July 2, 2011

The Cascade Effect

Hosta Sgt. Pepper - but is it lonely?
Back in September 2009, I wrote about a phenomenon around our garden called ‘The Rule of Three’ which decreed that for every plant introduced onto the property, three holes needed to be dug.  Today, I am able to report on a corollary observable fact which I call ‘The Cascade Effect’.  It works like this:
Last week, Betty was at the American Hosta Society convention.  There, in an act of love and thoughtfulness, she bought for me a hosta called ‘Sergeant Pepper’.  The hosta itself is a delightfully variegated yellow plantain lily of considerable distinction, but its greater worth is in its name: the eponymous album is my favorite of all time.  However, the hosta did not come with any tag indicating the two most important facts needed before it could be planted, namely, how large it will eventually get and how much sun it will tolerate.

We have a home library that has marvelous horticultural resources, but there are more than 3,000 registered varieties of hosta and Hostapedia, the definitive work on the subject, is not among our collection.  An internet search was needed.

We had also recently been to Weston Nurseries which was holding its annual ‘customer appreciation event’ in which ice cream and pizza are liberally dispensed (plus discounts on plants and garden equipment) and among the things we brought home a Pinus strobus ‘Pygmaea’, a small and unusually shaped, slow-growing pine that we agreed would add needed structure to the inner sidewalk bed.

And so we went looking for just the right spot for our new pygmy pine.  As we walked the bed, the Cascade Effect began.  Though it had nothing to do with finding an appropriate site for our new evergreen, the first thing Betty noticed was that some Solidago (goldenrod to the rest of us) had insinuated itself in among our Siberian iris.  We removed it.  That led to her noticing that the last of the peonies had passed, and so the stalks that had held the peonies needed to be trimmed down to better shape the plant for the summer.  That was done.  Removing the peony stalks revealed that a few Allium, long-since past bloom but still with attractive umbrels atop four-plus-foot stalks, had broken over.  The ones with broken stalks were carefully culled.

The removal of the one set of stalks revealed spent bearded iris, which needed to be cut to the nearest leaf nodule and that action brought into sharp focus that several dozen native Columbine had formed seed heads that were about to populate the garden with unwanted progeny.  And, speaking of progeny, the ferns were rapidly overwhelming our stand of Eupatorium ‘Chocolate’ and needed to be brought back into line.  (Please keep in mind that all this activity is in one garden bed of less than 500 square feet.)

Pinus Strobus 'Pygmaea' (red arrow)
The Cascade Effect continued: spent salvia blooms were trimmed back severely and the height of later-blooming perennials were trimmed back to promote stronger growth.  The list goes on.

At last, the perfect spot was found for the pygmy pine.  The location, of course, was already occupied by a long-blooming geranium which needed to be relocated to extend a ‘river’ that flows through the bed.  The geranium was duly moved.  Also, a nearby Stoke’s aster, though not technically critical to the success of the new planting, was dug up and potted as a precaution.  Compost and mulch were brought in and, a mere two hours after the search for a site began, Pinus strobus ‘Pygmaea’ found its permanent home.

What has still not found a home, at least as of this writing, is Hosta ‘Sergeant Pepper’.  It still resides in its pot, awaiting that internet search to determine where on the property it will be happiest.

No comments:

Post a Comment