Monday, March 28, 2011


            I can’t believe it’s almost April already. Where do all those fleeting minutes disappear to when we’re not watching?

            Am delighted to report we finally got some significant rainfall after two weeks of none. I actually ran the drip irrigation and the spray zone on the south side of the house a couple of times last week, something I am loath to do now that Oak Island charges twice as much for water  to exit the house as it does to enter. (But we do have one top-o’-the-line sewer system. If only we could afford it…)

Captivating violas spill out
of a terracotta pot

            Temperatures did one of their early-spring reality-check nosedives this weekend. NOAA issued freeze warnings for tonight for inland areas, reminding us it ain’t over locally until the last-frost lady sings on April 9. Oak Island hasn’t dipped below 32°F since February 13 this year, but the evergreen memory of the Great Easter Freeze of April 8, 2007 remains. Bad season for strawberry farmers, and for flowering shrubs and trees, was 2007.

            We need occasional slaps in the face like that from Mother Nature to remind us we’re not really in charge here. It’s like the spoiled-brat mentality of the people who build enormous beach-front vacation homes on tony Figure Eight and Bald Head Islands, an incredibly stupid move when one considers that barrier islands are, by definition, unstable. Now that the ocean is exerting her inexorable power, the rich feel all the taxpayers of the state should be happy to help finance terminal groins to protect their investments. I have two things to say to them, and to the legislators that live in their pockets:

Ajuga reptans 'Caitlin's Giant'
starts blooming in late March
in southeastern NC

1. Terminal groins don’t work. Talk to any Virginia Beach resident about the one at Rudy Inlet. Look at the never-ending dredging of Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks.
2.  You aren’t ever going to stop the ocean from doing what she wants to do, no matter how hard you try. Money can’t fix disregard for nature. Ask the Japanese, who thought constructing nuclear power plants on fault lines would be okay. (Are you listening, California?)

            Okay, that’s it for today’s political rant. I’m feeling my oats, having had the self-same letter to the editor published in both local papers this month. (The StarNews even left in my description of our town attorney as “gormless,” probably because the children working the copy-edit desk didn’t know what it means.)

Against all odds,
the Christmas poinsettia clings
to life on the screened porch

            Onward to wrapping up the month in the garden.

            Ratty-looking poinsettia moved to porch, where it seems happier. One out of four cyclamen (the white-bloomer) bit the dust, the rest are good: the pink-with-purple-eye specimen still has flowers! The papayas persevere despite their relocation to the Kitchen of Death, but we all eagerly anticipate the day they move outside, along with their sidekick, the tape-worm fern. The Solanum pseudocapsicum appears to be reveling in its escape from the confines of the house. The Ledebouria, Hemigraphis, dahlia, penta and verbena all look dead, but I’ve been fooled before. I won’t consign them to the compost pile just yet.

Baby pea plants stretch
toward their trellis

            Trellised the peas, which responded by reaching out tentative tendrils toward the mesh. Tim and I bought the rest of the materials for the two new raised beds, and wait only for the rain to stop before erecting them. I continue to put off thinning the beets, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist) and poppies-for-seed sown as a lark. To rationalize my uncharacteristic timidity in regard to this chore, I’ve told myself I’m waiting for really big true leaves to emerge.   
            Fine Gardening magazine’s June issue (don’t ask me why June came out already. I just take what arrives in the mailbox) has an interesting article on thinking outside the cage regarding tomato staking. Southern California's Scott Daigre makes some interesting suggestions involving concrete reinforcing wire and hog fencing that I plan to try.

            Four blueberry plants arrived (in excellent shape, by the way) from Gardens Alive! The two ‘Ka-Bluey’ came in four-inch pots and the pair of bare-rooted ‘Elizabeth’ I potted up into three-gallon pots immediately. I was so impressed, I immediately ordered another ‘Elizabeth’ and two ‘O’Neal’ blueberries and a ‘Ouachita’ (pronounced WATCH-ee-taw) blackberry. Where am I going to put them? I don’t know.

