Sunday, June 2, 2013

Here be dragons

While I'm patiently waiting for my roses to bloom in the North Carolina mountains, I thought I'd revisit a cautionary tale concerning my old garden in Maryland.

You see, it’s only human nature, but every time I thumb through a magazine I start imagining  the fabulous perennials pictured on the pages in my very own garden.

Sometimes these daydreams work well – I love my catmints, lavenders and centhransus.

Other times they turn into nightmares.

At the beginning, artemesia 'Powis Castle' seemed to be a great addition to my little riverside cottage garden.

As a fairly new gardener way back when, I was knowledgeable about roses, but didn’t have a clue about perennial plant companions.

The artemesia was described as attractive, carefree and well-behaved.

Brochure copy promised “The lovely silvery filigree will spread like a carpet beneath your roses and serve as a perfect backdrop for any color bloom.”

At first artemesia and Cottage Rose were a pretty pair

The plant according to legend also had the power to protect me from the Evil Eye, plagues and the bite of a sea dragon.

So what’s not to like?

Initially 'Powis Castle' lived up to its billing. Then I discovered it spreads by underground rhizomes and can grow 6 to 10 feet in diameter.

While away on a month-long trip to England, the plants took over the garden, swallowing my miniature roses and hardy geraniums. The stems were covered with some sort of fungus disease and the floppy limbs were just plain ugly.

I attacked with pruning shears and the Artemesias still looked just plain ugly. (Plus the “pleasantly fragrant” leaves in my opinion were stinky.)

So I yanked them all out.

Then, who doesn’t love Monarda?

I saw a pretty red one at the garden center and thought it would look lovely between my Climbing Souvenir de la Malmaison and the David Austin beauty, The Dark Lady.

The tag proclaimed it was a wonderful choice for attracting butterflies, hummingbirds and “helpful” bees.

What the tag didn’t say is that Bee Balm is a member of the mint family and has a tendency to become invasive. Before long it was everywhere – the single plant traveled so far it practically opened the door and came inside the house.

Plus it was covered in powdery mildew that may have affected my roses.
Bee-loved by many, bee balm is no longer welcomed in my garden

It took three entire days on my hands and knees to dig it out. Despite all my efforts, some Bee Balm came back the following year, but eventually I was rid of the miserable thing.

Today, photos of lush perennials continue to turn my head. And I do order unfamiliar plants from time to time.

I also keep a dried sprig of lacy artemesia foliage in my pocket at all times.

After all, who knows when I might need protection from the bite of a sea dragon.


Janneke said...

Haha, the Artemisia ´Powis Castle´ is indeed stinky, but here it does not grow so fast, so it looks rather nice. And.....I am a bit unpatiently waiting for my roses. Hopefully they will be at their best end of the month.

Lynn Hunt said...

I am impatient as well seeing that the roses are two to three weeks late this year. Makes planning a little garden party almost impossible since I don't have a crystal ball! Will look forward to seeing your roses when they decide to start putting on their 2013 show.

Sunil Patel said...

Hi Lynn, I think I might have another "dragon" in the garden in the form of Physalis Alkekengi, which spreads like mint with runners just under the surface. I grew them from seed the year before and now they're starting to popup everywhere, even coming up in the grass!

Lynn Hunt said...

Watch the front door, Sunil! That Physalis might just try to sneak in! When are you starting your blog again? I love seeing your garden (minus the "dragon", of course!)

Sunil Patel said...

Hi Lynn, I know, I think I'm going to be pulling them up by the barrowful in a few years' time. In the meantime, my blog's been continuing. I don't post at the same frantic pace that I used to. Not it's once or twice a week. Come on over ( and take a look. The roses are coming out now and it won't be long before I'm waxing lyrical about those on there.

Teresa / The Garden Diary said...

Oh, that is some wicked truth you speak!

Lynn Hunt said...

Thank you Teresa. But I must say I was tempted at the garden center the other day by a bubblegum pink bee balm. But I gave myself a dope slap and said "remember all those days on your hands and knees pulling the other wretched one out!"

Skeeter said...

Bee Balm is new to me and thus far, seems to stay in one spot and not scurry about. I will keep my eye on that buggar now though...

Lynn Hunt said...

You may have one of the newer ones that behaves itself! And you probably have a bigger garden so some of these plants have room to ramble. But don't turn your back on it (:

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Bobby said...

Lovely blog you have here

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