It’s Monday evening and I’ve just come in from my daily ritual of unrolling the garden hose, opening the outside spigot, and giving all of my flower beds a good dose of their elixir of life. It’s a peaceful time of communing with nature. There is only one thing that requires strict attention — the flow of water through the fifty or so feet of hose randomly switches from casual to intense. My catlike senses anticipate this change and I manage unerringly to back up quickly so the increased blast doesn’t blow the more delicate flowers to smithereens.
On this evening, while I stroll along as the water-bearer, it occurs to me I know probably fewer than half of these glorious plants by name, and the names I do know raise a lot of questions. Names like “Astilbe.” Like “Astilbe watering this plant long after the flower fades from bright hot pink to dull brown.”
Our eldest daughter gave us a large potted Rose of Sharon a couple of weeks ago, for which I immediately excavated a crater while on my knees with a trowel, and eventually a pickaxe to remove a boulder the size and density of my own head. Yes, I removed the plant from the pot before lovingly tamping the violated soil back into place around it. It produced its first blossom the other day, a beautiful little lavender bowl with a tiny spike in the middle. Nothing like a rose! And who the heck is this Sharon? Who names these things?
Are you, like I was until recently, prone to admiring Gerber Daisies? Beautiful flowers...I have a row of seven of them at the front edge of my east-facing flower bed. They greet the morning sunrise with a multitude of brilliant colors, and have produced two generations each through this spring and summer, with one plant showing a third generation opening up as of this morning. But they aren’t Gerber Daisies! They are Gerbera Daisies...a German fella by the name of Traugott Gerbera introduced them to the world...and here I thought they were a division of a baby food producer!
In the middle of Spring every year a sizable cluster of bright orange Tiger Lillies bursts forth down the way from those daisies...and there’s nary a tiger stripe on any of them. Might as well call them pumpkin lilies.
Next in line in that bed as I make my way south is a magnificent peony display. Well...it was magnificent in early Spring. Now it’s just a lot of glossy dark green leaves that I’m told should turn purplish-red or gold in Fall--”stately and dignified,” so I’m told. To that, I say “Bull!” Not once in 23 years have those leaves turned to anything but dead leaves, even though I invariably water them as if they’re in full bloom.
Encroaching on the peonies a little more each year is a mass of Day Lillies. The foliage is impressive, but the flower is a never ending disappointment to me. About two months into the season these rigid sticks push up through the grass-like leaves and sprout one--and only one — dreadfully dull burnt orange nondescript flower. If I didn’t hate the thought of the effort involved in replacing them, I’d rip the lot out and torch them in a heap on the driveway. But I like the foliage. Why, by the way, are they Day Lillies? They last far too long for that, much to my regret.
Hanging a right at the Day Lillies will bring you to the front of the house, where the two long beds of perennials and annuals combine to beautify the look of the place. The upper bed this year is completely given over to a massive display of pink-red-burgundy and white cascading petunias tumbling over the stone wall that separates them from the lower, longer bed. When I was a kid, I believed with all my stupid little heart that petunias were named for Porky Pig’s girlfriend. For that matter, I also knew in my heart that daisies were named for Donald Duck’s girlfriend. I always thought it was weird that Daisy and Donald never wore pants.
I’ve been proud for years of my stunning cluster of Devil’s Fingers. This year--tonight in fact--I discovered they aren’t Devil’s Fingers at all. THAT is a fungus looking nothing like what I’ve been so pleased with. What I have may be “Fire King Crocosmia” Oh yippee! Crocosmia?! Oh, well...at least Fire King is kinda cool. Who names these things?
I am absolutely in awestruck adoration of Fox Glove. Tall, rigid, full of the loveliest little hanging flute-shaped blossoms. They are a biennial, so I read, but I have an awful time just getting them through one season without watching them flop over and slowly turn to mush in the dirt. Obviously not meant to be grown by this poor gardener. Perhaps just as well, as my research shows me these wonderful, graceful mesmerizers are quite toxic, with their berries being “particularly poisonous.” Keep your dog away from them! Apparently Fido goes to the light if he samples Fox Glove. Nice name...bad plant. Very bad.
And finally we come to Impatiens. Why not confuse me just a little more? My patience is tested every day, trying to keep these flowers alive and blooming, and you mock my impatience by hanging the same word on these beautiful little posies, with a tiny change of spelling? Unfair, I say! Maybe next year I’ll start over with Hibiscuits, Nastyshams, Germanations, High Derangers, Flocks and MerryGoldens. Whatever I plant, I know Astilbe watering flowers next Spring and Summer.
Contact Lloyd Davis at email@example.com