Seedlings survive on their
piano-based light table

            The seedlings on the piano continue to progress, albeit slowly. Two more black-eyed susan vines germinated, and two more pots of strawberries. None of the six Passiflora seeds that I saved sprouted, nor three of the hollyhocks, nor the other three black-eyed susan vines. (Planted three each from this year’s Renee’s Garden and last year’s Ferry-Morse seeds: one Renee and two Ferry-Morse germinated. Wonder what that means?) Lost two hollyhocks to stem breakage. So 40 out of 54 of the indoor pots sprouted. Not bad, considering my track record.

The cats are gonna love this crop!

Heartened by my indoor successes, I sowed another batch, to be left outside on the potting table, on St. Patrick’s Day. Planted 15 pots of edibles, three pots each of ‘Ambrosia Hybrid’ cantaloupe; ‘Hale’s Best Jumbo’ muskmelon (an heirloom variety); ‘Tendergreen’  cukes; ‘Sumter’ cuke (“organic” seeds, whatever that means); and ‘Snack Seed’ sunflowers. Also tried my hand at starting flowers—six pots ‘Summer Romance’ alyssum; five more ‘Indian Spring’ hollyhock; and four pots ‘Spitfire’ climbing nasturtium. Also sowed a 16" diameter bulb pan with cat grass.

Covered the lot with the wire shelves of my mini-greenhouse to deter critters.

As of today, all the sunflowers and ‘Tendergreen’ cukes have sprouted, along with all six pots of alyssum, two hollyhocks, two nasturtiums and the cat grass. It’s my best seed showing ever.

Weed-free, Kowed and kelped,
my new bed awaits further developments

            Finished weeding and clearing around the edge on the 13th; got the whole thing Kowed-and-kelped on the 17th. T and I have assembled all the materials for installing drip irrigation, which is the next step. After that, all that remains is to build an arbor (out of hog fencing, as per Scott Daigre?), design and plant. I’m already wishing I’d made it bigger.

Check out Kathy's latest article
in Carolina Gardener, and learn
creative ways to stake tomatoes
from Fine Gardening


            The April issue of Carolina Gardener, the one containing my article on sustainable fertilization choices, arrived in the mail last week. Keep an eye out for it at your local garden center and at Borders bookstores.

            “Winter Weeds” edged out “Stuffing Stockings” as the most popular post last week. And about time, too.

            Here’s what’s bloomed in my yard this month:
·         BULBS: Muscari aucheri, M. latifolium, M. armeniacum; Tulipa clusiana, T. turkestanica, T. sylvestris; Chionodoxa forbesii ‘Pink Giant’; Ipheion uniflorum ‘Jessie,’ ‘Wisley Blue,’ ‘Rolf Fiedler,’ and pink-blooming ‘Charlotte Bishop’; the early daffs have passed, but the later ones, like split-corona ‘Tripartite’ and  orange-cupped ‘Kedron’ are still blooming.
These variegated wallflowers
(Erysimum linifolia 'Variegata')
have been flowering for a month

·         PERENNIALS:  Erysimum linifolia ‘Variegata’ (variegated wallflower); Ajuga repens ‘Caitlin’s Giant.’
·         TREES: Crabapple Malus sargentii; Southern crabapple Malus angustifolius is budded.
·         ANNUALS:  The violas are glorious. The delphiniums my grower-friend Christine supplied me with are budding (yes, delphinium is considered an annual in hot-summer zones).


Delphiniums getting ready to bloom

Since comments from y’all are still few and far between, last weekend Tim installed a site meter to bolster my morale. It has a really neat world-map feature that shows me where people click on from. The biggest surprise was a reader from Tokyo, who maybe found “Taking Time” of interest. Most consistently present so far is the person in Mountain View, California, to whom I proffer my heart-felt gratitude. Most mysterious is the no-known-name place in the middle of the country (the ID box just says “United States,” which I already knew: I am no slouch at geography, thanks to my 10th and 11th grade teacher, Mr. Crippen)—west of Memphis, east of the Rockies. Please consider leaving a comment revealing your dot’s name. You can do it anonymously, if you’re scared or whatever.

