Friday, May 15, 2015

Possibilities and Potential

After all the heat and humidity we've had, it is now typically cold May weather. Still no rain. There is a possibility of 3/10ths of an inch tomorrow, which is the same as saying no rain in the forecast.

'Forest Pansy' redbud (Cercis canadensis) is utterly unimpressive, and a little worrisome. It blooms, but sparsely. It has a couple leaves emerging, but I'll have to wait til the end of May to see if it comes in at all.

After the discouragement of losing beautiful trees this spring, I don't want Forest Pansy to be a bust. This is one tree that does not look like much until maturity I think. Right now it is just spindles with goofy bits of pink and very little evidence of leaf buds. But the promise of a nice looking tree is there.

The blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium) next to it is finally blooming well. The flat white flowers cover the front of this small tree, but the back half got frost burnt earlier this spring (on a morning when there was no frost anywhere else -- but in my strange garden temperature anomalies and odd conditions abound).

This border has potential -- when that potential is realized a beautiful magenta redbud will bloom next to a fully flowering viburnum with blue forget me nots in the background. For now it's pathetic looking in spring.

Another pathetic looking border with potential is the top of my rock wall, where I have phlox sublulata clumps that will someday spread and drape over the stones in a thick carpet of pink.

It's not happening, though. I have been at this for three years now, planting moss phlox 'Fort Hill', watching it disappear and then planting more each spring. Nothing spreads, nothing drapes, and the plants I put in shrink each year. The reason there are pink clumps there at all is because I buy new plants annually.

It's time to give up on the moss phlox and just plant bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) at the top of the wall instead. Look how beautifully Ajuga 'Chocolate Chip' has spread and how gloriously it blooms next to the walk leading to the patio.

Ajuga won't drape over the wall with that liquid look that phlox gets, but it will creep to the edge of the stones and it will fill the area under the smokebush. Instead of planting new phlox each year for a clumpy look that never spreads, should I unleash the rampant potential of ajuga to carpet this area?

It's a member of the mint family, which is why it spreads, and also why it gets out of control. Dilemma.
(update: Or how about rock cress? Arabis? A great suggestion from Patty in the comments to this post is making me think that might be a good solution to top the wall. Hmmmm)
Here's a tree whose potential was never realized until now -- the river birch at the end of the berm is no longer stuffed in between two spruces. We took out the spruces last winter, and the birch just spread out and filled in this spring in a way I had not seen before.

I had liked the woodsy look of leafy birch and stiff blue spruce mingled together, but never realized the possibilities of the birch standing by itself.

And here's a little tree that holds some real promise -- between the metal tuteur of clematis and the tree stump there is a rounded leafy little thing.

It is a gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) which is a suckering shrubby dogwood that I am training into a single trunk tree, much like I did with the blackhaw viburnum. It will be a smallish tree, and I am already pleased to see it take on a potentially graceful form.

It's already mid May and I don't want to deal with winter losses any more. I like dealing with the possibilities of what might be in my garden instead.


  1. You may want to try Arabis or 'Rock Cress' for your rock wall. I grow this on mine. Green grey foliage on the soft side, with four white petals that smell wonderful. To me it smells like candy, and as a bonus it will waft over to where you are sitting. I believe there is a pink flowering form. Similar to Arabis is Aubrietia but I am not familiar with its details. Oh yes, Arabis will drape over the wall. When it has finished flowering (over two months long) I just shear it back to tidy it up.

    1. Patty, great suggestions. I tried Arabis once but didn't really give it a chance or a good spot. Might be time to try it again on the wall. I like your description of how it performs for you with scent, draping and two months of color -- wow! Thanks for the input.