What price glory in the garden?

August 30, 2008|By SUSAN REIMER | SUSAN REIMER,susan.reimer@baltsun.com

I have never done the math, but I am pretty sure my job costs me more than I make. That is certainly true when I write about gardening.

I wrote about composting once, and I bought a composter. I bought a rain barrel, too, while I was at it.

I wrote about exotic daylily hybrids, and I bought 30. I wrote about hellebores and clematis, and I bought some of each.

I wrote about drought-tolerant native plants and I tore out a bed and replanted it with drought-tolerant natives.

I write about gardening books, and I buy them. I write about gardening tools, and I buy more. I write about flower shows, and I get in the car and go.

Last spring, I wrote about planting summer-flowering bulbs to give the garden color during the dog days of August.

You can guess what happened next.

I thought it only fair that I report back on what happened when I took my own advice in May.

It is August now, and I have to be honest and say the results are mixed.

I was most excited about the Madame Paul Caseneuve, a very rare heirloom canna I purchased from Old House Gardens. As always, the photo was breath-taking, showing apricot-pink flowers and red-veined leaves.

The problem was not with the flower, but with the setting. It was too tall and too tropical for my determined attempt to create an English cottage garden in the heat of a Maryland summer.

But I have promised to give the bulbs to my friend Susan when I dig them up in the fall; she has the perfect place for them.

I also ordered tuberose Pearl Double, but I am pretty sure I received Mexican Single instead. No matter.

I planted the bulbs in a pot on my deck, and the 4-foot stalks, out of a daylilylike foliage at the base, produced the most fragrant little white flowers you can imagine. When I step out on my deck in the evening, it is intoxicating.

In a second pot nearby, I planted begonia On Top Calypso, but it was pink and white and not orange as advertised, so it is possible that Brent and Becky's Bulbs sent me Pink Halo instead.

Again, no matter. They, too, are sensational. The delicate white flowers with their pink edges peek out from under the large, rough leaves, and I am glad I did not plant them in the garden, where I would not see them as often.

Now, about all the dahlias.

I wrote last spring that you should consider staking them with small tomato cages as soon as they emerge. The foliage will soon hide the wires, and your dahlias will stand tall.

I need to take my own advice.

I didn't cage them, and the miniatures I planted - Honey, Esther, Fantastico and Clair de Lune - are flopping all over the ground in the garden. My mistake.

And I should have tied up the gladiolus Atom. It, too, is a miniature but its bright-red flowers edged in white flopped and the spikes grew crooked.

Atom would have put on quite a show for the neighbors if I had used single-flower stakes. As it was, I cut the flowers and brought them indoors.

Colocasia 'Pink China' is a smallish elephant ear that did not impress. I liked better the colorful caladiums that I planted.

And gladiolus Boone, whose lovely yellow flower was greatly anticipated, did not send up anything but a couple of green spikes.

So, that's my report in this, my first garden column.

I may not have the successes to be a garden columnist. But I have the receipts.

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