Regardless, oh, Silent Ones, thanks for dropping by. See you next time.


P.S.—By the way, Chuck, thank you for the kind words. My warmest regards to you and Miss Maggie.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


            Ding-dong, the winter’s fled! At least it has in southeastern North Carolina. (A friend told me it snowed on Monday in Swansea, Massachusetts. Sorry, you guys. I remember the late-April Easter Sunday my little family hiked to the top of Black Mountain near Lake George, NY, for a picnic… as the snowflakes filtered down around us. Oh, yes, I remember. And I don’t miss it in the slightest.)

Colorful annuals grab the eye

But even if it isn’t in the air where you live, you’ll know spring has sprung by the color riot at your local garden centers, home improvement palaces and big-box stores. Counting on the warmth- and color-starved masses to flood in for succor, garden center sales will be brisk as customers do their damnedest to push the season.

            I know, I know. The first warmish day you’re going to rush out and purchase primroses and pansies, petunias and pentas, no matter what I say, so let’s run through some things you should look for when buying trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Several conditions affect the success rate of what you bring home.

1.      Buy as locally grown as possible. Plants already acclimated to your climate have an automatic head-start over “foreigners” from elsewhere. For example, I obtain most of the bulbs I plant for clients and myself from Brent and Becky Heath in Gloucester, Virginia instead of from John Scheepers and Von Bourgondien in Michigan. All have good products, but southeastern Virginia’s climate more closely resembles mine than Michigan’s. For the same reason, I advocate patronizing your neighborhood growers and independent garden centers over the big-box stores. Yes, the smaller guy’s prices are higher, but the plants are more likely to have been grown in the same environment you plan to put them in. Besides, in these tough economic times, small local businesses need your support more than conglomerates like Lowe’s or Wal-Mart.

Andromeda (Pieris japonica)
struggles to survive on the coast,
but my local Lowe's stocks it
every year anyway
2.      Another salient point about big-box garden centers: these stores order their plants by region (i.e., the Southeast) or by state. Taking North Carolina (of course) as an example: light, sandy, nutrient-deficient alkaline coastal soils are nothing at all like the heavy, acidic, nutrient-dense clay of the Piedmont and mountains. So what? So there is a marked difference in how a plant originating in Yadkinville in the foothills of the Blue Ridge performs in sultry Charlotte, mountainous Murphy and coastal Calabash. But Lowe’s stores carry the same plants in all three areas. Caveat emptor, y’all.

3.      Bargain-priced plants are often not bargains at all unless your green thumb is legendary. While there is nothing wrong with nursing neglected, ailing specimens back to health—indeed, it’s a commendable activity—my personal feeling is that life is too short to start out with ugly, albeit inexpensive, plants. (I also harbor a similar unreasoning prejudice against thrift and consignment stores. The thought of wearing someone else’s discarded shoes literally turns my stomach. This condition probably stems from years of ill-fitting hand-me-downs worn when new by my tall, athletically built older sister. I am not now, nor have I ever been, tall or athletically built.)

Pot-bound plants have a harder time
establishing than properly rooted ones

4.      Try not to be insulted by this statement of the obvious, but don’t buy sick plants. Check the roots as well as the top-growth; avoid both underdeveloped (most of the substrate stays in the pot when you pull out the plant) or overdeveloped (huge mats of root material hanging out the bottom) root systems. Roots should be light-colored and fill the pot comfortably, without bulges or cracks. It’s okay if some roots trail out, but you should be able to get the plant out of the pot without resorting to a hacksaw. Pot-bound plants take longer to establish in the landscape, and hardly rooted specimens may never establish at all. At best, you’ll have paid a three-gallon price for a one-gallon bush.

