Showtime in the Garden

IMG_0008THERE’S A SENSE AROUND HERE (in my head, that is) that my Long Island garden is already peaking at this early stage of the game. Memorial Day and the week following are spearheaded each year, I now know, by the pinkish-purple blooming of four massive, gasp-worthy rhododendron shrubs I inherited when I bought this place three years ago.

The rhodies were not in great shape when I arrived, but three years of mulching, extra watering and Hollytone-ing, along with some judicious pruning, made this year’s flower show the most profuse yet.

Up to fifteen feet tall, they surround my deck, are the main sight seen through the windows along the front of the house, and act as a magnet to draw people into the garden for a closer look. (My yard sale last Saturday, a non-spectacular affair mounted with three friends, became equally an unofficial Open Garden Day, with would-be yard sale customers meandering through my half-acre, and coming out praising my skills as a plantswoman, which was very satisfying.)

A week into June, however, helped along by a couple of hot days and a couple of pounding rainstorms, the rhodie’s blousey blossoms are already beginning to fade and fall apart, heralding a load of mushy-petal raking to come, and later in June, the chore of deadheading the finished flowers to make room for next year’s all-too-brief display.

Is it worth all the toil and trouble? No doubt. Will I be satisfied with the garden’s subtler pleasures to follow? I’ll try.

Sensational though they are, late May/early June is not all about rhodies. Check out the foxgloves I’ve got going this year. True, I took a shortcut. The property next door has been vacant for a year or more, and in a wrong-headed effort to make it look more “buildable,” the owner clear-cut dozens of mature trees. That was horrifying — the woods turned into a forest of tree stumps in a day — except that some dormant digitalis purpurea, a whole great stand of them in the sunny center of the lot, burst into bloom a couple weeks back. I stole a few and replanted them wholesale in my front beds.

Digitalis (foxgloves) are biennials, and they bloom in their second year, so whether they’ll reseed themselves and carry on, or whether this is just a one-shot pleasure, I have no idea. I certainly hope it’s the former.

My irises are nothing to sneeze at, either. I have several different kinds and know next to nothing about them. A few weeks ago, I was sure they didn’t like the soil, or I had planted them too deep — but lo, another brilliant showing. I’m postponing cutting off the faded flower stalks because I fear there’s nothing much coming to replace them.

There are still gaps and holes and huge areas of bare mulch in the beds, and even huger areas of wooded wilderness where I’d love to plant flowering shrubs and small flowering trees (magnolias, cherry) but haven’t committed the resources.

Anyway, it’s Open Garden Day on casaCARA. Take a look, and come away praising not my garden skills (which leave much to be desired), but the wonder of ephemeral nature.

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About cara

I blog for fun here at casaCARA, and write about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites. My recently published posts and articles can be found here: https://casacara.wordpress.com/recent-articles/
This entry was posted in GARDENS & GARDENING, HAMPTONS, LONG ISLAND. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Showtime in the Garden

  1. Love the rhodies, digitalis and iris – don’t worry, the rest will fill in and be enchanting!

  2. Justine Cullinan says:

    Driving down your road today, I saw the valley of tree-stump stubble you describe, and clocked tall purple-pink stalks of flowers. I thought perhaps they were lupines, not daring to hope that they were my favorite garden flower of all (early memories of a “Peter Rabbit” garden with foxglove and hollyhocks) — fairy thimbles, as they refer to them in Ireland. Now it seems as if this was so … A brilliant rescue!

  3. Cate says:

    Looks gorgeous!

  4. IL says:

    Cara,
    As my lilacs and irises fade and roses begin to bloom, I can only admire the beauty you have created in your new home’s gardens. Salut!

  5. literarybrooklyn says:

    It looks gorgeous! I find you can’t do wrong with iris, just stick ’em in the ground (in the fall) and they grow and spread. I have huge stands now from a few starters. Will have to thin this year. Great “rescue” of the foxglove. Been meaning to get a couple myself. Love the way you make “arrangements” in your beds. Wish I had a little more talent in that area.

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