March in the Garden

Last week the flowering trees down the street were at their most ethereal. You know, that point between budding and flowering when the pink-tinged twigs seem to shimmer, like waves of heat rising up from the hot concrete. Now it's in its typical flowering state, full-blown, nothing to hide. Everyone pulls over to take pictures, and sigh over the blossoms; next week the sugary pink petals will be blanketing the ground. These moments are beautiful as well, and I probably shouldn't quibble over any flowering that happens in the spring (except maybe for the acacias, which start out smelling like grape soda and end up clogging your nose with their syrupy stink.) But I prefer the early glimmers, the harbingers-the plants that remind me that winter is past and Easter is coming. Harbingers in our garden include the chinese forget-me-nots (cynoglossum amabile), flowering quince, (chaenomeles japonica) (which is not doing it's job, but I am forgiving-as long as they ante up next year), and the ephemeral spring bulbs: the muscari, daffodils, bluebells. I'm waiting for the checkered lily (fritillaria meleagris) to raise a purple checked head above its grassy foliage, this humble English wildflower is in my all star line-up of favorite flowers. Ready to devour the shade garden is the newly-emerged, lacy green foliage of my favorite native ground cover, dicentra formosa, the plant with way too many common names: Western Bleeding Heart, Dutchmen's Breeches, Lady in a Bath.
Abbey Garden
I'm going to transplant a lot of the dicentra into the Abbey Garden's part shade area, along with the more typical taller Bleeding Heart (dicentra spectabile). These will be interspersed with 5 or 6 shade-tolerant roses; I've found some with august histories like rosa rugosa alba, (1300's)r.r. rubra, (1700's) and rosa mundi (prior to 1591) , the oldest striped rose. It's a sport from rosa gallica officinalis, the Apothecary rose, and I've got one or two of them as well. Behind them all we're going to attempt to create trellising on the brick walls with wire; we want the plants (probably honeysuckle-lonicera periclymen-and jasmine) to frame negative space into the shape of the Abbey's signature aches. This monastic garden theme has been fun.
To Be Announced With Great Fanfare ; In the Style of Sufjan Stevens
And the Abbey Garden really is getting underway, with planting days scheduled this weekend. I'll try to post some photos later to let you see what we've been doing. I'm not only an abysmal photographer, but a truly wretched artist and it's been a challenge properly depicting the design to anyone not currently residing inside my head. So that's pretty much everyone. B is sold on Google Sketch Up, but I am not entirely convinced. You have to rely on plants that Google already has in its database, and things don't look like they do in real life.... I think I need to break down and take a wretched drafting class.
If you live locally (Santa Cruz/Bay Area) and want to come and get dirty with us, we will begin planting out the Abbey Garden this Sunday, March 29. We'd love to garden with you! Address: The Abbey at Vintage Faith Church, 350 Mission Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
And a final question: has anyone had any success with growing (and/or sourcing) cobaea scandens, the cup and saucer vine? I want to grow some on a little wire pyramid tuteur. It's been a little hard to track down and I wonder if I should try to grow it from seed. It's lovely, and I suppose I never could resist bad coffeehouse plant puns......(who can?)

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Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.