5.      Avoid plants that have known histories of disease or pest problems in your area. Kwansan cherries (Prunus serrulata ‘Kwansan’) are often prone to borers and fatal bacterial blights in my environs; red-leafed plums (Prunus cerasifera) also suffer lingering malaises, just never doing well. (Might be the salt, as they thrive inland). Talk to your neighbors and independent garden-center staffs to find out if there’s something you need to know about a particular specimen. The kicker here is this: every plant is an individual, and microclimates abound. My favorite example of horticultural “Confound the Expert” is brought to us by the Official State Tree of the Great State of North Carolina, the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida). In general, they don’t do all that well on the coast. They prefer acidic soils: ours aren’t. Personally, I vote for the deleterious effects of salt in the soil and air. However, beautiful specimens—though unusual—can be found. Fill dirt? Microclimate? Spite? Who knows?

These creeping phlox (Phlox subulata)
are not only bloomed-out,
their foliage is lanky

6.      When shopping for trees and shrubs, look for foliage with good color and minimal to no damage. Check for spots, brown leaf edges and bare branches. Often these conditions are caused by cold, transient pests or drying winds and the plant will probably make a full recovery, but why take the chance unless you have to? If you’re in the market for a deciduous plant during the dormant season, make sure the buds on the branches appear plump. Size at purchase is a matter of personal preference and budget. The good (cheap) news is that many trees establish faster when planted at smaller sizes; they catch up with larger specimens within a few years. As for shrubs, be aware that nurseries often dose their out-going stock with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate), which makes the plant preternaturally green and lush… while it’s in its pot. This is particularly true of Mother’s Day favorites like roses, gardenias, hydrangeas and azaleas. I’m just saying.

Bloomed-out  snapdragons
(Antirrhinum majus)

7.      When in the market for perennials, remember stocky is always better than lanky. And believe it or not, plants that have overwintered in their containers have the most to recommend them. Quicker to establish once in the ground, two-year-olds frequently bloom earlier than their younger cousins. Beware of specimens with scanty, pale foliage and/or blooming far ahead of season: these plants have probably been forced into flower in greenhouses and may find the outside world difficult to adjust to. Keep in mind the old garden-center saw, “Buy plants, not flowers.” Avoid bloomed-out specimens, even though they’re the ones that grab your eye. Look instead for buds to outnumber blooms—that way, the big display will take place in your garden, not in the store. Check for light-colored roots and substrates with a nice, earthy smell—reject any plants with mushy root fibers or bad odors, as these probably have some malady or other.

Un-bloomed-out snapdragons
(Antirrhinum majus)

8.       The same principles apply to choosing annuals. You want good foliage color and sturdy plants, more buds than flowers, strong but not pot-bound root systems. (Bodacious in-store blooming is not as bad a thing as it is with perennials. Motivated by the biological imperative to reproduce, annuals bloom their little hearts out all season anyway. Which is why we love them.) Be sure you keep a weather eye on tender specimens until all danger of frost has passed, or you may find yourself starting over again.

So there it is, guidelines for picking perfect plants. Happy hunting!

And thanks for dropping by.


Sunday, March 20, 2011


            I’m a light person. The more light, the better, as far as I’m concerned. Tim’s and my little house is painted oyster white throughout, with bright white woodwork. Makes it airy and spacious-feeling. My mom liked to paint her walls different colors, changing one room or another every other year or so. As adults, most of my sisters followed suit, doing their parts to keep Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore in business. I took the road less traveled. I like white. I like light.

            Much good news for light-lovers this weekend. The moon went full on Saturday at 2:10 p.m. and the vernal equinox occurred at 7:18 p.m. this evening.

