I speared a superb lily bulb yesterday, a fact mentioned for no other reason than to remind gardeners prone to distress that everybody does it sooner or later.
Unless the garden is a forest of labels and unless plants stay exactly where planted (and some lilies wander considerably) accidents will happen. I dug up the bulb, which had turned into three very large bulbs, and planted them elsewhere.
One notable gardener once wrote of his collection of small bulbs -- chionodoxas, crocuses, anemones, snowdrops etc. -- that of course he was forever digging them up by accident. Just plant them back, he said. This advice is so obvious it never occurred to me. Since reading that article, however, I now dig up all kinds of crocuses and scillas and much else and just stick them back. No harm seems to be done.
A thing I noticed some years ago was that patches of crocuses like 'Ladykiller' and the other early quite small varieties kept wandering about, through seeding as well as accidental digging.
One of the great colonizers through self-sown seed is Crocus tomassinianus, an early light lavender sort. It becomes rather a weed in light sandy soils, but spreads far less rapidly in heavy clay loams. This year I again planted two garden varieties of it called 'Ruby Gem' and 'Whitewell Purple,' which have never multiplied with me. This time they are given a spot with more sun, and lighter and better soil.
The soil is now cool enough to plant tulip bulbs. The second week of November was always my target date for planting, but a little earlier or later (up till Christmas) works well. They are good bulbs, by the way, for interesting children in the natural world. Help the kid dig, but let him do the planting, covering the top of the bulb with four inches of earth. Label the planting, so that when leaves emerge the child knows which tulip is which. Even a single bulb of several varieties will give great pleasure next April and May (some varieties bloom earlier than others). Let the youngster cut the flowers or do whatever he wants with them.
In the garden tulips last surprisingly long -- a clump may be in bloom for three weeks. Farther south they do not last so long.
A few years ago I planted a bush of the single (five-petaled, not the double multi-petaled kind) Kerria japonica. For some reason I gave it a handsomely prepared site, with leaf mould, rotted manure, almost full sun. What a mistake. Its stems have spread to a little thicket perhaps eight feet wide, and have encroached on all kinds of things. Recently I dug up some to give away, a back-breaking operation. This shrub, which does surprisingly well in the kind of shade that azaleas grow in, does not need coddling, but produces its long wands of small strong-yellow blooms almost anywhere.
One of the important things to learn is to leave things alone when they are doing well. This is especially true of plants that are touchy to begin with. Once I had the rich red wild clematis C. texensis growing in such luxuriance that I moved it in early spring to a "better" spot. It began to die within weeks and at the end of two months was gone forever. It is far more beautiful and exciting than its hybrids such as 'Sir Trevor Lawrence' and 'Etoile Rose,' and for some reason almost impossible to find.
Again, I have moved lilies to my sorrow. When they are flourishing, let nothing persuade you to touch them. Even those tough old workhorses, the hostas, can resent being divided and moved.
Having learned nothing in my years of gardening, I have just moved a flourishing waist-high fan palm, Rhapidophyllum hystrix. As all palms are a chancy proposition in Washington (and only one other, Trachycarpus fortunei, is a sane choice for outdoor planting up here) it is reckless to move one that has settled down and had pups (small offsets).
I should have bought another one if I had to have this palm in a new place. Or at least I should have done the moving in mid-April. My pigheadedness, however, will not prevent my public moans and complaints if I now lose this specimen.
The truth is that like your average gardener I am terminally devoted to building small structures that are beyond my competence. Somebody threw out a pagoda-looking copper shelter that had hung over a front door. I looked at it several days in the alley while walking the terrier and despite pleas from housemates I could stand it no longer and lugged it home, where it has sat for two years very much in the way of all.
But now I have erected four posts sheathed with copper (another gift of American wastefulness) and put the pagoda roof on top, over the bronze lion from Bangkok. The back of the doghouse (as we call this beautiful structure) is filled with a heavy ironwork grill, another scrap item, and in front of the lion is a small circular pool. On top is a weathercock, a carp that had been installed elsewhere and was obscured by surrounding foliage. Now it looks fine. Or so I think.
Anyway, the new stuff cried out for the palm, which is called the needle palm for reasons that will be clear to anybody who ever transplants one. Some damage was done by compressing the soil over daffodils and one lily or two were speared. On the other hand, a nice plant of the rose 'Pink Parfait' was uncovered in the general whacking-back process of building.
Things even out.