Six on Saturday: Working in the Fourth Dimension

The Anemone rhizomes I planted last fall are emerging and beginning to bloom.

Spring is as much about finding little surprises and managing change in the garden as it is about admiring whatever happens to be in bloom.  The hellebores are a prime example.  Once I began blowing back the mat of winter leaves and twigs at the bottom of our yard, I kept finding tiny hellebore seedlings growing in random spots through the moss. 

These little hellebores, which look a bit like glossy green clover on steroids, with their three-lobed seed leaves, will each grow into a hardy evergreen plant that eventually stretches to about 2 feet across.  Our mature, blooming hellebores have been covered in bees and other pollinating insects on warmish days because their nectar and pollen are so abundant and good.  But the places where these babies had taken root will be mown again before May.

I planted a seedling hellebore in the stump of a fallen peach tree about three years ago now, and it has grown large enough to almost hide what is left of the stump.

So, it has been on my ‘to do’ list for a while now to dig and transplant each of the seedlings growing in harm’s way.   It takes a while to consider the possibilities, you know, and decide where to use them.  And then it takes another while to have my garden knife and a container in hand when I’m in that remotest part of the garden.  And finally, all of the stars aligned yesterday afternoon and I had an ounce of energy left to move them all.

It seems the shady areas grow a bit larger each year, so I had some prime spots available that were once planted in sun loving perennials, and now need something fresh that will thrive in the shade.  It takes about two to three years for a seedling hellebore to bloom, and generally four years for it to reach its mature size.  So, moving seedlings pays off in time.  Like planting a tree, it is an investment in the future.

Winter sunset in our garden

Two little scarlet buckeye seedlings growing in pots leafed out last week, and I’ve been admiring them and trying to decide whether to plant them or donate them to a plant sale next month.  I decided that a scarlet buckeye tree would work well growing near those little hellebore babies, and popped it into the soft earth. 

Scarlet buckeye is a favorite with hummingbirds when it blooms in April.  It produces long stems covered in bright red flowers that last for several weeks.  Its new leaves emerge coppery, and it produces gigantic seeds by late summer.  Since the seeds and leaves are poisonous, few animals will disturb it.

This scarlet buckeye is two years old and will be donated to the plant sale. The one I planted is a first year seedling.

We’ve had wonderful rain this past week.  Everything is well-watered, and the earth is soft and easy to dig.  With more rain on the way, it is the prime time to plant.  I love clearing a small hole with the tip of my hori-hori knife and popping a small transplant into place.  It feels good to make the least disturbance possible when planting.

And that is exactly how I planted a half dozen seedling mahonia shrubs near the newest fern garden yesterday.  They will quickly grow into a beautiful, evergreen clump that blooms with bright yellow flowers each winter.

I dug these seedlings and planted them in pots about a month ago. They are too small to donate, so I planted them yesterday.

There are many more young trees and shrubs waiting for their own bit of ground.   When our Edgeworthia began to decline from too much rain last summer, I struck several cuttings.  Most seem to have survived and taken root.  I found a stray Forsythia branch my partner had pruned and left behind in January and cut it down for cuttings, too.  They are beginning to bloom in their pot.  I also have a collection of rooting cuttings from the Japanese quince.   They will eventually sink their new roots around that little buckeye tree.  It is always good to see the seeds we plant germinate and the cuttings begin to grow. 

Gardening is all about managing change.  Whether the change is a tree that has fallen, a shrub that has failed, or seedlings growing in unexpected places; we pick up the threads of the story and weave them into something fresh and new.  Like playing music, gardening is a fourth dimensional art that plays out over time. 

The beauty is found in how this moment transforms into the next, and the next after that.  When we can let go of labeling things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and just work with what ‘is’ in this moment; we find ways to transform everything into something of beauty and value.

Honeysuckle and Akebia vines, pruned out of the shrubs, worked up nicely into this very rustic basket, planted with moss, ferns, bulbs and a few perennials.
With appreciation to The Propagator, who hosts Six on Saturday each week.

