Monthly Archives: August 2009

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Elegance doesn’t generally wow me in the garden (or in architecture or home furnishings); lack of elegance often does. A most inelegant, cheerful flower is now in bloom. The plant is hibiscus, not the tropical one with glossy leaves and coaster-sized flowers, but the hardy, herbaceous perennial ones now sporting dinnerplate-size, red-bordering-on-hot-pink blossoms. What fun!

Looking at my plant more closely, I see that chewed up leaves are making the plants look . . . okay, perhaps a bit too inelegant. The culprit is the hibiscus sawfly, which looks something like a housefly as an adult, except the body section right behind its head is orange-brown in color. The real culprits, though, are the young, the small green caterpillars, who do the feeding.

So here’s my reminder, for next year, to pick the caterpillars off the plants early in the growing season. The caterpillars are …

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My ducks are as useful as they are humorous. I’ve always appreciated their fast-paced, duck walk patrol of the grounds for various insects on which to feast. But this year I’ve had a bumper crop of plums, and the ducks are being a big help with them also.

The thing about plums is that a lot of them drop to the ground. Some of them – not too many, I hope — drop because they ripened before I got to them. Some drop because they have an insect developing in them, such as larvae of the dreaded plum curculio. And some drop because some disease has taken hold. With all the rain this year, quite a few are gray and fuzzy with brown rot disease.

I merely bemoan the loss of plums that drop before I get to them; my loss is the duck’s gain. Fruits that dropped because …

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Smith & Hawkens’ loss is my gain. That’s Smith & Hawkens, the upscale gardening store that sells . . . actually, I’m not exactly sure just what they do sell. They used to sell some very high quality, or at least very expensive, gardening tools, such as stainless steel digging forks and spades that were very decorative on garage walls even if never used. They also used to publish some excellent gardening books, such as Carolyn Mayle’s 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden and Elvin McDonald’s 100 Orchids for the American Garden. And then they sold gardening clothes. And then they sold furniture for the garden. And then they sold “flaming pots” for decorating your terrace.

Which is why I ended up poking my head in at a Smith & Hawkens retail store last weekend. Smith & Hawkens is going out of business and signs proclaimed that everything …

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I visited a most beautiful garden this week, one in which all the elements of garden design were deftly combined. At ground level grew groundcovers in pleasing and harmonious shades of green and of varying leaf textures. Leafy plants, lichens, and mosses were all utilized, the whole scene knit together by large slabs of underlying rock. In places, low-growing junipers and deciduous shrubs and trees brought the garden up from ground level, their exposed roots in some places visibly embracing bulging rocks.

Shakkei, or “borrowed scenery,” an important element in Japanese garden design, played an important role. Distant mountain peaks created a dramatic backdrop to some vignettes.

This garden also utilized what I like to call “luscious landscaping,” that is, the incorporation of dual purpose plants – for beauty and for eating – into the landscape. Lowbush blueberry, a plant whose dainty flowers hang …

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