HOME GARDENERS, I am sorry to notice, who dug up their gladiolus last October and kept them good and dry in a box for spring planting, have not in fact got around to planting them. Do it now.
What awful words they are, "do it now," and sometimes I feel it applies to everything in the garden.
Well, do what you can and hope for the best.
Today I see a flower on the tiny viola, "Bowles' Black," which is dark violet and a tiny white center. I got the seeds from England, and it is odd anybody would care for such a plant, since it is no larger in its flowers than small fingernails, and the color is so dark it doesn't show up at all. It's only when you look straight at it at close range that you notice it at all.
And yet it is like many other things that gardeners love and would not want to be without.
Another plant that does not amount to a row of beans is the variegated sweet flag, acorus, which looks like the swamp irises you see along the Eastern Shore, except that it has no beautiful flowers like the iris. Its sword leaves are neatly striped lenghtwise with soft ivory.
If the roots are bruised you get a scent of tangerines, but my acorus is too small for any such nonsense. If you cut the leaves and dry them, you can strew them on the stone floor of your great hall. I believe the first Queen Elizabeth was fond of the acorus used this way. Whether they would also keep fleas off the dog [strewn in this dog house] I do not yet know.
I do know that two of the wormwoods or Aremisias are no good for a hound's fleas. The wormwood from which absinthe used to be made [A. absinthicum] is a handsome gray-green plant with leave cut somewhat like an acanthus or a tansy, and another one, called "lad's love" or "southernwood" is much more feathery, like a carrot, with leaves of soft green with a blue and gray haze over them.
The lad's love [I am not sure the origin of the name, and doubt it is innocent] has one of the memorable fragrances among all the vegetable kingdom. It is medicinal, sweet piercing and substantial -- exactly the sort of scent you do not find in soap, candles, shaving cream, department stores or aerolsol cans, which speaks well for it.
People used to cut small tufts of flowers -- a rose, a couple of pansies, the tip of a snapdragon, a few late violets and so on -- and center the bunch with some sprigs of lad's love. It is said women found these useful to while away the time during endless church services. I do not know what men did, apart from sleep, during those ordeals.
The french, who are so practical, call the lad's love "garde robe" because [for them] it keeps away moths.
One year Bass and Luke both were afflicted with fleas beyond enduanace and I tried both these wormwoods in their bedding but could see no good of it. Also I put them in closests about the house.
We had no moths. But then we never had any moths anyways.
It is as garden plants, thenthat I value them.
Now as you know the weather this spring has been unspeakable.
And yet the striped American agave, the three big ones in a big pot, has quite revived itself and looks well for a change. It is force to spend the winter in a rather sunless spot indoors. I keep it dry, watering it only every two months or so when it threatens to die.
It is in no position to complain, therefore, about the general lack of sunshine this spring, and is making the most of it.
The Lord only knows why I acquired seed of two wild cannas, C. iridiflora and that other one that is named for six Poles, I think. I need cannas as New Guinea needs more mangroves, that is, hardly.
My theory at the time was they probably would not come up.
There were only five seeds of one sort, and all five are up about an inch high. The wonderful thing about them is they have that whorled spiky rabbit-ear look that garden cannas do when they sprout in April and I find the infants irresistible.
The young plant of clematis texensis has honored me with a few flowers. They are small, urn-shaped, cherry red with a suggestion of scarlet. Nurserymen should bestir themselve to propagate this modest climber, but I have never had any luck with seeds. Whatever the difficulties may be, they should be surmounted.
This clematis has sired several garden hybrids but none of them is as beautiful as the wild one.
The last flowers have gone on the mock orange, "Belle Etolile." This year they had a pale purple flush at the center. It depends on the weather. Some years the purple is decided, other years it is washy and in still other years there is none at all. The fragrance varies also. It is often said to be the most highly perfumed of all garden mock oranges but in a long rainy spring with little sun it may have almost no scent.
Whenever you grow roses from seed you should keep records of the parents that produced the seed, so that whem the seedlings bloom you will know what you have.
I have a rose that rather wishes to climb halfheartedly and has nice glossy leaflets and trusses of single pink musk-scented flowers. It blooms off and an through the summer and I have got fond of it.
I remember well enough the parents I used, in crossing several roses, but in the years that have elapsed I have of course forgotten where I planted them. Little roses come up here and there and I watch them, but when they bloom I have no idea what they came from.
The one I like undoubtedly has, as its seed parent, either "Dortmund" or R. soulieana or R. chinensis mutabilis or
"Thisbe" or R. rubrifolia, and at the time I had something or other in mind but now, of course, who knows what it was. I suspect it is a seeding of "dortmund," which is one of those German roses raised by Kordes; and my baby is not nearly so handsome, though better scented. Anyway, the point is that one should keep records.
Just as one plants the gladiolus in March, not June. CAPTION: Picture, metropolitan Museum of Art