Archive for January, 2008


Willful Flora

In last Wednesday’s post (What doesn’t grow in my garden) Don of Iowa Garden deplores the fact, that so common plants as aquilegias can’t be persuaded to find a home in his garden while other rare and difficult-to-grow ones are thriving. I’ve often made the same experience that there is no way of forcing plants into your garden. Sometimes moving them around to a more suitable place helps, but some plants simply vanish despite all efforts.

For example Pulsatilla vulgaris simply thrives in my garden, seeding itself all over the place so that I regularly give seedlings away to my parents in whose garden they disappear after a season or two. The same thing happens with catnip, which I almost count among the weeds, however, it can’t be made to settle in my parents’ garden. I’ve made the reverse experience with cosmos flowers, which self-seed in my parents’ garden but which I can’t persuade to stay longer than a season in mine.

Neither the spot they were planted in, nor the conditions of the soil (sandy for Pulsatilla, any for catnip as long as it’s not too acidic), nor unfavourable weather conditions seem to have been the reason for their disappearance. So it is very likely that they were driven out by the presiding inhabitants. Even if I’m no biologist, I’m quite certain that there is quite a lot of interaction between plants that we are hardly beginning to understand. If potatoes can warn their fellow plants of a bug attack by emitting certain chemicals then it is quite possible that other plants have found ways of keeping unwanted neighbours out, for example by influencing the chemisty or microfauna of the soil. I know this for certain of Walnut trees whose decomposing leaves change the chemical makeup of the soil and thus make it difficult for other plants to grow below them. And vegeteble gardeners have learned from experience that some plants make good partners, such as onions and carrots, while others hinder each others’ growth; e.g. it is not such a good idea to have plants of the onion family grow next to peas. So it seems that just like humans plants have found ways of signalling to newcomers that they are not welcome.

In fact, this goes both ways: plants that I don’t like, don’t stand a chance, even if I try to find a nice place for them out of respect for the person that gave them to me. Begonias are to be counted among these. I keep dropping hints towards my mother (who loves them), that giving them to me means their certain death….


Missed: Garden Bloggers’ Bloomday January

Having been grounded internetwise because of a nasty computer virus and more than enough work making it impossible to set up my system at once (isn’t it funny how computer crashes always happen at the worst possible time) I totally missed out on Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.

Because of the unusually mild temperatures there are still some things blooming in the garden, such as the primroses and some pansies; and the hellebores have already raised their heads. However, it hasn’t been much use taking photos because of the frequent rain. Particularly the primroses don’t enjoy being watered all the time from above; the petals have all gone grey and mushy.

So let’s just wait for better times. The first snowdrops are putting their heads up; and I’ve already spotted some crocus leaves. So in February I may be able to show off again. Still, I wouldn’t mind a week of severe frost, which would help to kill off at least some of the baby slugs and the aphids on my spruces that are having a good time in this mild weather.



It was actually snowing this morning, thick white flakes and even covering the ground for about an hour or so. That was long enough for our neighbours to actually build a snowman. By the afternoon all the snow turned to slush and water, so now nothing is left but a sorry remnant of this statue. That’s a typical Northern German winter for you. I haven’t even cut up my Christmas tree yet, the branches of which I usually use as a protection for roses, rosemary and othern delicate plants. With temperatures well above freezing point it’s not worth the bother.

Nevertheless I managed some work in the garden. My husband being unnerved by the heap of flat stones lining our driveway, I picked up work on the paths in the front. In fact I had finished the first bit last spring, but afterwards it became much too dry — and the ground too hard — to continue. On top of that I ran out of stones, so I kept collecting them all summer at the beach without continuing work on the paths as there was so much more rewarding work to do in the garden.

So this afternoon I was back again scratching away the bark that has been covering the path so far and fitting in one stone after another. When everything is finished it will be a colourful circular path made up of granite, porphyrite, sandstone and others that I don’t know the English names of. In between I’ll plant ivy, thyme, bellflowers or some other creepers that don’t mind being tread upon every once in a while.

Doing this rather monotonous work other ideas come up. Plans of what to change, where to start or enlargen another flowerbed in the back garden pop up like bubbles in my head. For example, first thing in the spring I’ll have to dig out the rhubarb in the front and find a place for it in the back garden because it has grown so big that there is no way around it in the summer. Of course the ensuing gap will have to be filled — maybe with a new dahlia? Some of the grasses have to be split or replanted because they are now overshadowed by shrubs. I’ll have to find a place for two buddleia seedlings that are growing right in between the strawberries … and so on.

Right now it seems as if my garden is entering another stage. The past years I always had the feeling that there weren’t enough plants to fill the gaps. Presently I cherish every empty space because it leaves room for new ideas, and I find myself with too many plants on my hands. Well, there are always friends and neighbours who still have room for some exiles.