Fragrant Abelia

“…do plant Abelia Triflora.  It flowers in June, grows to the size of what we used to call syringe [lilac], and is smothered in white, funnel-shaped flowers with the strongest scent of Jasmine.”

-Vita Sackville-West
In Your Garden;
June 18th, 1950
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I waited all summer to buy the Abelia.  As you might know, shrubs are best planted in the fall.  I knew I had to have it, the scent of Jasmine is too irresistible.

Don’t be deterred by their condition in the fall, especially if it’s been sitting all summer in the nursery.  When I found it, the leaves had turned leathery and had been nibbled by pests.  The stems seemed unhealthy and were bent in peculiar ways.  Everyone passed it up as they clambered for the beautiful perfection of the blooming Rose of Sharron,  but I knew what the Abelia would do come summer.   The leaves, as you can see, are supple and green and its stems have now found their way to the sun.  The little flowers, which do resemble those of the Jasmine vine are pink and white; a beautiful contrast to its bright green leaves.  They start blooming right after the lilacs so it’s perfect for those of you “timing” your garden blooms.

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I love passing by and getting whiffs of its Jasmine-like scent.  Right now it is short and I have to bend over to catch it, but soon it will be right in my face.  I believe I choose the right spot.  All my scented flowers are planted along my back yard walking path so I can enjoy them.  So far, it has not been bothered by pests.  All my other bushes have been sprayed, but I haven’t had to touch the Abelia.  So, perhaps it has the added quality of being pest resistant?

Truly, it’s a beautiful plant.  Along with Vita, I too would recommend it, especially for those of you who would like something your neighbor doesn’t have, if we are comparing such things.

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History’s Peony: A Search & Rescue

Small pleasures must correct great tragedies,
Therefore of gardens in the midst of war
I boldly tell…

-Vita Sackville-West
The Garden; 1946

In this little beloved town of mine some take pleasure in knocking down the very old homes and building instead new homes of fiberglass and vinyl.   One of these very old homes, which was a rental property, had a clump of the most unique peonies I had ever seen.  They were pink with very few petals and a bright yellow center.  I regret I do not have a picture.  They sat sunning themselves by the porch stoop.  There were many flowers as the plant had to be very old.

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I’ve been told that the house was the general store for the neighborhood a hundred years ago.  Perhaps the store owner himself planted the peonies for his wife or wanted his customers to have a pleasant sight as they approached the store for their sundry goods.

Well, yesterday they knocked the house down; front stoop and all.  Imagine my horror as I listened to the demo trucks rolling over earth and concrete, not knowing the fate of those peonies!   When supper came and the bulldozers ceased.  I went over and surveyed the damage.

Everything was destroyed.  The grass and all the Hostas had been tossed about- landing willy-nilly all over the property.   But, alas remnants of the front stoop remained, and I knew under the earth next to that spot, the tubers might still be hiding.

From reading Vita’s many posts about peonies I know that the tubers should not be buried too deep.  So with a shovel, I sifted through the dirt carefully as if I was searching for the most delicate and rare fossil.  After about fifteen minutes my shovel scraped a single tuber, then another.  With the gentlest touch I brushed and dug to release the rest, and finally pulled up the most gnarly looking group of them I had ever seen.  I imagined the neighbor’s celebrating from their windows (Mrs. Kravitz from Bewitched) as they finally realized what I was up to.

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Pictured above: A small portion of what I uncovered

My purpose would have been easily recognized from a distance, as this thing was about a foot and a half in circumference and twisted into many other tubers of varied sizes.  Talking to several neighbors, it seems these peonies were most coveted throughout the hood (don’t call it that), and some were kicking themselves for not saving the flowers before demolition began.  I separated most of the tubers and passed them around while I listened to their words of regret.

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In the midst of war between the historical and the modern, these flowers were spared.  Hopefully, they will produce their fragrant blooms of nostalgia once more.
We won’t know for sure until next year, but if these plants flourish they will be cherished by me all the more, for their journey was difficult and traumatizing.  I don’t know if any of the nutrients and energy remain for them to make it, but I have tried to give them a second life.  We can only wait and see if my efforts will flourish in the years to come.

Thank you for reading!

