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Peonies- you can grow that


So many buds about to pop!

So many buds about to pop!

When we moved into this house, like 11 years ago, there were plants here already. Some that I have gotten rid of, like junipers that smelled like cat pee, and russian sage, which was plotting to take over the world, starting with my mailbox.
The plants that have given me the least trouble and the most joy, though, are the peonies in the front of the house along the driveway. I don’t know the variety name- I suspect they are the cheapest, most common type, rather than the rare, special-order-from-a-catalog-with-a-fancy-French-name-variety. They bloom profusely in June, then are simply green the rest of the summer.
The reason I say “you can grow that” is that these are the least troublesome plant in the world. They are old-fashioned, cottage-y looking, but they take very little water (how do I know? because I give them very little water) No fertilizer or compost or any special treatment- for this abuse, they reward me with teacup sized blossoms every June.

If you decide to plant them, prep your soil with some compost, follow the directions on the bareroot package, or if it is in a container, place the root ball so the top is even with the soil. Water well, mulch, and wait.

Our cool spring this year means they have not quite popped yet, but you can see they are about to. I can’t wait.

“You can grow that” is a project started by C.L. Fornari, whose goal is to get people growing. Not a bad goal…

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Larkspur- you can grow that


Larkspur and yellow yarrow last July.
Larkspur and yellow yarrow last July.

When I was first building my  garden, my wonderful mother-in-law gave me an envelope of larkspur seeds.  I had the hardest time remembering what they were- I’m not sure why the name didn’t stick with me- those, thingies… bird feet thingies…I would think in my head. I finally have them down, and I have them essentially everywhere. Love them: water efficient, good for pollinators, tall, that pretty blue that flowers don’t usually come in. Pretty cottage garden-y stuff, without needing much water.

They are not perennial, that is, the same plant does not come back year after year, like peonies or rhubarb. Instead, they drop their seeds nearby and plant themselves. I help them along by cutting them back and sprinkling their seeds where I want them.

It is a good thing I am not a super control freak, because often “they drop their seeds nearby” means in the path, or along the edge of the bed, or mixed in with the asparagus.  I have wide beds, with lots of shrubs which were tiny when I first planted them.  Back when my MIL gave me the envelope, the larkspur helped it look like the wide “mixed shrub borders” were something other than wide “expanses of mulch with twigs sticking up.” Now that 8 or 9 years have passed, and the shrubs have grown up, the larkspur can seed itself in the handful of gaps that remain.

To have your own spot of cottage garden-y goodness this summer, don’t wait until someone gives you an envelope of seeds from their yard. Instead, buy a pack, prepare a bed, sprinkle the  seeds and water them in. My self-seeded plants are already up, after having spent the winter on the ground, so it is not too early to plant them.  The first grown will be soft and ferny, and the flowers will grow to be 2-3 feet tall.

You can grow that

Larkspur, yarrow and chamomile blooming way back last summer.

Larkspur, yarrow and chamomile blooming way back last summer.

is an initiative by garden writer C.L. Fornari, to encourage people to get out in the sunshine and grow stuff. You should check it out.