Returning after some days in England and Wales I expected the garden to be a mess, and it was, but much more than I expected.
One bright spot was the fish pool, in which I had planted five tropical waterlilies a day or so before I left. They were small plants, and the first two weeks is the critical time for them as they meet the cruel outdoor world for the first time.
To my delight, all had grown admirably and four were in bloom. The fifth had floated up from its tub of good clay mud and was sailing about the pool, but even it had suffered no damage. I waded in, planted it back, with a couple of bricks at the side to encourage it to stay put (taking enormous care not to bury the growing point where the new leaves emerge) and after a week it too is blooming.
This was far different from other parts of the garden, which were swamped. The polygonum vine, which had been trimmed just before I left, had taken advantage of the absence and completely covered the openings of the three arches that it is supposed to grow over. It is not supposed to hang down like a dense curtain, blocking the entire arch.
One of my minor joys is a furcrea, a yucca-looking creature from Mexico, which lives in a lead tub. I took particular care there were no infant weeds there when I left, and there were none when I returned, but a bindweed had sprouted some feet away and managed to fling a delicate tendril over -- and once a bindweed gets a wee stem on a support it suddenly grows with astonishing vigor. I couldn't even see the furcrea, but fortunately it was all right once the bindweed was pulled off.
Also I could not see the puya at all, because the polygonum had grown down six feet and swamped it in its pot. It too is all right now. I would hate to lose it, as it reminds me of a cross between a yucca and a great white shark, fiercely toothed on the margins.
A really fine treasure, a seedling tree peony of a wild Chinese parent, was covered by an encroaching giant hosta, and a young plant of the Cambridge rose, a cross of two wild yellow species, had been covered by intruding brambles but had managed to send up a couple of shoots higher than the competition.
All these things are rather easily corrected. The briers are removed, the vines are cut out, the usurping grape vines are whacked back, the purslane is grubbed out, and no great harm is done.
But what a pleasure to see the lily pool, with no attention at all, still brim full reflecting the sky and dotted with pink and blue waterlilies.
I might add that a hardy waterlily, 'Pink Opal,' has always grown well with me. It crept out of its tub a couple of years ago and I just left it alone until it threatened to take over half the pool. I waded in and divided it a few months ago, chopping it into 10 good tubers I found homes for, keeping only a small root for myself. Then another volunteer root came up, that I missed when dividing the large plant, so I have two. Never has it bloomed so well, or the flowers been so large, and never has the color been quite so lustrous. Thus we see once again the rewards of generosity.
The only reason I hesitate to give anybody waterlily roots is that ordinary people do not value anything they get free. If they pay $25 for 'Pink Opal' they take better care of it, as a rule. It will be several years before I again build up a fine surplus, by the way.
The daylilies have been a severe disappointment, possibly because I didn't weed them thoroughly this spring. Even so, I expect them to bloom their heads off and they didn't. Except the wild Hemerocallis citrina, a great favorite of mine that blooms only at night, long tubular trumpet flowers highly scented. I grow it in a barrel near the pool, so it of course is under my eye and weeds never get a foothold in it. It is beautiful about breakfast time, a dozen or so stalks of flower past which you see the blue and pink waterlilies.
Last year only one cutting rooted of several I took from Clematis vedrariensis. This is a pink four-petaled flower about the size of a silver dollar, that blooms with the azaleas in late April. I hoped and expected that this year it would grow to perhaps five feet or so, but it has just sat there in this its second year. I am some put out. Still, we learn patience in gardening, having no choice in the matter. I keep watering it, and maybe next year it will take off.
I bet I am the only creature in Washington who grows 'Aglaia,' a turn of the century rose named for one of the Muses. Most authorities say it is not worth growing now, with the implication it never was worth growing except that it was grandparent of such hybrid musks as 'Penelope.'
But I do not accept the majority opinion and by dint of reading obscure books I have managed to find two references to this yellow rose (small, indecisive in color and only blooming in spring) that say (after ritual apologies for liking so shabby a specimen) it really is "showy," according to one account, and "more refined than 'Goldfinch,' " according to another. Mine did not bloom this year but has sent up several encouraging four-foot stems. Maybe next year I shall see it, and hope it will like the purple small cluster rose, 'Violette,' that I have chosen for it. I know 'Goldfinch,' a great favorite of some of the most celebrated rose growers of England, but which I do not like, so I hope 'Aglaia' will please me better. Probably won't.
But really there is no point growing the same thing everybody else does. 'Golden Showers' is probably the best general yellow climbing rose for Washington today, having some fragrance, a beautiful semidouble soft yellow flower and a propensity to bloom steadily throughout the summer. So of course I must have some waif and stray of a rose that everybody discarded by 1910. Well, at least I must say of 'Aglaia' that the foliage is handsome and healthy, no black spot, and that is something.