IT IS AGREEABLE to have a new weed, never seen before in the garden, and I have returned to my jungle after a brief holiday on one of those arctic islands where weeds do not flourish much, except poison ivy.
So you can imagine my surprise to find, upon returning, a quite solid mass of purslane 14 inches high over the little patch in which I grew irises.This improvement (formerly plantain was the scourge) results from having dug in a couple of tons of sand. Purslane comes up very easily, though come to think of it, so did the plantain. Anyway a change is refreshing.
My long-awaited Japanese anemones are in flower and are pink. I thought they would be. Nurserymen get quite tired of my asking for white ones.
But it was white ones I wanted and I kept declining pink ones. Finally (this is my dark view) they just said they were white and I bought a few and they are handsome and pink. Curiously enough, in the interval since I bought them as white, I concluded pink ones would be all right anyway, and almost regretted having gotten white ones. So it had all turned out well, though I believe there is a lesson here on the duplicity of some nurserymen, as well as on the general instability of human gardening desires.
One thing no gardener has ever wavered is a deep revulsion at bindweed, that white-flowered wild morning glory that creeps modestly until it finds something upright, then shoots up at it and smothers it. Or, if it does not actually smother it (and it rarely does), it at least looks weedy and sets many seeds that it takes the rest of a lifetime to get rid of.
There was an affable garden writer once who bought a pleasant centuries-old garden but had to give it up after a while because the bindweed made gardening such a misery. Well, the bindweed has discovered the dahlias and gone right up them, and virtually everything else. It is discouraging, and yet I know I shall enjoy digging up the bindweed roots in the spring, on those first warm days.
THey are white, like spaghetti, and you think they belong to an impressive plant, which indeed they do. In the country they call them devil's gun. Waves of virtue sweep over the gardener as he forks them out.
The various bulbs that are to be planted now or within the next few weeks are displayed at stores, and fortunately my greed has somewhat abated. Having a few bulbs from previous years, I no longer ache when I pass a store selling bulbs, and yet I remember it well, the regular anguish to get in some scillas and crocuses and grape hyacinths and the rest.
Often in town people have somewhat shady places where they know, from sad experience, that tulips do not flourish, not even the first year. The sort of places azaleas do well are usually too shady for things like tulips and daffodils and hyacinths (though is from deciduous trees, the early-season daffodils often ripen their foliage before the sun is completely shaded out - things like 'Tete a Tete' and 'February Gold' are good sorts to try in woodlands, though they prefer more sun).
But in such shady places it is surprising how often the Spanish squill, variously called Scilla campanulata or S. hispanica, will settle in.
The typical kind is sky blue flushed with grayed lavender - the effect is blue, but the color is soft and is by no means pure. Once I grew a number of named kinds and preferred the blue 'Excelsior' and the white 'Alba Superba' to some of the newer and costlier kinds.
But nowadays these scillas (and remember we are talking about the Spanish scillas, not the Siberian or Persian ones: are usually sold as a mixture, which theoretically includes white, rose-mauve and various tints of blue and lavender. In practice such mixtures sometimes turn out to be all one variety, blue.
But, then sometimes they are sold by color, such as blue, without the varieties specified. There may be a dozen blue varieties in the mixture, theoretically, but again it usually turns out the blues are all one variety of blue, which suits me fine.
Clumps of three to six bulbs, set four inches or so apart, make a nive show after a few years, and for some reason nothing ever eats the bulbs, and the floods and hurricanes and droughts and rots and viruses to which all garden plants are subject never seem to bother these squills. I do not know any other bulbous plant so easily pleased.
The flowers are good for cutting, if you go in for that sort of thing, on firm slender stems a foot or so in height hung with bells like crisp recurved thimbles. They bloom with the azaleas or a trifle later, and just before the main irises come into bloom.
As things go nowadays, they are not expensive, and even if the gardener only wants a clump or two (they are admirable at the edge of old shrubs or under trees and will even fight valiantly against Japanese honeysuckle) they are worth having, extremely pleasant to see year after year, and while they do not seed themselves madly like violets they do increase at a steady, decent rate.