A elebrated Russian breeder of lilacs found he could increase the number of thyrses or bloom spikes on his lilacs from the usual two to four or five by watering the shrubs with green water, made of soaking grass and green leaves in water until they rotted.
He also found that dry spells in August were a good time for moving lilacs. I would prefer October, I think, but like most gardeners I have been pressed over the years to do things at quite odd times. Numerous times I have had to move roses in full leaf in the heat of summer, and never lost one, but such operations are hazardous. The plant should be cut back to a third its original size, and not a minute should be lost in planting it in its new spot. Watering must be carefully done for the next several weeks.
A reader reproaches me for praising the Texas primrose, a wildflower often seen in the south-central parts of the country. It is a rapacious weed, he points out.
Well, yes. But put another way, it does not need much coddling.
Last year I bought a plant of this pretty cup-shaped pinkish creature (Oenothera speciosa) at a horrendous price from a nursery. During the winter it heaved up and died, and I am therefore possibly the only gardener who lost this plant. But fortunately, while visiting the Phinneys in Cape May, I saw it growing all round the guest cottage and, upon being offered some, got a fine start. Though planted the last day of July, it is already settled in.
The moderately pretty blue or bluish clematis, C. davidiana (as it is usually called), began blooming the last of July and hit its stride at the end of the first week of August. It should be supported, otherwise it grows out eight feet or so from the crown and flops on the ground, swamping any little thing in the way. It dies completely back in winter, when it appreciates a mulch of horse manure, then shoots up vigorously in April. It will lean itself up against things like trumpet lilies and halfheartedly try to climb, but then comes down in storms. It would look good growing into iron railings, if they are plain -- you would not want to plant it against delicately worked wrought iron, but as nobody has that any more, it could help the looks of the cruddy iron railings we have nowadays.
It is worth getting the name of a plant straight. A reader went to a nursery, asked for a Russian olive or Eleagnus and has been dissatisfied. What he got was E. pungens, a quite beautiful evergreen shrub that likes to halfway climb. It has intensely fragrant flowers of dull off-white in October and November, followed by reddish hard small olive-like fruits. Mockingbirds eat them, and like to nest in the shrubs.
Anyway, what the gardener wanted was not that beautiful plant but the less esteemed E. angustifolius, which makes a small tree with gray leaves and small yellowish fragrant flowers in late spring. It is used as a windbreak in bleak parts of America. It is not evergreen but is beautiful in itself. I noticed a lot of it in Minnesota. It is as handsome as any gray-leaved willow, and could be used in place of the gray willow-leaved pear, Pyrus salicifolia.
The garden at Sissinghurst, an hour or so out of London, has a famous plant of that pear that shimmers in the moonlight and, for that matter, at noontime. It is an uncommon plant in America and therefore quite fashionable, but E. angustifolius is just as handsome. The trouble here, you will notice, is that all of the quite different kinds of Eleagnus are called Russian olive, so in the future that gardener wants to ask for E. angustifolius.
Recently I spoke of a certain lily having rich red-bronze stamens at the tips of its filaments, and (as several have kindly pointed out) that was careless and wrong. The entire structure of filament and anther (the pollen-bearing organ) is the stamen. The filament is the thread-like organ that bears the anther, and together they are called the stamen.
A fellow in the neighborhood planted 10 tomatoes in a space five feet square, and somewhat to my surprise they have flourished (ordinarily, a tomato like 'Better Boy' should have a space three feet square per plant). The squirrels discovered them and he enclosed them in a rather large-meshed wire. He said he was not sure how he'd get in to pick them.
In the event, it made no great difference, as the squirrels got in. Now he has removed the wire mesh, and gets some tomatoes anyway.
I have found black string mesh effective thus far. Of course squirrels can get under it or chew through it easily. But I think the secret is to have a net large enough to hang loosely all down the sides. I suspect the squirrels distrust anything that gives way when their paws touch it, but if the net is made firm and taut the squirrels would have no trouble at all.
I also suspect they simply have not discovered the tomatoes under the nets. Many gardeners have reported their devices against squirrels in the tomatoes. Some are ingenious, and none has worked except small wire mesh supported by posts, and of course the top has to be covered with the mesh also. You build, in other words, a little room of wire, high enough for you to walk in, and this means a door, naturally. The whole thing can be taken down in the fall, and set up again in July.
It would be good to hear from gardeners who have a favorite tomato variety. I have been impressed with 'Super Fantastic,' and wonder if others find it as outstanding as I do.
It's not hard to save seed from tomatoes, though the hybrid varieties (which must be labeled as such on the seed packet) do not come true from seed saved by the gardener and must be ordered anew each year. But the non-hybrid tomatoes do come true from home-saved seed.
You wait till the tomato is fully ripe, then squeeze out the gelatinous goo containing the seed. Put it in a jar with a couple of inches of water over it and let it sit 48 hours, then wash and dry the seed and store it dry in a paper envelope for next year. Some people store tomato seed in the icebox and go through elaborate procedures. Stored in an envelope and set on a shelf, it germinates well the following spring. Stored more elaborately, the seed is good for five years, but if you collect it each year there is no need to play mad scientist.
A great sunflower has appeared growing out of a flower box only five inches deep. Probably it has found a way for its roots to get out the bottom and into soil, as the box sits on brick pavement but an inch of the box extends to a flower bed.
A word on Chinese hibiscus, the kind South Seas beauties wear in their hair. It is an easy plant to grow, and it comes in gorgeous colors such as orange touched with bronze. If you mean to grow it you will soon have to give it a very large pot or a tub, and of course it comes indoors every fall and only goes out again in mid-May. All too often the gardener, having tried it as a house plant, and having noticed it occupies as much space as an upright piano, says never again. But then he cannot resist some particularly beautiful kind he sees at a garden center, or that somebody gives him, and starts in halfheartedly to grow it.
No. Make up your mind. You are either going to grow it, with the attendant bother, or not. If not, give it away. There is nothing but sorrow involved in halfway watering it, halfway starving it in its original small pot. The same thing is true of grapefruit trees started from seed. They all too soon reach 10 feet and take up much of the dining room. With the hibiscus, the thing is to get it in good shape by faithful watering, then to give it away before it looks half dead.
A quite different kettle of fish is the gorgeous native hibiscus with large crimson flowers and leaves divided like a hand with fingers stretched out. That is H. coccineus, and it grows about eight feet high and is hardy in Washington, though it dies back in winter. It appreciates the shelter of a sunny wall but does not absolutely require it. It dies outright when grown in a half-barrel and left unprotected in winter.
I did not think anything crowded out a trumpet vine, but am suddenly concerned for my yellow one. It is fairly old and blooms massively and quite covers a small arbor. But at the other side of the arbor is a grape, 'Villard Blanc,' and the two plants have got on nicely for some years. This year, when I was not watching, the grape went mad and now has covered the arbor entirely and I cannot see any leaves at all on the trumpet vine, which has a stem thicker than a broom handle. Eternal vigilance and all that.