You can call it the changing of the flower guard | AspenTimes.com

You can call it the changing of the flower guard

Anna Naeser

Just as I was mourning the decline of the lilacs and irises, so magnificent this year and so plentiful that the house has been full of opulent bouquets, the Oriental poppies in brilliant orange and cherry red unfurled, all the roses burst into bloom, the puny peony buds expanded into their glory, and the Genista lydia exploded in a blatant display of bright yellow pea-type blossoms.Genista lydia and the Harison’s yellow rose are the focal points of the street-side garden now. The rose can be seen all over the neighborhood and needs no introduction, but the Genista is somewhat lesser-known. I learned about the hardy dwarf broom in the pea family from Christopher Lloyd’s 1984 “The Well Chosen Garden,” where it merited a picture of a cascading mass of clear golden yellow blossoms. He describes it in his inimitable, unsentimental fashion as a “humpy bracket” over a retaining wall, though allows that is “dazzling” in June. High Country Gardens began offering it as a xeric shrub that will get only 12 inches tall but 4 feet wide. Four years ago, I planted rooted cuttings on 18-inch centers in an irregular line above the stone wall I share with my neighbors to the west. They have matured and knitted together nicely. My neighbors continued the line on their part of the wall with bigger plants last year, already filling out and blooming.Genista lydia is a great addition to my collection of waterwise spillers and weavers. I mentioned red poppies in the plural but there is only one plant, Papaver orientale “Beauty of Livermere” with only one dark red flower and another in bud. There are lots of orange poppies, in spite of my efforts to replace them with Livermere, so it is irritating when your husband and friends ask if you’ve noticed the red poppy. Why, they wonder, are you so fond of the orange one? Because it has attained the status of “They who persist against all odds deserve to stay forever.” Because whenever I try to dig out, any bit of root left behind – and like bindweed, there inevitably IS a piece of root left behind – regenerates into an even bigger plant. I would love to have some of the other popsicle colors like the ladylike salmon pink “Helen Elizabeth” or the eponymous ruffled “Watermelon” with dramatic black blotches. They wouldn’t grow for me, nor would the luscious “Lauren’s Grape.”Most embarrassingly, I haven’t managed to establish the pale-orange double heirloom which grows with abandon in old-timers’ gardens up and down the valley. Both the stems and distinctive nodding buds are covered in silver hairs which catch and reflect the light, as ethereally beautiful as the flowers. The late Margaret Cerise had a gorgeous patch in gravel next to her garage. I thought they had succumbed to the drought, but they’re blooming as well as ever. I gathered her seed and sowed it, dug up divisions and planted them, not once but many times. Nothing. Nada. Nichts. This spring, I met a gardener in an old Glenwood Springs neighborhood who has several awesome swathes of this poppy and generously shared some roots with me. She mows her poppies down after flowering, instead of waiting for them to messily die down. My earliest blooming Paeonia, a frothy cream-and-pink number, is also the most deliciously fragrant. I wish I could remember its name. I have three other peonies, all gorgeous. I was sure the peonies would get knocked down by the big windstorm Wednesday, and that would be the end of them until next year, but they are bowed, not broken. My favorite probably is no longer available, or I would have found it in one of my nursery catalogs. Replaced by newer and “better” cultivars, no doubt. The great, fragrant double white with a splash of crimson, “Festiva maxima,” is still listed and for some reason is the only peony I can find in my records. It didn’t survive a transplanting.The peonies, poppies, roses and broom are the fanfare that ends the spring and brings on the summer. There’s no time to brood about failures or mourn the passing of last week’s favorites. I’ve got to get back out in the garden before I miss anything.Anna gardens in Basalt with her husband, Gerry. While she was thinking about the poppies, the first Verbascum opened a bright yellow eye. You can contact her at annasgarden@sopris.net


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