HISBE WAS in bloom (weakly) at Thanksgiving, and so, I suppose, was "Mme. Alfred Carriere" - both roses I love, and so was "Joseph's Coat," a rose I increasingly dislike because its scarlet and chrome (so brilliant and alive, at first) turn to a beige-purple sludge color.
I cannot, offhand, think of any coloring quite so awful as some of those brilliant roses turn. How like life. You trust, at the last, plain wool and a yard wide, because many luminaries and wonders are not worth the bother of digging a hole for them.
When the snow fell, I though it was well, and foresighted of me, to devote a precious post along the walk (there are only four) to the plain green Akebia quinata.
It is nothing much all spring and summer, but it is not merely green in the fall and in February-March, it is positively radiant. I first fell in love with that vine many years ago, when it was fresh and luxuriant in February, on those mild days when one races about the garden but hardly anything looks good.
Another vine worth having now is Hall's Japanese honeysuckle, which is the honeysuckle that strangles young dogwoods and hickories all over the Eastern and Southern halves of America. It is always listed as an unspeakable pest.
Few seem to have noticed that it is a plant of the very highest distinction. It blooms into November, but more than that, it is fresh and rich green through most of the winter, and one of the first vines to look wholesome in February.
I agree that in a woodland, with thin tentacles, it is both dangerous and worthless as an ornament. In a garden, allowed to develop some fullness of growth, it is a treasure.
Nothing surpasses the common Irish Ivy at this season, but so common a vine hardly bears mentioning. I have spent the past three years coaxing it to go up a maple trunk. It will, in due time.
There is a Japanese maple, a seedling from one of the various ornamental sorts, not quite shoulder high, that I fell in love with when I saw it among a nurseryman's junk in Pennsylvania. He didn't want much for it, since it was not one of the famous varieties of that maple, merely a chance plant from seed. There was something about it, the starry leaves, the arching stems, the air of vigor, that quite won me over. I notice it never begins to color until late November, which is too late, since freezes ruin such late-coloring fall leaves. Even so, I treasure it.
This year Viburnum juddii (named for Mr. Judd) is uncommonly fine in its deep crimson fall foliage.
Wright's viburnum, on the other hand (V. wrightii), which is so celebrated for bright crimson leaves, hardly turned color at all. Viburnum tomentosum Mariesii (Maries' viburnum, named for Mr. Maries) turned soft salmon and yellow with a bit of reddish purple - not very brilliant, but reasonably rich and desirable.
I am not sure what is wrong with my Leyland cypress, which in future years will be such a comfort this time of year, though not yet. It can grow 3 or 4 feet a year. Mine likes to sit there all year, then start sending up new growth in October, tender as a lamb, and of course this makes me fidget right through the winter. Surely it will come round eventually to the conclusion that April - APRIL - is the time for the new growth, not October.
I had some yews, once, that did the same thing, but the winter never hurt them and they eventually got more regular and conventional in behavior, which was a relief.
After pointing out the wisdom of planting pansies in October, to all who would listen, I was dismayed to find pansies sold out, so I will have none this spring. This is what comes of putting things off, and telling other people what to do instead of tending to one's own muttons.
Also, I have 127 tulip bulbs still not planted, plus about 100 I lifted last year and stored in sand. Naturally, since tulips are coming out my ears, the stored bulbs did well, indeed superbly. If you have only a handful, it seems to me they shrivel up or rot in storage, while if you are way behind schedule (and sort of wish there were fewer) not a one perishes. They are all sitting there looking eager. Look, I am doing the best I can, which is not very good.
The "Spanish Beauty" badly needs whacking back - sometimes I think it is my favorite rose, also known as 'Mme. Gregoire Staechelin' - and how will it all ever get done.
Unfortunately I saw some good bulbs of Iris histrioides, Iris bakeriana, etc., at a garden center, and planted a half-dozen bulbs in pots. Not that they need protection, but they are so glorious and bloom so early (early February or even late January) that it is hard to worship at their feet (they are three to six inches high) outdoors in a muddy winter.
I. histrioides is sky blue with a dash of electric passion, and I. bakeriana is almost black, a rich blue-purple with fiery orange beard on a white ground with little black dots, like ermine tails, on the white. I cannot imagine its ever making a show. If you had a thousand of it, it would be like having a thousand basset hounds - that is, not quite right.
Things like this iris, and magnificent hounds, and Kohinoor Diamonds, are not meant for mass display - daisies do well for such a purpose - but for marvelling at, one by one.
Anyhow, I got off on a few small bulbs, which did not fit in my Great Plan or Orderly Schedule for Fall, and so I am behind on the tulips.
The cannas have to come in. "Wyoming" is the one I do not want to lose. Bronze leaves and apricot-vermillion-orange flowers. My wife prefers "Le Roi Humbert," bronze leaves and deep red flowers. Every year I keep planting both, so I will notice and remember which one I prefer, but I keep forgetting which one is my favorite. Now, after about 10 years, I finally know. "Wyoming" has been dug up, but must be brought in to winter in the basement.
One of the great treasures of the cold-weather garden is Iris unguicularis from Algeria, which blooms off and on (depending on strain and vigor) from November to April. Nothing to look at in the garden, but the small flowers are massively exciting when discovered under the leaves on a cold day. After many efforts to acquire it, some finally arrived today from a nursery in Kent.
It is poor weather. I have other things I must do today. And I have just been to the dentist, who arranged a "root canal" for one of my helpless teeth and lectured it on being a sad specimen indeed.
So of course that is the day the Irises arrived. They must be got in, weather or no weather, anguish or no anguish.
One thing I rather like about gardening is that the plants (however deplorable the garden looks) have a life of their own. The gardener will of course die from the dentist or a weak gizzard or something tiresome, but no matter, the Algerian iris has got to be assisted to live. The gardener soon starts thinking the plants are more important than he is. Certainly more beautiful. If I live through the blasting, I also propose to plant my phormium (treasure of treasures) golden elder and the livid hellebore and the phlomis. What incredible richness has come in the mail. Neither snow nor decrepitude nor dentist nor despair will prevent their planting. They are rich in grace and grace finds means.