A brief and anguished note: It was wrong to boast of having rid the garden of bindweed. I deeply regret having boasted in this way, and have been severely punished by a sudden flourishing of bindweed from roots that have been grubbed up the past 10 years.
It is not generally known, and botanists do not believe it, that bindweed sprouts not from little fragments of root (as the books say) but from earth that once held those roots. It is possible bindweed and nut grass are the only two forms of life that come into existence spontaneously, without seed or root or anything else.
Generally it is believed that life on earth began with single-celled organisms and things like algae. My own view, which will probably become gospel once more research in paleobotany has been conducted, is that bindweed and nut grass (the latter, fortunately, is not serious as far north as Washington) came first. And will last longest.
There are people who have seen bindweed at 6 a.m. on a soft August morning, decked with its small white morning-glory blossoms and swelling green seed pods, and who think it beautiful.
Of course it is beautiful. So are coral snakes and cancer cells under a microscope. I don't see what beauty has to do with it.
Country people rightly call bindweed "devil's guts," and never mind the beauty.
It was formerly the custom when grain began to be harvested on Aug. 1 to have a "harvest lord" who organized labor in the fields. He had various duties and prerogatives, as a queen of the May does. You could spot him in the fields because he alone wore a wreath of bindweed on his hat. And here ends my effort to be civil about the bindweed. I honestly did think I had eradicated it from the garden, but all is vanity and vexation of spirit and it seems to me I might as well have never bothered. There are confirmed cases of gardeners' moving away merely to escape the bindweed.
Turning to less gruesome topics, I see that Amaryllis belladonna has escaped comment here. It is a semihardy bulb that in late summer produces naked stems with clusters of fragrant luminous pink flowers at the top.
It is not to be confused with what used to be called Amaryllis halli and is now called Lycoris squamigera, which behaves the same way but blooms earlier in the summer and has narrower foliage and which is hardier to cold.
The A. belladonna that blooms in September makes its leaves after the flowers die off. One is never sure just when to transplant it. Like those of many plants of the amaryllis persuasion, its bulb has a long neck that reaches right to the surface of the earth and which is said to dislike being covered up.
Since it is not ironclad hardy, however, the gardener is always uneasy about that neck sticking up at ground level, where it must endure zero cold in a bad winter.
I dig rather deep holes so that the base of the bulb rests 10 inches below the surface, but fill in the dirt only to the top of the neck, not covering it. Then when winter comes, I put in the rest of the dirt, mulch with a little straw or whatever is handy and hope for the best. In April, I dig about, uncovering the neck. My theory is that after a couple of years the neck elongates as much as it wishes while the main bulb is well below freezing level.
Others, I know, start out planting so that the tip of the neck is right at ground level, never worrying about how deep the bulb is.
Years ago I grew a collection of crinums, the milk-and-wine lilies of the South. They behave like the Lycoris and the Amaryllis bulbs I have mentioned, but some of them are quite tender to cold.
One would prefer to plant them in May, but often the bulbs are available in September. It is traumatic, as so much in gardening is--how to get these big bulbs established in the garden just as the beginning of the cold season, and without roots.
Somehow, it seems to work all right, no matter what one does. I thought the pink crinum called 'Cecil Houdyshel,' (pronounced howdy-shell) was the handsomest of the six or eight kinds I tried in our climatic zone.
When fall freezes begin, the great four-foot-long straplike leaves turn to black mush. I never removed them, leaving them to protect the neck of the bulb, which is right at ground level. All winter and early spring they sat there like a visual-aid demonstration of corruption, but after spring warmed up a great sheaf of new leaves luxuriated and the clump bloomed pretty steadily all through the summer. I notice Spring Hill Nurseries in Tipp City, Ohio, offers 'Cecil Houdyshel,' which is often quite hard to find.
Both the naked ladies (as the Lycoris is called) and A. belladonna are more readily available. The fact that the hardy amaryllis (Lycoris) is fairly common here and Amaryllis belladonna is not at all common makes me wonder if the belladonna is less hardy.
But then I doubt it. It's probably the case that gardeners either do not care so much for these pink lily-type flowers in the heat of summer, or that (as I have often heard people complain) the long leaves are thought messy and unattractive, or that gardeners simply do not think of them, one way or another.
Last fall I was in one of those sea-girt Gulf Stream gardens where a freeze is a rare occurrence, and saw great masses of the belladonna lily blooming with shoulder-high clumps of the blue agapanthus and orange kniphophias. I have never been able to grow kniphophias (red-hot pokers, as they are called) and have more sense than to attempt the great shoulder-high agapanthus outdoors here (though some of the smaller knee-high agapanthus are hardy, but then they miss the point of the great massive gorgeous blue globes of the tender kind).
I am hoping the belladonna, of which I have three plants, will settle in.
All these bulbs, by the way, may take two or three years before blooming. All appreciate full sun and perhaps the shelter of a wall facing south.