You might enjoy my new series of posts, Plants I Love That Deer Ignore. Eleven groups of plants are featured thus far, and the list will continue to grow.

14 comments

  1. I LOVELOVELOVE your basket. It’s beautiful! I’m starting to look at options for planting an expanded perennial gaarden, and epecct to take your advice and use what I have. There are a couple self-layered shrubs that can be moved, and a long row of tulips that must be moved… Just waiting for the snow to finish melting, and soil to thaw and dry out a bit.

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    • Wonderful to hear from you, Sue. Carpenters advise to measure three times and cut once. I think it is even more important to think things through awhile before moving and planting things in the garden. A lot of times plants respond really well to thinning and moving with more vigorous growth afterwards, so it is a win-win. Winter is a good time for thinking about what changes to make, particularly if you have photos of past seasons to review. The basket is pure experiment and I’m happy with how it came out. I am experimenting with a method for growing mosses in 3-D containers with the moss layer backed by a layer of felt, and then a layer of plastic. The back of the moss isn’t in contact with the potting soil, except on the very top of the arrangement. The moss should eventually grow outwards, through the vines that make up the body of the basket. The fern on the side is set in a slit in the felt and the plastic liner to grow into the potting soil. Fingers crossed that it all grows in and thrives OK. Something should be in bloom in that arrangement through at least the end of April if all goes as planned. I’m glad you like it. ❤ ❤ ❤

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  2. Someone else just mentioned scarlet buckeye, although it was red buckeye, which could be different. Regardless, I am unfamiliar with it, or either of them.I doubt they are comparable to ours, which is deciduous through the warmth of summer.

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    • Hi Tony,
      Scarlet buckeye is pretty localized here in the Southeastern US. It might grow just fine for you. Let me know if you may be interested in trying a cutting or having some seeds when they ripen in October. Here is some more information: https://woodlandgnome.wordpress.com/2022/03/22/plants-i-love-that-deer-ignore-aesculus-pavia-scarlet-buckeye/ On the NCSU site in the references at the end, you can find detailed information on several Aesculus species and cultivars. In this case at least, it appears that the better species of the genus grow in the East.

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      • Thank you, but this is one that I will pass on. I noticed that there were several buckeyes that are native to North America a while ago, so made a point of avoiding trying to get too obsessed with them like I did with beautyberry, elderberry and the many species of Yucca. As much as I sort of dislike the native species, I will be satisfied with it for now.

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      • Well, with your summer drought, you are wise. You would probably need to irrigate to keep it happy. But I will ask again in the autumn when the seeds ripen. You could grow it in a large pot for several years. I enjoy Yucca, too, especially when they bloom.

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      • It is no drought. It is just how the climate works here, which is why the native species defoliates late in summer. Not all defoliate though. Those in irrigated situations, or down near the creeks, retain their foliage until autumn.

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      • Thanks, Tony. Back east, we keep hearing about the terrible drought in parts of CA. While we get rain year-round, it sounds like yours is more seasonal. The native species must have adapted to the pattern. We sometimes have trees begin to lose their leaves in August, when we are having a dry year. But they rarely defoliate entirely before late October.

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      • Yes, it is often and perhaps typically described as drought. However, drought is an unusually dry pattern of weather. What we have is usual. It is not because of the weather, but because of the climate. Most people here are not from here, so do not understand that. I find it to be annoying. I am a native, so I know how it works, and I have no problem with it. Droughts sometimes happen, but certainly not annually. If it seems as if there is not enough water here, it is only because someone wants to profit from it. If anything, there are too many people here, relying on limited resources.

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      • That makes complete sense. Too many people, and too much of a drain on resources is a problem in many places, including here, where our aquifer is in trouble. It is good that certain plants can tolerate the dry times.

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      • Not only do they tolerate it, but they prefer it. Many chaparral plants do not last as long in irrigated landscapes as they do in the wild. Desert plants are even more sensitive to irrigation, which is why Joshua trees are so rare in landscapes.

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