Garden Catalogues

Talk about temptation. Catalogues are much worse than a visit to a greenhouse.

The latter is a one-time occurrence while I can leaf through the tempting pages day after day. Plus catalogues are full of gorgeous pictures of flowers, fruits, even trees. So much promise there.

My three hellebores have spread deliciously. This winter winnowed some away but with weeding and love, I expect them to fill out before summer’s end. They bloom as close to year ’round as any plant can.

Daffodils love it here and spread. Tulips don’t.

Bluebells don’t spread as much as I’d like but they grow full and flower beautifully when their time is right. I’ve been pleased to watch the sedum increase with the years though, again, this year it seems to have shrunk alarmingly. I count on thick ground covers to help with the annoying Ritz weed (goutweed) which nothing can stop. Now even lovely lilies of the valley are taking over where nobody invited them. Indeed, I have good reasons to be a happy weeder.

The rubber plant is strong. Did it once come from a catalogue? How else would it have ended up in my room? Likewise the hibiscus, which surprises me often, with another huge red blossom. I confess to feeling blessed when a new one is there at breakfast time.

The lemon is old but hanging on. I’m sure it’s as happy as I to finally see it outside again. It gets buggy and the leaves drip sugary sap which attracts ants. Once out, the rains and sun cure it. But it’s thorny so I’m happy it can be out of arms’ range. Occasionally it does blossom and the lemons, if they don’t fall off prematurely, are heavenly sweet. Perhaps I should order a new one.

Now the books told me a fig could survive our winter. I’d talked to a friend who kept his outdoors in New Jersey year round. Great idea. It’s probably the smelliest (in a most unpleasant way) plant I know of. So out on the deck it went last fall. I consoled myself that if, for some reason, it didn’t make it, that would be acceptable. Only the dog and I really liked figs and, honestly, I wasn’t all that keen on them anyway. And the dog’s gone.

I continue to watch and water but the trunk has already turned a ghostly gray and I see no signs of green. That’ll be a project in itself just to move it out.

In the past I’ve ordered seeds from catalogues. I’ve had as much luck with the local packets on sale for twenty cents. Once a neighbor told me of saving seeds, I tried that. The odds of luck are about the same no matter what I do. As I’ve explained, the entire gardening rigmarole is relatively new to me, another hobby/project to enjoy.

I am very happy to stick anything, seed or plant, in the ground and be optimistic as I wait for the results.

One that does continue to mystify me is maple trees. I’m sure we’re all aware of the little helicopter seeds that flutter down in the fall. Many drop where I don’t want them and grow prosperously. I keep digging them out and moving them to a spot farther in the yard where I would cherish a row of maple trees. Staked because the mowing men don’t see them, I check frequently and, yes, they,well, most, are still there. But such scrawny growth compared to what they do in the wild.

I did buy a red maple last year and it’s leafed out robustly though I do wish it’d hold its leaves up with more vigor. I’ve watered and spoken to it, often and with such encouragement, is that going to be a regular part of our relationship? Can’t a tree just be a tree and do its tree-y things?

Ending with a comment, if not a question. Garden catalogue again, this time advertising two kinds of Eryngium. I read the description: “A highly distinctive genus, whose shapes and shades are unlike anything else, and valued for that reason.” Well, let me tell you about their eryngium for I recognized it at once from my wildflower album.

Only I didn’t search under the Es but went straight to T for thistle. There are many thistles (and I haven’t collected them all) but Bull Thistle comes closest. The catalogue will tell you the leaves are “stiff and spiny.” I call them thorny and it’s a terrible weed and very difficult to eradicate because, like so many others, they have underground stems that creep. (And I do mean creep into those deep spaces where nobody can reach them all.)

I don’t know about you but I bleed enough when I’m weeding without encouraging something like eryngium.

I want my flowers to be friends. Not bite.

Susan Crossett has lived outside Cassadaga for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. Her Reason for Being was published in 2008 with Love in Three Acts following in 2014. Both novels are now available at Lakewood’s Off the Beaten Path bookstore. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at Susancrossett.com.

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