Saturday, April 22, 2006

Objects of Desire

Some plants cast a spell. You see something in a book, or at a botanic garden, and it stays in the back of your mind like an itch. If you don't have a list of these plants, you're a different kind of gardener than I am.

Franklinia altamaha. Magnolia wiesneri. Camellia oleifera. Quercus phellos. Ginkgo biloba. Cercis canadensis. Cornus mas. Stewartia pseudocamellia. These are the trees of my dreams; I garden on a third of an acre lot, so it's unlikely that I'll ever have more than a couple of these dream trees.

Franklinia alatamaha is one I've captured. In fact I've bought at least 8 of them, maybe more. My first few attempts died quick, hopefully painless, deaths. I was determined, so I bought a pair. Those survived, so I bought a few more. So far, so good. And, unlike objects of desire in the animal kingdom, I still love these, even though I now possess them. There are five in the front yard and one in the back. Today, I saw them for sale at a local nursery. I'm considering adding a few more, maybe as insurance, maybe to help tie my patchwork garden together a little more. However, there were also Cercis canadensis at this nursery, and I haven't captured one of those. Not yet.

Not all the objects of my desire are trees, I also lust after shrubs. Viburnum x bodnantense Dawn. Ilex pedunculosa. Paeonia suffruticosa. Hydrangea serrata Preziosa. Corylopsis pauciflora. Rosa the Fairy. Calycanthus floridus.

The beauty of shrubs, if you live in town, is that you can have all the ones your really want; so, I do. I still love these shrubs, each in its own way. But I am dreaming of having a collection, I mean a big collection, of hardy Camellias. I've tried a few, but lost them. I know they can be grown here, because my sister, who lives just south of me, grows them. They remain just out of reach, for some reason.

Perennials are not hard to love, but they're so easy to acquire that it's hard to lust after them too strenuously. Helleborous, Asarum, Paeonia lactiflora, Crambe cordifolia. Ligularia dentata, Rodgersia podophylla, Gaura, Agastache rupestris. Lavandula.

Sometimes, you manage to capture the object of your desire, with mixed results. Crambe cordifolia is a case in point. I wanted that plant for years, but it was elusive; why wasn't it being sold locally? After about 5 years, I stumbed upon a single pot of it, and snapped it up. What luck, I was building a new street-side garden bed, easily large enough to accomodate this giant of the herbaceous community. It looked a bit peaked for a few weeks after it went in, but grew nicely through its first season. The following summer, it bloomed, and I must say, the flowers were breathtaking. Easily 7 feet of tiny white stars, and fragrance to knock your socks off. You could smell it as soon as you came around the corner. Awesome!

The heartbreaker, in the case of Crambe, was that it was, other than the flower stalks, intensely ugly. I don't mean a little sloppy, or slightly off color, I mean ... ugly. It is, after all, a member of the cabbage family. The leaves are an absolute magnet for slugs, beetles, caterpillars, you name it. They're enormous, usually a wonderful thing, at least to my eyes. But hugh, chewed up, dull green leaves ... did nothing to make this border look good. The plant, so long the object of my desire, was removed, and banished to the back fence in back of the back yard, where, with luck, no one will notice the foliage and the flowers will still be visible.

Plant lust. It's a wonderful thing.


Blogger Moncrief Speaks said...

Lovely post.

April 22, 2006  
Blogger Kasmira said...

Wow, I can't believe you have so many Franklinia! I prefer magnolias, but my neighbor would totally lust over yours.

If you're still in the market for a redbud, you might check Home Depot now. In Ohio, our HD has 5' - 6' redbuds for $12.99. It's such a good deal that I may go back for seconds.

August 31, 2006  

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