Every month’s full moon carries a descriptive name derived from various folklores. March’s is known as the Worm, Sap or Crow Moon. (I understand “Sap,” but Sky-Guy didn’t explain where “Worm” and “Crow” come from.) The March moon traditionally decides the date of the primo Christian holiday, Easter, based on a third-century formula called the Computus. Like many carved-in-stone rules, it has been modified over the years. Most recently—in 1583—Pope Gregory XIII decreed that henceforth Easter would fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. That’s not at all arbitrary, is it? Unlike Christmas, whose date was fixed to coincide with pagan solstice celebrations even though biblical scholars have long held that Jesus was most likely born in early spring.

            Be all that as it may, this year the March moon falls the day before the equinox, moving the so-called Pascal Moon forward 28 days. Accordingly, Easter occurs about as late in the year as possible, on April 24.

The weekend’s full moon also coincided with a perigee of the lunar cycle, which means the full moon rose within an hour of it being the closest to Earth it’s going to get this year, or a mere 356,577 kilometers. (The most distant apogee happens only 16 days later, on April 2, when the moon will recede to 406,655 klicks away from Earth. That’s a difference of 50,078 kilometers, or about 31,048 miles. Isn’t this astronomy stuff fascinating?) Apparently, the full-moon-at-perigee phenomenon isn’t all that common: the last time it happened was March 8, 1993. Sky-Guy says the perceived diameter of the moon varies by 15% or so, smaller at apogee, larger at perigee. Tim and I decided to check it out.

Saturday night's
"Super" moon

After dinner, we drove to a local beach for the show. Although the thermometer hit 80° during the afternoon, by 7 p.m. the northeasterly breeze freshened: down on the strand, it was cold. (In retrospect, I probably should have worn shoes. Or at least socks.) Nonetheless, we stuck it out. A small crowd congregated on the highest point of the boardwalk to the beach, cameras at the ready to capture what Sky-Guy calls “Moon illusion.” At 7:45, a red disc edged over the roofs of the houses.

Well, she was pretty, all right, but I wouldn’t call her a “super” moon. As she cleared the last roof-ridge, T and I opted to go home and make a pot of coffee. I planned to pour mine on my feet.

Here is a diagram of the
celestial coordinate system.
Note the ecliptic circle,
which is at a 23-&-a-half-degree
angle to the galactic equator.
Or something like that.

The astronomical beginning of spring, the vernal equinox, means more to me. Equinox occurs at the moment the sun reaches an ecliptic longitude of zero degrees, which has more to do with the celestial sphere than that old saw about the sun crossing the geographical equator so everywhere on the planet experiences 12 hours of daylight. That’s piffle, of course. Oak Island’s 12-hour day occurred on March 17th. Today we enjoyed 12 hours and eight minutes between sun rise and set. I don’t really understand the concept of the ecliptic and other celestial coordinates, so I snipped a diagram of the system. You can puzzle it out for yourselves.

I’m just glad it’s officially spring.

Light affects all life on earth in various ways. We’re all subject to circadian rhythms, for instance. Webster defines circadian—from the Latin “circa” (around) and “diem” (day)—as “designating or of behavioral or physiological rhythms associated with the 24-hour cycles of the earth’s rotation, as, in man, the regular metabolic, glandular and sleep rhythms which may persist through dislocations of day and night…” I understand the concept viscerally, as I have just acclimated to the advent of Daylight Savings Time. Every year, I experience springing forward and falling back as jet-lag.

 But there are other light effects, most clearly demonstrated by plants.

First there is phototropism, or the hormone-induced bending of plant structures toward a source of light, either natural or artificial. Sunflowers are the best-known example of flowers that orient themselves in relation to the sun, a related phenomenon called heliotropism.

The tomato seedlings on my piano
lean toward the light source.
This is called phototropism.

The biological mechanisms behind photo- and heliotropism are amazing. Motion is accomplished by specialized potassium-pumping cells in a flexible segment, called the pulvinus, just below a flowerhead or in a plant’s stem. In the presence of blue light rays, potassium ions change the turgor pressure in nearby tissues. On the shady side of the stem or flower, increased rigidity causes elongation of the pulvinus cells, causing the plant to “follow” the light.  

