Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Iron Maidens

If you find that your thumb is lacking even the slightest tinge of green, despair not!  There is hope, in the form of hemerocallis and herbs.  I think of them as the Iron Maidens of Zone 5.  These tough bloomers will withstand the forgetful, the procrastinating, and even the simply misguided gardener.   I should know.  I’ve been all three. 

This spring, our generous neighbors offered us free daylilies.  Free plants always put a smile on my face (as long as I have room for them) and I grinningly agreed to take one in.  Upon arriving to retrieve my hand-me-down horticulture, I discovered that both the plant and it’s root ball were enormous.  I would be in no way, shape or form lifting it into my Honda.  Mr. Nice Neighbor offered to deliver them via tractor scoop, and a day or two later, a leafy boulder of hemerocallis was sitting in our driveway.

My gardening style leaves a lot to be desired in the ‘promptness’ category.  That daylily sat, unmoved, for two weeks (at least).  Aside from sprinkling it with the occasional splash of water and trying not to run over it, I did nothing to sustain it.  Eventually guilt overcame the steely grip of procrastination and I set out to divide my second-hand sun-lover.   A few pokes with the pitchfork revealed that clay soil, exposed for two weeks to the south-facing summer sun, becomes an impenetrable brick.  No wonder Pueblo Indians formed adobe houses with this stuff.  Undaunted, I found my inner Conan-the-Barbarian and lunged the fork into rootball.  The tines sunk in one whole inch.  I lugged the tools back to the garage and pulled out the hose.  For the next three days, I soaked that chunk of earth thoroughly. 

When I was finally able to lodge the spade to a workable depth, I split the root mass into three equal parts.  I planted one in my vegetable garden (which was in desperate need of some beautification, thanks to my little earwig friends).  The other two I shared with my mother and grandmother.  Several weeks later, I returned to my parent’s farm.  There I discovered Mom’s daylily, still unplanted (procrastination is a genetic disorder), and preparing to bloom in her garage.  Now THAT’S what I call an Iron Maiden.

The mistreated daylily, blooming and loaded with buds.

Herbs are my other recommendation for the horticulturally-challenged.  I’m going out on a limb (a bit) in saying this, because herbs have a tendency to seek world domination.  That robust nature is, of course, what makes them so easy to grow.  Left untended, though, their desire for dictatorship can threaten other plants in your garden.  So, for now, stick with these safer selections:

Catmint’s silver foliage and lavender flowers make it a great beginner’s plant because it always looks good.  After it blooms, you can cut it back to keep it growing tightly and encourage a second bloom.  Or not.  If you don’t get around to it, Catmint will look just fine and rebloom sporadically without any encouragement.

The firecracker blossoms of Monarda are a seductive draw to bees, butterflies and the like.   This fiery bloomer will catch the eye of anyone in your yard, giving the impression that you are a horticultural connoisseur.  It also helps that Monarda grows with joie de vivre (best said with a french accent, but for the less cosmopolitan: 'joy for life' with a midwestern twang is acceptable), filling in and looking healthy.  Visitors won’t realize you don’t know what you’re doing.  This is an auto-pilot plant. 

Thyme is a low-growing woody perennial that likes abuse.  Prefers it, actually.  Mine is growing in one of the least hospitable beds in my yard, and loving it.  The un-green thumb could snip a few stems for an impressive addition to a meal, or not.  Either way, thyme will grow beautifully.  If after your season with Iron Maidens, you’re inspired to try indoor gardening, dig up some thyme and bring it in.  You may have a green thumb after all. 

Next week: a book review on Herb Gardening for Dummies

1 comment:

Casa Mariposa said...

I love day lilies but in my zone 7a, they need a lot of water or they look like poo. It's supposed to be 105 on Saturday and I'm planning on dumping ice on my clump in the front garden to convince them it's not 105. But as far as coming back year after year, you're right. They are Iron Maidens. Well described! :o)

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