Returning to a garden after a vacation can be disheartening. Bindweed, or devil's guts, as some people call it (having discovered its true origin, no doubt), is going to be with every gardener who now has it for the rest of his life.
It is the easiest of all weeds to pull up, not that that does the least good for more than a few weeks, as the vine shoots up again. The small white or pink flowers like morning glories are pretty enough, but the bindweed's growth is so dense it will kill, not merely weaken, virtually any plant it gets a hold on.
I have known it to kill a wisteria vine. It will kill roses in one season. Of course the gardener attacks it before it does great damage, but if a plant is neglected the bindweed will do it in forever.
At Cape May, N.J., where we vacationed, I was startled to see no signs of bindweed or poison ivy, both of them major pests in much of America. On the other hand I was equally surprised to see nut grass, a great scourge in gardens south of Washington, but not an important weed in the capital.
Nothing is more beautiful than grapevines, wild or cultivated. I have several, and one grows over the kitchen door on a little stoop framed by a wooden arch. Rose clippers are handy, and about every three weeks I snip off long trails of grape that start dangling down. You wouldn't suspect it, but that grape has smothered out the trumpet vine that shares the arbor.
Even more alarming than grapes is a related vine, the porcelain berry. It has beautiful foliage, smaller but thicker in substance than leaves of the other parthenocissus and ampelopsis relatives, and it starts off with great charm and modesty. And of course the clusters of small sky-blue berries with black dots on them are handsome in the fall. But it can grow 30 feet quickly.
The trumpet vines are equally menacing, and the best way to keep them in order is to chop with a sharp hoe in late spring when suckers appear.
Even worse is the beautiful five-leaved akebia, which is unrivaled for refined green leaves in half-shady places. If you want a vine over an arch in the sort of place azaleas flourish, nothing is better. Unfortunately, it sends out long stems on the ground, and as these long shoots are leafless the gardener doesn't notice them beneath azaleas, say. The first warning sign is the delicate akebia leaves here and there in other plants. If not got out immediately, akebias will throttle and subdue any shrub or young tree.
If all these vines are so dangerous in the garden, why grow them? Well, because they are beautiful. I guess I could live without them, but certainly never intend to.
One happy surprise upon returning to my garden, and dashing out before the luggage was brought in, was to see scarlet tomatoes on the seven-foot-high plants. They were netted, over their five-foot-high wire cages, with that infuriating black net made up of three-quarter-inch squares. It catches on everything, and even the most retarded squirrel can easily chew right through it. All the same, four plants that were not netted have not produced a single usable tomato. The 10 plants covered with nets have not lost a single fruit to squirrels or other beasts. All will be well if the squirrels don't read this.
An uncommonly pretty summer flower is the mandevilla, which comes in various forms, but the only one I have seen is a soft rose color. You grow it in a pot and let it climb up to eight feet or so on a porch pillar or other support, and enjoy its three-inch circular waxy flowers in summer, then bring it in as a house plant till the following May. Hastings, the nursery at 1036 White St. SW, Atlanta, Ga. 30310-8535, makes a specialty of mandevillas, and I shall buy one next spring if I can remember to. The vines flourish in pots as small as 10 inches.
Extra rain this year has meant more cloud cover than usual, and this has resulted in later than usual tomatoes. On the other hand, crape myrtles, crinums and every other creature that loves heat and moisture have outdone themselves.
I have not grown gladioluses for several years, except the few that keep coming up here and there. The general complaint is that they are not effective in the garden and are useful only for cutting. That is not fully true. The main trouble is twofold: that they lean and wobble unless staked, and that the lower florets wither and hold on, ruining the effect of the fresh florets above them. The answer, needless to say, is to stake them and to cut off the lower faded florets every day or so. It's not something I do, but in a small place it might be worth doing.
In small gardens, where every flower is prized, it is worthwhile to snap off the faded flowers of daylilies. Irises in the spring are also worth the small effort of snapping off the withered blooms. It takes less time than one might think.
It will soon be time to plant fall bulbs again. October is the month for most of them, and I like September for planting daffodils, and November for tulips. I noticed an ad for the spring or blue starflower, now temporarily settled as ipheion uniflorum but liable to such other names as brodiaea and milla. The ad said the variety 'Wisley Blue' is bluer than the plain wild uniflorum. Not to my eyes. It is much less blue, but is a darker tone of lavender with more pink in it. The ordinary uniflorum is white with a faint blue cast, while the one that used to be called uniflora violacea is almost sky blue, and that's the one you want if you want blue. 'Wisley Blue' is handsome in its way, and for some reason it is always thought desirable to deepen the color of any flower. I bought it when it was new and expensive and was therefore proud of myself, but it is not as handsome, not as "good" as the commoner kind.
I wonder if most gardeners find themselves unable to resist the tiger lily, Lilium tigrinum. They are in full bloom now, the Turk's-cap blooms orange, heavily dotted with black. It is an Asian bulb that has found much of America to its liking. So has another Asian, the double tawny daylily called 'Kwanso,' and often called "tiger lily" also, though a quite different plant from the true tiger lily.
I have been asked what is eating somebody's pine needles. On pine trees, of course. I am no good at pests eating things, as I never seem to have any, except squirrels in the tomatoes. I also dislike pines, not that the world should stop for that. People worried about bugs should read bug books or consult bug people. I do not hold with them.