Little miracles happen around us all the time, don’t they?

One can have too much of a good thing, however.

I belong to the generation of sun worshippers who saw nothing odd in slathering ourselves with iodine mixed in baby oil before taking off as much clothing as our mothers would allow and settling ourselves in the backyard or on the beach to broil. Why I don’t resemble a raisin today, 40 years on, is another of those quotidian miracles.

Tim’s dermatologist, a transplant from Rochester, New York, once remarked that he saw more cases of skin cancer in his first two years working in Brunswick County, North Carolina, than in the 25-plus years he practiced up north. This is an important observation, and one worth giving some thought to. “Full sun” on the southeastern coast is an entirely different animal from “full sun” in Connecticut or Ohio, and the difference affects both plants and people. Pot geraniums (Pelargonium spp. cvv.), for instance, welcome summertime southern and western exposures up north; but down here, don’t even think about it past, say, mid-June. Your skin has a lot in common with geraniums that way, so take proper precautions when you go out at all times of the year, even if you’ve got “good” skin.

Sunflowers provide the best-known
example of heliotropism
            Interestingly enough, Tim and I represent opposite ends of the skin continuum. He characterizes himself as “Irish iridescent blue.” He’s had several skin cancers removed—basal cell, squamous cell and one very scary pre-Stage I melanoma—since we moved to North Carolina in 1997. He now anoints all exposed skin daily with sunscreen containing titanium dioxide to thwart both UVA and UVB rays, never ventures out shirtless or barefoot, rarely wears shorts, and always keeps his head covered.

            I, on the other hand, have marvelous skin. Naturally a kind of honey color, I tan readily and hardly ever burn. (I’m not bragging. The Good-Skin Fairy smiled upon me at birth, so it’s not a circumstance I had any control over. And, because there is balance in the cosmos, the Good-Fingernail Fairy loathed me at first sight.) Nonetheless, my Southern-Belle upbringing—most of which didn't take—makes me sensitive to the responsibility of maintaining my good fortune. My face has not left the house without sunscreen (or mascara) since the 1970s, not counting the two ill-thought-out two-a.m. trips to the hospital forced on me by childbirth. Since the ’90s, I’ve extended coverage to all exposed skin. Here are links to the skin-saving products depicted nearby: Rocky Mountain Sunscreen; Oil of Olay Complete Facial Moisturizer and Lubriderm Daily Moisture Lotion (both SPF 15); and Burt’s Bee’s Lip Protection. I also rarely wear shorts when we’re working, but that’s mostly because I like to give the deer ticks and chiggers as small a target as possible.

Protect your skin, every day

            I also wear a hat, at my doctor’s behest and not because I look good in one. He advises me that everyone, particularly light-eyed folks, need to protect their eyes from glare. He also recommends sunglasses to go with the hat, but I don’t do sunglasses. It’s up to the visor of my Fitzgeralds Gardening ball-cap to defend my baby-blues against incipient retinal harm. If you are not sunglasses-phobic like me (I have my reasons), so much the better.

            One other quick note on sun protection—and I’m deadly serious about this topic despite my jocular tone: Rit, the washing-machine fabric-dye people, makes a laundry additive called Sun Guard that increases the SPF of most of your clothing from about 6, in the case of cotton, to 30. (It won’t work on polyester, but no one wears polyester anymore. Do they?) I treat all Tim’s work shirts with it. It allegedly holds up to 20 washings, and Tim has enough shirts so, if kept in proper rotation, once in late March and once in July helps shield his back and stomach through high spring and summer. Did you know you can burn through your clothes?

It’s spring now, the days are getting longer. We spend more time outside, the sun’s rays are stronger. It’s okay to love the light, but don’t be stupid about it, please.

