Blessed be gardens and weddings in May

Byzantine gladiolus

It’s the beginning of May. Sorry I haven’t written in a couple of weeks. You must forgive me. Like the garden, I am gathering my strength, girding my loins, and getting ready to launch myself and the garden into June. We are facing the calendar and weather with courage, the kind that’s said its prayers.

We have weddings and graduations in May and a regional daylily garden tour in June. We are fixing fences, building beds and borders, and weeding, always weeding. Anything we can’t fix, we will cover with mulch and call it good. We are fluffing with abandon.

This is the back garden from atop a side border. I am standing on top of the retaining wall about five feet in the air. No bulb foliage here, but you can see the great, greenness that is early May.
This is the back garden from atop a side border. I am standing on top of the retaining wall about five feet in the air. No bulb foliage here, but you can see the great, greenness that is early May.

Most of the garden is in its green phase between the last of the fall-planted/spring-blooming bulbs and the daylilies. It is my least favorite time because I find all that bulb foliage very distracting and messy. Still, I let it do its thing so I’ll have more flowers next spring. Ignore the bulb foliage and let it die a natural death before removing. Don’t cut it back no matter how much it irritates you.

Ignore the bulb foliage and let it die a natural death before removing. Don't cut it back no matter how much it irritates you. Click To Tweet
Byzantine glads in the back garden. I need more of these little beauties.
Byzantine glads in the back garden. I need more of these little beauties.

One of the few plants blooming with abandon are the Byzantine glads, Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus. They are unabashedly hot pink and wave their petals in the air like they just don’t care. If you live in Zone 6 or further south, you should grow these lovelies. I’m making a note to buy more from Old House Gardens this fall.

Garden gathers its strength. Apricot mystery rose with 'Niobe' clematis.
Apricot mystery rose with ‘Niobe’ clematis. What a sweet dichotomy I planted here. Occasionally, a plan works as you want it. I planted these about twenty years ago. Hard to believe they are still going. Like marriage, gardening is a mystery.

My daughter, Megan, known here as the Diva, is getting married tomorrow. I am thrilled for her and Robert, her fiance. Lots of changes in our family this year. A May wedding is a splendid thing. I married my sweetheart twenty-eight years ago on May 12.

May is a beautiful time even if the Oklahoma weather is acting like Seattle or merry old England this year. It’s been cold, wet and rainy for days, but I see that blue skies are forecast for tomorrow and the week ahead. What a happy occasion it will be!

Spirea Double Play Red is the most beautiful color and is blooming at the moment.
Spirea Double Play Red is the most beautiful color and is blooming at the moment. It has splendid pink and red blooms.

The garden senses the change in weather too. Right now, it’s a garden in waiting. The tropical plants which began so strong in late April are looking for wool coats, but as I said, next week is supposed to be better. At my house, we’ve had copious amounts of rain, six inches one week and three inches the next. I think we got another inch two days ago.

Click on the photos in the gallery to make them larger and see the captions better.

It’s been cold for May, from 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit with cloudy skies. Where are you oh Death Star, ahem, Mr. Sun?

The roses and clematis have no complaints except some mummified blooms on the multipetaled roses. They have trouble opening in cold and rainy weather, and thrips don’t help matters. Clematis clamber and climb through the roses as if they’re never faced a hot and brutal sun before. I must laugh at the vagrancies of an Oklahoma spring and at the positive outlook plants seem to have.

I must laugh at the vagrancies of an Oklahoma spring and at the positive outlook plants seem to have. Click To Tweet

Ahhhh, an Oklahoma spring . . . gardeners just never know what they’re going to get. This year, Seattle and London, next year, maybe Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Like the proverbial Boy Scout, a gardener must always be prepared.

Hint: you should also learn to go with the flow.

Raised beds after eleven inches of rain. I'll dig up the tomato plants and the decorative cotton, put in more soil and plant more seeds.
Raised beds after eleven inches of rain. I’ll dig up the tomato plants and the decorative black cotton plants, put in more soil and plant more seeds. Stuff happens. Rain happens.

Remember how I was going to share the building of my raised beds? I still will, but well, my sweet son worked so hard on getting the soil just right, and then tempestuous rains came. Six inches in a few hours compacted the soil where I’d planted cut-flower seeds like zinnias, cosmos, celosia, amaranth and bells of Ireland. Some seeds washed away, while tomato plants shivered. I’m just glad we lined the beds with landscape cloth, or it would have all washed away, down the hill and into the lower pasture.

