Monday, April 25, 2011

Old Friends

As much as I enjoy carefully tending my veggie garden, perhaps my biggest horticultural thrills come from plants which seem to thrive on neglect. Check out this sturdy little flowering shrub I planted in a pot a couple of years ago. I don't water it, I leave it outside in the dead of winter and it doesn't get fertilized. I don't even know the name of this specimen. Still, inexplicably, this sweet little plant bursts back to life in the spring. Aren't the blossoms lovely?

As I drove home from my workout today I was greeted with these old friends -- Japanese iris! Many folks carefully cultivate these specimens, thinning and splitting the rhizomes annually. I just let them be, since that portion of my front yard is a happy place for them beside the stones of the dry river bed and under the corkscrew willows, and I don't mind if they spread and wander a bit. They seem to love the slack I'm giving them. Looking at these bright yellow blooms feels like breathing sunshine.

Finally, look at these gorgeous fat peony buds just ready to burst forth. If you were a "Midlife Vegan" reader last spring you may recall my folly as I overzealously tried to save my peony buds from little ants which were crawling all over them. You see, I planted this peony bush about eight years ago, and it has never bloomed until last year, so I was all jazzed up for the big blooming event and dismayed at the ant invasion. I chose an "eco-friendly" pest control, and nearly finished off my prized plant. Later, a neighbor explained that it is important to "leave the ants on the peony -- peonies need ants" She did not know why or in what way the ants are important, but there you have it. Peonies need ants. So I am purposefully neglecting this peony bush and its attendant ants, even going so far as to look askance as I walk by, though I did sneak in quickly with a zoom lens for this photo. This year the peony seems to be very pleased with my lack of supervision. It is as healthy as I've ever seen it. There'll be quite a show any day now.

As I think of my lovely garden and yard, I do tend to ascribe personalities to the plants. It is easy to think of them as high- or low-maintenence friends. I am grateful for all of them, but these old friends who show up whether or not they get any love from me are much appreciated. They feel like gifts --- like grace.


  1. I'm sure a quick google scan would be smarter than my little feedback, but I think the ants eat away the outside of the 'bud', which frees it to open. I, too, once 'saved' a peonies plant from blooming by obsessively removing the ants several times a day. Now I throw ant parties with cake crumbs at the base of the plants. And we've got blooms. I guess Mother Nature doens't need my brand of 'help'...Happy spring!

  2. It looks like periwinkle....otherwise called vinca minor. It's a spreading ground cover that thrives in shady cool environments. There is also a larger version called vinca major. It's cute in a pot! I have tons of it as a ground cover on my property.

  3. Colleen -- Thanks for that! It makes so much sense! That is exactly what the little boogers seemed to be doing last year when I micromanaged the flowers. You're right, peonies are best left alone.

    Joy -- I bet you are right, though the leaves and the long flower stems are different from the ground cover periwinkle I planted along the edge of my "jungle". Those spread like wildfire and do a lot to make my "jungle" look a bit more civilized, at least along the outside edge. I'm sure there must be different varieties of periwinkle. What a pretty color they are!~

  4. Beautiful collections of pics. So natural.