October 18, 2010

Laura Petrie Lives Here

Autumn came with a vengeance last week. A nor’easter blew in on Thursday evening, bringing 45 mph winds and dropping two inches of rain in twelve hours. A cold front followed. By Friday morning, the storm was somewhere over the Maritimes, but the damage was done. Containers that just a few days earlier had been laden with wildly colorful coleus were nothing but stems with limp leaves. Other temperature-sensitive annuals were stripped bare by the winds.

In large measure, we’ve been living on borrowed time here in Eastern Massachusetts. It isn’t unusual to have a hard frost in suburban Boston in late September, and to make it to Columbus Day without sub-freezing temperatures is rare. But, with less than eleven hours of daylight now, the garden was starting to look ragged anyway. In mid-October, the summer gardening season is only a memory.

Betty and I spent this past weekend performing triage on the remaining containers, taking apart those that had only one or two plants remaining and re-positioning those that have more a durable portfolio of plants. Last year, we over-wintered roughly two dozen containers and were rewarded with a jump-start on spring color. Thus year, we’re contemplating cutting that back by half because the 2011 Boston Flower & Garden Show will emphasize container gardens and we hope to take advantage of ‘leftovers’ from that March event.

There are two containers that will definitely make the move indoors. The first contains a Plumbago auriculata, or Cape Plumbago. We acquired it this summer from Weston Nurseries and it is a beauty – two feet tall and (still) covered with pale blue clusters of phlox-like flowers. It spent its season in full sun out at the end of the driveway where it added a very nice touch of vertical class to an area planted in ground covers. The ‘Cape’ in the name, unfortunately, refers to the Cape of Good Hope, not Cape Cod. The plant is hardy to Zone 7. We’ll harden it off as best we can, but will have it indoors by early November.

The second container holds a Loropetalum chinense ‘Rubrum’. It was a gift from Paul Miskovsky, an extraordinarily generous Cape landscaper who uses this Zone 7 plant as an annual at many of his gardens. We overwintered it last year and it came back not only strong but ready to bloom in mid-March. My problem had always been remembering its name. I finally hit on the mnemonic ‘Laura Petrie’ (the character played by Mary Tyler Moore on the old Dick Van Dyke Show which, if you’re over 50, you may remember).

Our Lorapetalum roughly doubled in size this year and to our amazement went into a showy second bloom in early September. In the South, the plants can get to twenty feet and are sometimes pruned into tree shapes. Ours resided as part of a cluster of containers at the border of the cottage garden and drew numerous compliments. We have now moved in into a sheltered location and, like the Plumbago, we will harden it off before bring it indoors next month.

No comments:

Post a Comment