In the garden: Cleaning up
August 10, 2009
BASALT – I’ve had a wonderful time in the garden this week, cleaning up. First, snipping off the old flowers and small seed heads of the thread-leaf coreopsis, Coreopsis verticillata “Zagreb,” individually with sharp scissors, to drop among the leafy stems. The perpetually fresh ferny foliage is why I have let this coreopsis thread through my sunny garden on creeping rhizomes; the golden daisy flowers are more of a bonus than the main event for me. So I snip as much to prevent spoiling the fresh effect as to prolong flowering, a dainty job but fast and satisfying.
Next, reaching down into the leaves to the base of my favorite old-fashioned daylily, the citron-yellow Hemerocallis “Hyperion,” to grasp the dry flower stalks one at a time with one hand while severing them with the clippers in my other hand. This year my daylily foliage is exceptionally luxuriant, but flowering was sparse, so this doesn’t take long. The stalks, about the diameter of a pencil and nearly as woody, dry up when all the buds have opened and closed.
This leaves me with a handsome green fountain of smooth foliage, which prompts me to remove the dulling brass buttons of the sub-shrub Santolina chamaecyparissus, growing next to it, too. Gray santolina’s multitude of pea-sized yellow blooms rise singly to just above the silvery foliage, but the flowering stems, often clustered on a twig, are oddly, green, not silver. I usually leave them until spring but not this year. The seedheads may be quickly sheared off, but I enjoy the challenge of tracing and clipping each cluster or single stem out of the center of the plant. This is a nitpicker’s dream job and takes awhile, but after I winkle out the last old bloom, you can’t tell that the perfectly shaped dome of finely dissected leaves was ever disturbed by a flower, advancing summer or a gardener with clippers. It contrasts elegantly with the arching leaves of the daylilies.
Most fun of all is bracing my feet like a kid and gleefully yanking the gangly vines of the perennial pea Lathyrus latifolius up by the barrowful, giving neighboring plants back some breathing room. Sprays of dangling pea pods are interesting, but volunteer seedlings all over the neighborhood are not enchanting, so it’s a good idea to stop them before the spring-loaded pods release.
Now for one of the best parts of cleaning up the garden: cleaning up the gardener. I’m going to take a well-earned shower.