Thanks for dropping by. See you next time.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011


                    The editor of Carolina Gardener magazine, like all periodical editors, lives in multiple time dimensions. I sent her copy for an April-issue article a week after Christmas, and for a June piece the end of February. She’s editing the May issue while putting April to bed, and simultaneously compiling the calendar of articles to assign for 2012. She says her kindergartener keeps her sort of cognizant of what day it is today: they ceremoniously turn the page of the little girl’s calendar the first of every month.
            In my business, dates don’t matter so much. I consider myself well-grounded if I know whether today is a Tuesday or a Friday, and, if asked, frequently have to stop to think before answering. This happens often, because Tim is more date-challenged than I am. (A case in point: we got married on St. Patrick’s Day—a Thursday—in 1998: T insisted on St. Pat’s so Hallmark would remind him of our subsequent anniversaries. Reverend Ken expressed some concern, as the day fell during Lent, when big celebrations can appear unseemly. “How many people are you planning to ask?” he queried. We retired to a huddle, then announced, “Including you? Five.” Problem solved. I never subscribed to the myth of the big white wedding. Over the years, anecdotal evidence I’ve accumulated indicates that the bigger the wedding, the shorter the marriage.)

Anemone blanda,
not a summer-blooming bulb
(see note at end of post)

            Where was I? I’m sure there was a point I meant to make when I started.

            Oh, yes: thinking ahead. When it comes to the garden, this time of year is when you plan for your summer show. That show should include oodles of summer-blooming bulbs.

            Summer-blooming bulbs? you echo. That means lilies, right?

            The category includes lilies, but goes ’way beyond those lovely, fragrant, colorful deer favorites. After studying Brent and Becky’s “Summer-Flowering Bulbs Catalogue 2011,” I picked nine lesser-known and generally pest-resistant genera to bring to your attention. All have performed solidly in my cold-hardiness zone 7-8-9 garden. In alphabetical order, they are:

1.      Crinum species and hybrids. This tough Southern standard is one of those plants found blooming around abandoned homesteads. Clusters of long-lasting, lily-like blossoms in shades of pink and white on 18-24” high stems perfume the air over arching, bright green strappy foliage. All this and deer resistance too makes Crinum a gotta-have. They resent being moved, so put them where you want them the first time.

Scadoxis multiflorus,
summer-blooming bulb # 8

2.      Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora, better known in some circles as montbretia. Twelve-to-24-inch spikes of hot-colored tubular flowers with sword-like foliage add pest-resistant vertical accents to mid- to late summer gardens. I wouldn’t be without gladiolus-like (only better because they don’t need staking) beauties in my orange garden. Smoldering scarlet ‘Lucifer’ and orange-peel-orange ‘Embers’ glow in my back border during July and August.   

3.      Gladiolus species. It seems you either like glads or you don’t. You either have the space to grow them, or you don’t. You either don’t mind staking them, or you do. As a notorious non-staker, I give the usual hybrids a pass, but have tried a few of the species, like heirloom (introduced in 1896) G. callicanthus var. murielae (also known as Acidanthera). They proved an interesting experiment, producing pretty, if smallish, white-and-purple flowers the first year then nothing but foliage in subsequent seasons. Just when I had decided living without glads wasn't so awful (Tim considers them funeral flowers anyway),  I popped ten G. ‘Flevo Junior’ in as a last-ditch effort. Boy, oh, boy!  Beautiful, long-lasting spikes of dark red flowers began in mid-June and kept going for almost a month. They did require staking, but I blamed the straight-species Liatris spicata that leaned against them. Inspired by this happy circumstance, I put ten G. nanus in a client’s pink garden that bloomed just as spectacularly, no staking required. I’ve gone off going off on glads.

4.      The glorious Gloriosa superba. These finger-like tubers produce scandent (hort-speak for lax”) stems that require support. Cultivar ‘Rothschildiana’ blooms with eye-catching yellow-and-red flowers with recurved petals starting in July. In my garden, they continue to multiply in their mostly shady spot. The straight species has orange flowers: I added a dozen or so of them to my sunny orange garden, where they twine themselves into the eleagnus hedge behind them for a special late-summer show.

