Small pleasures are important to the gardener, which is well, since he is going to findsk,2 sw,-2 rapturous ecstasies fairly rare in the garden. But people who are not gardeners are usually startled to see the gardener happy as a dog with two tails merely because some scrawny plant or other has produced a flower.
I would be embarrassed for nongardeners to know how much of my attention this spring has been centered on a whisky barrel with a few plants in it. The main thing is the fried eggs (an inelegant but appropriate common name for Limnanthes douglasii) that have started to bloom.
The leaves look very like carrot leaves, and the plant is dandy when covered solidly for weeks with inch-wide white saucers with canary yellow centers. They do look like fried eggs, in a way.
Sharing the tub is a little patch of toadflax, a real triumph. I ordered seeds from Thompson & Morgan and they were out -- refunded my money. A kind reader sent me seeds collected from her garden. They are now blooming, tiny lavender snapdragon-type flowers with a yellow dot at the throat. They will look fine when they start trailing over the edge of the tub.
Then there is a slender annual with brilliant blue flowers, the name of which I am not bothering to look up since they seem to be petering out. Anagallis linifolia, it's come back to me, but as I say it looks puny and I doubt I'll have it long. Then there is a lavender in full bloom, over at the edge of the tub. Lavender does not like tubs in the winter and you usually lose it. In the ground you don't. This lavender is in the tub because that's where we want it, but I know from experience it will freeze solid next winter.
Another tub has two cranesbills or Geraniums, to give them their correct name. One is G. endressii 'Wargrave,' with pinkish flowers over nicely cut leaves, and the other is the garden variety called 'Ballerina,' a rather smoldering but pale pink with black eye. I bought only one plant of each, assuming they will seed about madly in the tub, and next year I can transplant the baby geraniums to carpet a bed beneath hybrid tea roses.
A somewhat flashy orange-peach tender hibiscus is also in the geranium tub, an odd combination, but it had to go somewhere. It will be potted early in October and brought indoors for the winter.
Yet another barrel is occupied by angel trumpets. These are Daturas, and I have no idea which one. The one we used to call angel trumpet is D. suaveolens, which makes a semiwoody plant up to 10 feet high, from which white trumpet flowers hang straight down. But Datura metel is also called angel trumpet, and its blooms are only five or six inches long, and they stick out from the plant rather than hang down.
Anyway, someone kindly sent me seed and we shall see what comes of it.
Another barrel is occupied by 50 freesias. I have never been able to flower freesias, really, but these are supposed to grow outdoors in summer. I will say this for them, all 50 are thriving, now at about 7 inches. In the center I have some pea stakes made of steel, with a few Japanese morning glories (not yet sprouted) that are supposed to grow up the stakes and make the tub glorious when the freesias are finished and withered.
A large plastic pot, which I dislike and cannot now think why I bought, has several young plants of the wild Canna maximowiczii in it. These are from seed I collected from my own plants two or three years ago. They have sat in a jar by the stud box on my chest of drawers, very much in the way, spilling from time to time. Very good of them to sprout. It is a lovely plant with bronzy leaves and small vermilion flowers, but the main thing is the grace of the plant, the way it holds it leaves. It makes all other cannas I have grown look clumsy.
About the edge of the pot are seedling petunias. A retired barber down the alley from me has just the kind I like best -- fairly wild, off-white and off-pink and lavender petunias that smell splendid. They bloom massively and faithfully and the flowers are small. Over the decades I have grown a lot of kinds, including the fully double ones I had as a boy, when I was much impressed that their seeds cost more than gold. Since gold was then about $30 an ounce, and since there are roughly a trillion petunia seeds per ounce, they were not all that expensive per pinch of seeds.
Then more recently I have liked the very fragrant deep blue-violet 'Mariner.' But of all petunias I like best the semiwild ones. I stole a few capsules from my neighbor's plants, hanging over the alley last October (he clears the bed for winter, and I do not call it stealing, really) and sprinkled them in the pot. So I hope this summer to have the same wild ones he does.
We have a stretch of plain iron spindles forming a railing for 20 feet, to keep you from falling into the stairwell outdoors for the basement. One year I grew some tropical morning glories, the pink ones you see often in the Yucatan, and it was pretty. Another year I grew Eccremocarpus scaber, a pretty nonspectacular climber from Chile, boasting little clusters of tubular flowers in red and yellow (on separate plants). All of these have been agreeable on the railing. But this year I have planted a moonflower, a night-blooming morning glory with white saucers seven inches across, to grow on the railing. It has just sprouted (it is an annual easily grown from seed) in a steel cylinder that began life as a container for ice cream. The moonflower likes to romp all over the place, shooting up 20 feet or more, and I expect the relatively small cylinder will keep it fairly small, just enough to creep along the railing and afford a fine sight out the door on August nights.