Plants With A Place In His Heart

June 06, 1993|By MIKE KLINGAMAN

Recently in this space, I named 20 plants that I have kicked out of bed, the flower bed that is. This is normal behavior for gardeners. We are always falling in and out of love with plants. Sometimes these relationships blossom; sometimes they do not. Many plants look and act differently at home than when they are being wooed in a garden center. Only after these plants move in do we see their thorny side.

If you ask me, the honeymoon is over when the bloom is off the rose.

Fortunately, there are other plants to replace the castoffs. Few gardeners are monogamous, botanically speaking. For every plant I break up with, there is another to which I am betrothed forever. For every plant I can't stand, there is another that I can sit and watch for hours.

(The good news is, no matter how many times they change partners, gardeners never change mothers-in-law. She's always Mother Nature.)

Here, then, are my 20 all-time favorite plants, the ones I have wed -- and will weed -- forever:

* Marigolds are the mules of my garden. These are tough, dependable plants that provide continuous bursts of orange and yellow flowers. The marigold is the patron plant of gas stations, banks and burger joints. Why it is not a state flower is a mystery.

* Daffodils are pretty and prolific. They multiply like rabbits. Planted upside down, the bulbs will gradually right themselves. At least mine do.

* A well-prepared asparagus bed will produce fat and sassy spears for 20 years. Digging the 2-foot planting trench is like carving the Panama Canal. Once planted, however, asparagus is easy to tend. On warm spring days, I swear I can see the spears growing.

* Mint is my favorite edible ground cover. I couldn't make a fruit salad, or a pitcher of iced tea, without a handful of fresh spearmint leaves.

* Roses are, quite simply, the Cadillac of flowers.

* In midsummer, with the heat beating down on the garden, our lavender plants smell like fresh-baked bread.

* Planting onions builds a gardener's confidence. It's the easiest crop of all. Growing onion bulbs is like riding a bike with training wheels. You cannot fail.

* Peonies produce huge scented blossoms that brighten the whole house when cut. Just remember to pick off the ants first.

* The best part of growing lettuce is picking a handful of it for my brown-bag lunch as I'm leaving for work in the morning.

* Baby's breath makes dandy dried flower arrangements. Moreover, it smells better than a baby's breath.

* My favorite way to eat tomatoes is to bite into one in the garden and let the warm juice trickle down my chin. I haven't the courage to try this at dinner.

* Its handsome green foliage and puffy flowers make globe amaranth my favorite annual. This plant is largely unknown, and I don't know why.

* Brushing up against basil is a cheap way to visit Italy.

* I pamper my cucumbers to the point of covering them with a beach umbrella from the hot summer sun.

* Growing azaleas is like painting the yard with watercolors.

* Every fall, while waiting for the first apple to ripen, I understand the urge that Eve must have felt.

* Strawflowers pose a great enigma. How can such pretty flowers grow on such ugly plants?

* Lilies of the valley are the gentlest of flowers. My daughter pretends the delicate blossoms are church bells at her doll weddings.

* Carrots are hard to grow but worth the effort. What other vegetable will keep for six months in the garden?

* There are fragrant lilacs growing beneath all our bedroom windows. Is there a better way to wake up?

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