week 12: coral peonies, frothy herbaceous clematis, and yes, more frogs

IT’S HARDER than it sounds, at least for a task-oriented person such as myself: Take time off from the to-do lists, and instead of looking at the garden as a project, just wander around and see what pleases you. Could I let go of the critical glass-half-full view, and focus on little moments that sometimes get lost in the rush to “get ready” for tours and workshops?

Could l look past a little increasing shagginess of the lawn and the start of some summer weed uprisings here and there, just for a few days? After my final spring event the previous weekend, I tried just that this last week. Want to see what I saw?

frogs of the week

Two female green frog of different ages were glad that I wasn’t making all that noise with the damn lawn mower. They let me join them on the grass beside one of the little in-ground water gardens, where they were quietly keeping company.

stylophorum’s odd pods

In many beds where the celandine poppy’s gold flowers starred in early spring, Stylophorum diphyllum’s wonderfully curious seedpods, covered in soft, pale green spines, are now dangling madly. The foliage will start to yellow momentarily, I know, and I’ll cut each plant to the ground, prompting a fresh flush of growth.

Yes, the Stylophorum is about to join the ranks of the shaggies—a main focus of the June chores column is fighting that chaos—but this week I just noticed, and let it all be. Out front the perennial geraniums, Geranium macrorrhizum and G. phaeum, are nearly gone by, and that’s where I’ll start my hard cutbacks in the week ahead. I’ll face ugly stubble for a couple of weeks afterward, but then a welcome fresh start.

coral-colored peonies

It was yet another week of peonies, thanks to generally cooler temperatures. The coral-colored varieties, such as ‘Coral Charm,’ are my favorite among the herbaceous types. I felt guilty having them here all to myself, so I brought a vaseful to a friend’s restaurant, CrossRoads Food Shop, adding a few stems of a herbaceous clematis, Clematis recta ‘Lime Close,’ for good measure (now marketed as the variety ‘Serious Black’ some places).

“Come for the peonies, stay for the pancakes,” he proclaimed to his followers on Instagram. (If your peonies failed to bloom, the reasons why are covered here.)

Clematis recta purpurea foliage emergingherbaceous clematis recta

That Clematis I tucked in was barely starting to open when I snatched the bits for the bouquet, but by midweek it was spilling over the top of its chest-high support, and arching into the adjacent pathway (photo top of page). It’s often referred to as a non-vining clematis, but it will get several feet tall or even 5, before dying to the ground in winter like other perennials.

When it’s done with its frothy, fragrant show, I’ll cut it all the way down, too, like the head of the International Clematis Society told me to, along with her many other tips, remember? My variety, ‘Lime Close,’ is purple-leaved when it first emerges (above) and that’s what color the new shoots will be after a haircut.

moving self-sowns soon

On my meanderings, I scouted around for self-sown annual and biennial seedlings—angelica, nicotiana, Verbena bonariensis and others—to move into better spots ASAP. It’s like shopping in your own closet, my version of use-what-you’ve-got gardening. I’m hoping for a rainy day to actually transplant the stashes of goodies I located where they don’t belong, but there hasn’t been any in a week or two and who knows if and when. I may have to go to Plan B, the one involving shade-cloth tents and lots of watering.


another week, another woodchuck

Some chores can’t be skipped: I did water because it has been so dry, and I trapped another woodchuck—Number 3 of the spring. No doubt Number 4 (and 5 and 6…) will move in momentarily, which is why it’s good to have an approach to “nuisance wildlife control.”  (Garden doodle, above, by Andre Jordan.)

The best thing of all: My little respite from chores didn’t cause anything to happen that can’t be remedied when I head out tomorrow to resume my somewhat more energetic rounds. How are you faring–and what’s looking good to you right now?

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Categoriesfrogboys Nature
  1. Sally Nachlas says:

    Because spring was so late here in South Central PA, I had to put my seed starts into the raised vegetable beds to hold them while I cleared spots for them in the garden. I am loving it now shopping through the things I picked from catalogs in the winter. They are getting big fast though, and it’s starting to get hot and dry here. So like you, I’ll be doing a lot of watering soon. But everything seems to of gotten off to a great start. Thanks Margaret!