Narcissus 'Katie Heath,'
not a summer-blooming bulb
(see note at end of post)

5.      Hymenocallis festalis, a.k.a. spider lily or ismene, along with hybrid ‘Advance, are most common in the trade. Night-blooming, white, fragrant, lily-esque flowers resemble daffodils from Bizarro World, very striking. The strappy foliage is a glossy dark green and forms impressive clumps. In Garden Bulbs for the South, Scott Ogden mentions 40 species in just 13 pages, which is pretty impressive, too. (See Good Reads, in the sidebar.)

6.      Lilium species. I love lilies. One or another is in bloom from late spring to summer, depending on species and cultivar. I’ve planted Formosas (L. formosanum), Orientals, Asiatics, Trumpets, Orienpets (all hybrids, differing in bloom times and orientation of the flower), Turk’s-caps (L. martagon), Easter (L. longiflorum), regal (L. regale), tiny-flowered, chandelier-like species L. pumilum, and tangerine-orange, long-lived L. henryi. Many have wonderful fragrance, especially the Oriental hybrids. If you can keep the deer off them, you can’t go too wrong planting lilies.

Lycoris radiata,
One of two correctly placed
summer-blooming bulb photos
in this post
7.      Lycoris radiata, sprengeri and squamigera, also called spider lily, hurricane lily and naked ladies, respectively. It took a while for Lycoris to establish in my garden, probably because I kept moving them around the first few years. Now they’ve beaten me at my own game and the red trumpets of L. radiata pop up charmingly in unexpected places all over the garden in late summer to early fall, which is fine with me. Reclusive Brunswick County plant guru Frank Galloway tells me they often take two or three seasons to settle in before blooming even if you don’t yank them out of the ground every ten minutes. Just so you’ll know, the flowers appear at their appointed time as if by magic on leafless stalks; the grass-like foliage produced in winter to early spring has disappeared long since. While I’ve never planted that pink-flowering Southern standard L. squamigera, Frank gave me an L. sprengeri (a.k.a. tie-dye lily) to trial. And now I have a new favorite Lycoris.

8.      Scadoxis multiflorus, or blood lily. This one, another of those other-worldly-looking flowers I gravitate toward, you have to see to believe! Four-to-six-inch-wide spiky red spheres bloom in early summer, and are monster cool. The bright-green, lance-shaped foliage emerges after flowering finishes. The ones we planted on a client’s roadside bank have stopped traffic. Fortunately, it's not a very busy street.

Sprekelia formosissima,
the other correctly placed
summer-blooming bulb
in this post

9.      Sprekelia formosissima, the elegant Aztec lily. Really red, really big (to 5”) orchid-like flowers bloom in June atop foliage that persists all summer as a broadly bladed grassy clump after the flowers fade. A deer-resistant Mexican native.

It has occurred to me that most of the above selections bear a family resemblance to Lilium lilies, but that’s not a bad thing. Another thing they have in common is that they all need to be planted now for bloom this summer. (Lycoris maybe not until next year. For blooming, I mean, not planting.) So go to Brent and Becky’s website (link above) sooner rather than later for the best selection.

Not surprisingly, Tim fixed the “Most Recent Post” problem detailed in “Taking Time.” Turns out it was a Feed-Burner problem. He just chewed over it for days until he cut the Gordian knot. Everything is as it should be now. In case you were worried.

Thanks for dropping by.


 P.S.--A note about the pictures: apparently I'm not as assiduous as I might be about photographing the non-red summer bulbs in my yard when they're flowering, so I included three snaps of what's blooming today instead.

Tulipa sylvestris and Muscari aucheri,
not summer-blooming bulbs,
but a lovely vignette nonetheless,
photographed this afternoon in Fitzgeralds' garden