This in just one year!

And this season I’m adding red and yellow to the bulb mix. The guidelines I follow on designing with color are as follows: more is more, and colors can’t clash. (I especially adhere to these rules in the context of gardens, but come to think of it, I pretty much apply them in most contexts—like Fiesta dishes for example, but don’t even get me started.) The red will be coming from one Dichelostemma ida-maia, and the yellow from Triteleia ixioides. I don’t have a planting plan, per se, just gonna go out with a box of bulbs in one hand and a trowel in the other and start planting. If spring brings yellow, pink and red side by side, that’s more than fine with me. For more info on these beauties, see the descriptions I wrote for Garden Natives here.

I am a bit worried about the rain situation; the four inches my rain gauge collected in October, which I’d then celebrated as a wondrous miracle, are a distant memory now, but it did induce last year's bulbs to start growing—not to mention starting a veritable carpet of wildflower seedlings. Someone knowledgeable told me not to worry, that the bulbs could sort of “push pause” and then resume growing when rain returns, but I haven’t quite been confident enough with that advice to refrain from watering. Therefore, I’ve been setting a sprinkler throughout the yard—I hate to, but I’m just too scared of letting the bulbs croak. As it is, I’m nervous I haven’t sprinkled enough. It’s a lot of dang hassle moving the hose around the yard at intervals—it takes like a day. As for the annual seedlings, a few patches in harder-to-haul-the-hose-to areas did bite the dust, but it’s not too tragic, because I have tons of collected seed squirreled away in envelopes, so I’ll simply throw out a second wave of annuals later when the rain seems more reliable.

In the event that the El Nino predictions are off and the rains never get very reliable…well, I’ll keep watering. People make fun of me because I’m dragging a hose around after touting my drought tolerant native garden, but come on people, I didn’t mean this time of year! I was puzzling over this subject with a dude at my work, who is a harsh critic of my decision to water, and we were saying, Well what happens during dry years in nature? My conclusion was, Nature doesn’t care if she loses a bunch of bulbs or anything else once in a while, because she has all the time in the world. But the gardener is attached to the plants she lovingly placed (not to mention purchased), ergo the gardener hauls out the hose during dry spells. I hope to not need to much longer.

Nov 3, 2009

Sun Sun, Go Away

Dang, so much for my super-soaker winter prediction! Just kidding, I know there’s still plenty of time—as pointed out by the weather blog I’m anxiously following these days. Plus we are still way, way over normal rainfall to date, which is a great and magical thing. It’s just that I was hoping the ground wouldn’t have a chance to dry back out, because as part of my Yard 2.0 plan, I am still putting in a lot of new plants. (Last year’s Yard 1.0 left plenty of room for both additions and do-overs.) I wanted to get all plants in as early as possible so they could spend lots of time establishing and therefore need very, very little water next summer, and I have about half in now, but looks like I will need to babysit them until the rains come back to stay. I have a great drip system that was installed by the eminently knowledgeable Garden Natives during the summer, so that will be a boon, but some of the new plants are out of its reach. Also, after the October rain, the entire yard became a carpet of wildflower seedlings, and even though I will need to cull a huge number (*sniff!*), I can’t bear to let the rest keel over from thirst, which means I’ll probably set out the old fashioned sprinkler a few times. I know sprinklers use an outrageous amount of water, which makes me really wish I had planned and installed a rain water catchment system. I had abandoned the idea on the grounds that it was too much hassle and money, but now I realize if I’d done it, I’d have hundreds of gallons of free water just waiting to go out on those new plants. Also, I accidentally left my wheelbarrow and a Rubbermaid bin out in the October storm, and it felt so eco-friendly pouring it on my plants, I got sort of hooked. Plus, as every gardener knows, rain water is infinitely more beneficial than tap water. I’m told by a Very Smart Dude I know (my brother), that this is because rain picks up nitrogen from the atmosphere. So I’ll be shopping rain barrels soon, and will post whatever I come up with here.