There was a time when I would be dismayed, but I’ve learned to shrug my shoulders and go on. The rains come. The rains go. We can’t control the rain

Instead, let us be happy come what may. Also, blessed be gardens and weddings in May.

 

Problem plants

Physostegia virginiana, obedient plant.

In my garden, there are four or five real problem plants. I have other interlopers, but the following natives and non-natives are really bad actors in my leaf-mold enriched soil. Note: most natives can be kept in check if you don’t water much and have lean, sandy soil. My garden’s natural soil is red sand with large pockets of clay. Over the years, I’ve enriched it with Back to Nature cotton burr compost, my own homemade compost and shredded leaves along with various wood bark mulches. My current favorite is shredded pine bark, but it can sometimes be hard to find.

Our first problem child, ‘er plant, is Verbesina alternifolia, commonly known as wingstem and yellow ironweed. When it blooms in summer, it is beautiful, and pollinators adore it. I do not. This native absolutely loves my garden and all of its resident plants…to death. I’ve ripped and pulled and done everything to get rid of it. Yet, this year, especially, with all of the rain we’ve had, it is trying to take over the lower left bed near my Japanese maple. I will be out there again today trying to convince it to live elsewhere. Why is it such a problem? It has rhizomatous (underground) stems that spread like those of mint. It also spreads by seed. It’s become an utter nuisance in my garden. It’s also a native plant that is great where it has room to spread. My garden is not that place.

Early garden mistakes often linger. Autumn clematis, oh autumn clematis, why ever did I plant you? I remember my friend, Katie, looking at the feverish growth of its first year and remarking it might be a future problem. I should have listened. It is a huge problem plant in the garden popping up everywhere. I get it killed in one spot, turn around, and there’s a stem taking off in another. I hate this plant even though wasps adore it. It also smells good in late summer and is a fall bloomer.

Brennan has been replacing split-rail fence around the back garden. Volunteer autumn clematis grows on a portion needing attention. He asked me if he could kill it. I laughed, and said, “Go ahead and try.”

Another early garden mistake I made was planting garlic chives. I bought them at a small herb show and plunked them into the soil. Well, I am now constantly digging them out. You may think my garden looks good, but I spy with my little eye problem plants galore.

Trust me, even mint, the planting mistake of so many young gardeners is nothing compared to garlic chives. Their roots are six inches deep at least. They bury these tenacious roots into the pockets of clay which hold them like cement. It’s almost awe-inspiring.

Lonicera japonica, Japanese honeysuckle, a terribly invasive vine. I beg you. Don't plant this problem plant
Lonicera japonica, Japanese honeysuckle, a terribly invasive vine. I beg you. Don’t plant this.

Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica. No, I did not plant this beastly plant. Bill loved his mother’s lovely smelling honeysuckle and planted a small sprig before he and I married. We’ve been married 28 years this May 12, and I am still trying to eradicate it. I’ve done nearly everything you can do to it including burning. Yes, burning. No, it’s still alive. I ripped out a ton of it this morning in fact. Not even brush killer will completely eradicate it. It only sets it back a season or so.

I really think it's Drummond's aster that is my aster problem. This photo is from 2010, but it spread everywhere.
I really think it’s Drummond’s aster that is my aster problem. This photo is from 2010, but it spread everywhere.

Drummond’s aster, Symphyotrichum drummondii. I bought a small plant many years ago, and today, yet again, I was pulling out pieces of it along with its rhizomatous roots. My problem is that this part of the garden is not dry and xeric. In fact, the soil is somewhat clay-like.. One day, when I am old and too tired, this aster will win the fight, but today is not that day my friends.

Mountain mint and our house.
Mountain mint and our house.

Mountain mint. I’m never sure which variety, but I call it common mountain mint. The first clue is the word mint. It and Drummond’s aster duke it out in a corner of the garden, and the battle goes back and forth all season with neither side winning. When I turn my back, they establish détente and begin marching together across the rest of the garden. Only my determination stops full garden domination.

These are my problem plants. Oh, I have more like obedient plant and Johnson grass, but I’ve mostly eradicated them. What are the plants in your garden that give you the most trouble?