Putting down roots

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Tue, 05 Oct 2010 17:19:17 PDT
This evening I feel more secure in my new home: this morning we 
brought the rest of the container plants from my country house to the 
city house (and even earlier this morning, the plumber fixed the 
laundry drain so I can wash clothes at home). Having the potted 
plants far away felt almost as if I had abandoned pets. They're now 
lined up in blocks and rows on the vast paved driveway (it's good for 
something, anyway), waiting to see if the promised crew ever shows up 
to strip, amend, and till the planting areas. I am attacking some 
limited areas with spading fork, shovel, and wheelbarrow, but I look 
forward to industrious laborers with a Bobcat (small backhoe/loader 
on tracks). Dumptruck loads of sand, compost, and composted manure 
wait to be tilled into the native clay, and then I'll order a couple 
of loads of pea gravel to mulch around the bulb house for a "gravel garden."

First to go into the ground were some selected forms of Cyclamen 
hederifolium, already in flower. Turning them out of the pot and 
flipping them into the ground was a tricky operation, rather like 
getting a tarte Tatin neatly onto a serving plate. I think they'll 
survive the untimely transition, though. I interplanted them with 
Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' ("black mondo grass", Liliaceae), 
which I've found is a pretty combination with the heavily patterned 
cyclamen foliage. In the middle of their bed I planted Ribes 
laurifolium, a low-growing currant with a large, fragrant 
inflorescence in winter, pegging its long branches down to the soil 
here and there among the Ophiopogon (thanks to Paul Otto for this subshrub).

Arriving today were all the tender geophytes I've been used to 
keeping in the solarium over winter. The new house has no solarium, 
but it does (finally) have a covered patio where some of these plants 
may survive, or I can bring a few of them into the house, and a lot 
more into the garage as many people do; there's a massive workbench 
obviously built for a very tall person to use, and I can repurpose it 
for plants, as it has a fluorescent fixture and a south window along 
it. I think some of the Cyclamen species I've been keeping under 
glass in winter can go in the garden here. Driving through the 
neighborhood, I see many well-grown plants that weren't hardy in my 
previous garden, including cannas and Clematis armandii (just bought 
two of the latter to clothe a fence).

The bulb house still awaits top-dressing with gravel, but the 
fall-bloomers are performing well. There are some tiny colchicums (C. 
longiflorum flowering for the first time from seed), the earliest 
crocuses (C. kotschyanus, C. karduchorum), the fall scillas now known 
as Prospero spp., and some Biarum species. Some leaves are shooting 
up, such as Iris tuberosus (formerly Hermodactylus) and Notholirion 
thomsonianum. The beds are planted and overplanted, and I'm reduced 
to popping deciduous Lewisia spp. into the holes of the masonry 
blocks that enclose the beds (I did test their drainage first).

Behind the new retaining wall separating the front garden from the 
road (no sidewalks here, but plenty of neighbors' cars that were 
parking on the edge of the former lawn), hundreds of colchicums are 
in flower. Yesterday I finally found a flat of small pots of 
Ceratostigma plumbaginoides to interplant with them; its deep blue 
flowers and red-tinged foliage are an excellent combination with the 
blue-pinks and whites of the colchicum flowers. Daffodils will go in 
behind them, and perhaps some bergenias, a plant I don't despise as 
some people do -- I have plenty of the semidwarf 'Baby Doll' with 
soft clear pink flowers, and the tiny Bergenia stracheyi (from a 
Chadwell seed collection) for a choicer spot.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon

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