  2. Kathy M. says:

    I learned the lesson from your first book that we have to stop being so critical of our gardens and slow down and enjoy them. Always think of that when I get stressed out and thank you for the wisdom found in A Way to the Garden. Time to reread it.

  3. Sandra says:

    I believe this more and more each year. It’s so easy to just pick out the issues but so rewarding to sit back a moment and enjoy.

  4. Stella Elbaum says:

    We’ve had a wet and chilly Sping, but finally got the veggies planted. Everything was looking pretty good, until our resident woodchuck found a way to dig under our buried-chicken wire barriers under the fence. It was horrible. He took out all the broccoli, the Brussel sprouts, the beans and some pepper plants. We spent most of the weekend digging newtrenches and buried another 100 ft. of chicken wire. He was back this morning and tried to dig his way in, but couldn’t get past the barriers. I hope the damaged plants recover and he moves on to another garden????

  5. My garden looks alright but everything is stunted in growth. Everything is shorter than usual due to the cold dry spring turning into the hot dry spring. We have been blessed with some rain this month which I am ever thankful for but much more is needed to catch up. Such is life in the garden so it seems any more. Lovin every minute of it though.

    1. margaret says:

      More rain please, I agree, Lisa. Tomorrow we are in the 90s or so, and it hasn’t rained properly in a couple of weeks…so that can’t be good!

  6. Barbara Sanders says:

    I’ve found that if I deadhead the celandine poppy seed heads regularly the plant keeps blooming, so I do that as long as I can with the ones that are where I see them all the time.

  7. Lacey Bloom says:

    Stop and enjoy my garden? What? :) Honestly, the most enjoyment I get out of it is the work. (Well other than watering. I’m not a fan of dragging hoses.) And, like you, I have verbena on a stick and nicotiana self-starters to move…

    But from time to time, I’ll make myself stroll the paths of yard just because. I did just that about a week ago, and boy am I glad I did! As I was walking in the area around my frog pond, it looked like the ground was moving! At first I thought it was flies! gross. But it is baby FROGS! They are half the size of my pinky finger nail! Hundreds and hundreds of babies! And I LOVE frogs! (please eat all my mosquitoes, little froggies!) Currently that area is off limits for strolls and only the occasional tip-toe up to it to see how the frogs are growing.

    I love your frog pics! Keep them coming!

  8. gayle fowler says:

    I got spoiled with all the rain we had this spring and enjoyed not having to drag hoses – but alas that has come to an end…. back to the dragging – but this year I went out and bought more hoses and have weaved them into the gardens so I only have to drag one around to connect to the ones I have hidden. I also trenched in a line and had a spigot set up to a garden that is very far from the house and required a lot of hose dragging – now no more dragging hoses to that garden. It has made a huge difference for me!!
    I love just walking around and seeing what is popping up …. changed everyday!

  9. Jean C. says:

    I spent several months this spring getting my gardens ready for the Private Gardens Tour hosted by our local botanical society. It was exhausting and I don’t think I even enjoyed the chores that are usually pleasing to me. The Tour was worth it, but I’m glad it’s over. Now, I’m taking the time to sit in the garden and relax. Once in a while I wander through it and pick a weed or two. I love seeing what’s up for blooming next, also. Definitely going to enjoy the rest of the summer.

  10. Pollyalida says:

    Thank you! I needed this reminder! Look beyond the chaos. Just arrived home after 3 weeks away and was not surprised to find chaos. I’ll take a deep breath, look around at everything, find some bright spots and take another deep breath. Then tackle the weeds in manageable doses. Why garden if it’s going to be stressful!

  11. karen rogers says:

    I also have several (5) Coral Charm/Coral Sunset peonies, and they are my absolute favorites. Sturdy stems, gorgeous color, quick growth, but honestly, they stink! Whatever happened to that delightful peony fragrance? Combine them in a big vase with blue and white baptisia for a showstopping bouquet.

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