Please speak up if you’ve ever performed a “search and rescue” with plants.  Did they survive?  Thank you for your feedback.

ROMANCING THE CLEMATIS

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An unusual way of treating clematis is to grow it horizontally instead of vertically…but do this as gingerly as you can, for clematis seems to resent the touch of the human hand.
…the reward will be great.  For one thing you will be able to gaze right down into the upturned face of the flower instead of having to crane your neck to observe the tangle of colour hanging perhaps ten or twenty feet above your head.  And another thing, the clematis itself will get the benefit of shade on its roots, in this case its own shade, with its head in the sun, which is what all clematis enjoy.

-Vita Sackville-West
May 15, 1949

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I bought one White Clematis (pictured above) at Bordine’s Nursery the other day.  It was beautiful and perfect.  Compliments rolled from surrounding tongues as I crossed the store to pay for it while snapping these lovely shots.  My plan is to allow it to climb up my lilac bush.   This way I will practically have blooms all summer long, and they will look so romantic glowing in the dark at night.  My own little “white garden” like Vita had at Sissinghurst Castle!

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I resented having to transplant my other clematis.  I know how delicate they can be, and I hope it will survive.  It did not like the spot I put it last year and it was looking pathetic.  I thought it might do better under the other lilac bush (I have two side by side). So, now I will have two clematis of two different colors climbing, and hopefully one day connecting; climbing through each other to make one large colorful hedge.  We shall see.
Anyone have luck doing this in the past?
If you have anything to add or further advice about clematis please leave a comment. I’d love to here from you!

 

“Go Round Popping The Buds”

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Far more satisfactory [than the hibiscus], I find, are the hardy fuchsias…although they will probably be cut to the ground by frost in winter, there is no cause for alarm, for they will spring up again from the base in time to flower generously in midsummer…and in case of extremely hard weather an old sack can temporarily be thrown over them.  Their arching sprays are graceful; I like the ecclesiastical effect of their red and purple amongst the dark green of their foliage; and of course, when you have nothing else to do you can go round popping the buds.

-Vita Sackville-West
June 25th, 1950

I recently bought a couple Fuchsia Springtime from Bordine’s Nursery to hang on my porch.  They like shade, but this variety cannot tolerate the cold nights.  So I bring them in if the temperature is predicted to get below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  As I am constantly moving their fragile stems some of the buds pop off.  When this occurs I’ve been plopping them in a bowl of water and here I can intimately watch them open and reveal themselves.

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Some of these buds were growing limp with coming death, but I clipped their little ends and put them in this little bowl.  They’ve since come back to life and will open for me soon.  I’m sure Vita meant to go around and help the buds to open by popping them, but no matter.  This is my version of “popping the buds”.

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Fuchsias come in different colors and some are hardy enough to plant in zone 5 (Michigan).  Vita recommends varieties such as, Mrs. Popple, Magellanica Riccartoni, and Mme Cornelissan, and Margaret.  Check with your local nursery, I’m sure they’ll have something that suits your fancy.

*If you have questions or comments about fuchsia or any other plant questions please don’t hesitate to ask.  I’ll do my best to answer! Thank you for reading!

 

“Magenta is a Nasty Color”

 

 The only nasty color produced by the zinnia is a magenta,  and this, alas, is produced only too often.  When magenta threatens, I pull it up and throw in on the compost heap, and allow the better colours to have their way.

-Vita Sackville-West
February 12th, 1950

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Yes, magenta does show up all too often when planting zinnias from seed, so much so that my Grandma complains every year about the abundance of ‘pink’.  She then enquires of my horde and I report that I’m in the same lot.
Then of course there’s the fatal mistake of buying the small “dwarf” zinnias instead of the giant “cut again” variety.  In my opinion the giant ones are better for cutting, and they dry really nicely at the end of the season.

 

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Last year, before the first frost, I harvested the remainder of my yield for drying.  It was a pleasant thing to have the blooms there all winter.  Although shriveled and dull, the reminder of summer was grand.

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If you also do not like the magenta, try clipping and drying it at its bud stage.  They make a striking appearance with their little folds of variegated green.  Grouped together in a vase their buds would be a beautiful sight to see.