Efforts To thin out the dame'e violets last year were all too successful and this year I have none.
This excellent weed, often called the Virginia stock, grows waist to chest high, and is studded up the stem with little florets like vitaminpoor phlox. Sometimes at night it is sweetly scented, somethings not; and while the white sort is handsome, I secretly prefer the sad mauve.
But it is a great one for spreading out, as bad as ahollyhock, so I am usually busy pulling it out in the spring to keep it in bounds and, as I say, I over-did it, and now have none. Not that I want any.
And yet I miss it. The same feelings occur with Bouncing Bet, or Lively Elizabeth as a pedantic friend of mine once called it, for it too is a stubborn weed and yet its dim off-pink flowers speak so loudly of dusty roads off the highways that almost everybody likes it. The same is true of Queen Anne's lace.
Nothing pleases the gardener more than plants that spring up from unplanted seed, because not only do you find nice weeds such as mustard chicory, and the like, but sometimes real treasures.
In Washington gardens, where mainly ordinary things are grown, we can hardly expect to find a self-sown rarity from Bhutan, but we may indeed find an infant peony.
Often, in gardens where peonies are not dead-headed, the seed ripens and falls and two years later a tiny peony plant appears. Usually these are grubbed out in weeding.
But I kept one that I found under a bush of the old 'Festiva Maxima' and nursed it along, though outraged to see that it took eight years to flower (a peony ought to flower in four years from seedling stage, in my opinion). When it did flower, it upset my theory that there is no such thing as an ugly peony, for it was, and is, a dull muddy off-red.
After you've fidgeted around with it for all those years, however, you are not likely to toss it out. At least it's different from the others, which are beautiful.
Speaking of beauties, I notice with some alarm that my taste in hardy water lilies has not advanced with the times. Of the ones I grow, 'Chromatella,' 'Aurora,' 'James Brydon,' 'Robinsoni,' 'Helvola' and 'Pink Opal,' all but the last were common in gardens at the turn of the century.
Somehow I expect new varieties to be better.
Water lilies are harder than most garden plants to select, because it never occurs to anybody in government (parks) to grow a representative collection of them that gardeners can visit.
So gardeners choose what sounds nice in a catalogue; and since their garden pool will only hold one or two or three, they have no way of knowing whether there might be others they would like better, if only they knew about them.
It does strike me that a lot of money is spent clipping bushes in Meridian Hill Park into globules that could better be spent leaving them alone and applying the cash to water lilies in parks with still ponds.
Even at Longwood, the large garden of Wilmington, I was sorry to notice the water lily collection was both small and the plants very poorly grown indeed, as if nobody gave a damn about them, which is probably the case.
The ones at the National Arboretum are even shabbier, and this sort of thing really is disappointing since any nitwit can grow superb specimens of water lily.
Of course, if you propose to grow them in raging torrents of ice water, you will have poor results, but any garden pool in full sun will do. Fountains, apart from looking quite foolish as a rulem disturb water lilies and that is grounds for banning them except in front of former railway stations.
I should report in the interest of accuracy that some of my favorite roses are wrecked by rain, and the old ones are much worse than the new. The rugosa rose hydrid, 'Agnes,' is a soggy mess that never dries out after the rain, but hangs on it tatters.
There is much to be said for modern floribundas that, I believe, grow quite well in hell and certainly stand up nicely to the worst our weather can do.
But other roses, such as 'Agnes, go all to pieces, and possibly I cherish them because they reflect my own views of spring thunderstorms so accurately.
For me it is enough to see the plant in supreme beauty a few hours, but I acknowledge it is a servere defect in a rose (or an iris or lily) to be damaged whenever it rains, and of course many modern roses are quite weather resistant.
For some years I used to read of this or that iris that "stood up to the worst hail of Nebraska" or "unlike all the others, endured in perfection four days in the worst heat of Michigan."
I do not know how many irises I have grown, far more than most gardeners certainly, including the marvelous tough ones I read about in the iris society's bulletins. I do not say that liars commonly write about irises, but I do say they are too easily made glad.
I do not know any iris that will last more than a day or a day and a half in hot weather, and none that will last even a day in a spring rainstorm.
There is no point fooling with them, probably, if one cannot resign himself to seeing them beat to smithereens every spring. But of course there are soft days with temperatures under 80 and no wind or hail or other postal-type horrors, and then the irises are supremely beautiful. An exhibit of cut iris stalks will be seen today at the National Arboretum, provided by members of the local iris society, and most of them will be labeled as to variety. CAPTION: Picture, no caption, By Charles Del Vecchio - The Washington Post