Analita's Surprise - A Perennial Tulip

The tulip called 'Analita' takes center stage in this bouquet.
If you pay attention, chances are a pattern will emerge in your garden. My garden is home to more dual-colored flowers than single shades. The adorable tulip 'Analita' isn't a tall an elegant flower, but it has the whole perkiness thing nailed down.

Early morning, or when it's raining like it is now, 'Analita's flower petals are held close, like she's got a secret that might be revealed with enough coaxing. In closed petal format, she's as much red as white, but in a subtle way, the red applied like an afterthought or a careless smudge of lipstick.

'Analita' is even more exciting when the sun comes out and her petals reveal their other side.
'Analita' fades to a pale pink with age.
'Analita's perky nature is uncovered with the sun's arrival, her secret exposed as creamy white petals splashed by vivid vermillion and centered by a generous dollop of egg-yolk yellow.

Analita is in the Fosteriana class of tulips, and was registered by a hybridizer from the Netherlands in 1952.

I am happy I chose to plant 50 bulbs of this variety, which I'd purchased from John Scheepers Bulbs in fall of 2012. They've been returning ever since they first bloomed in spring of 2013. If the flowers of 'Analita' aren't munched down by rabbits or deer, you'll get to see them transition with age, as if the red color bled into the white portion of the petal.

For a tulip with an individualistic simplicity that will come back at the same strength each year, give 'Analita' a try. She's been on the market for more than 60 years for a reason, after all.

Containers seldom need to be weeded

I had to talk myself down more than once yesterday as I looked around my garden and saw how much needed to be done. Weeds mocked me as they cuddled up next to my real plants. These were the true desperado types--not content with just cropping up in the middle or at the edges of a bed--these weeds menaced my Marshallia, threatened my peonies, and made hostages of the Heuchera.

The "out there" of my weedy garden in mid-March.
Skeletons of annuals, lilies and other unfaltering types whose strength was an advantage in summer still stood in a variety of upright poses, now a blight on the fresh green growth that cowered beneath them.
A month later, and there are still skeletons, now less obvious by virtue of the emergence of foliage and bulbs.
So what's my incentive for cleaning up my garden? (We all work for something, whether it's personal satisfaction, money or health care.) More plants, of course! As lazy as I am, I'd never put a shiny new plant in the middle of a patch of ground ivy.

Lewisia 'Sunset Strain' consists of a variety of colors.

Which brings me to a new self-realization: I grow plants in an ever-increasing number of pots in order to avoid dealing with the weeds in the ground.

Wow! Sometimes over-analyzing brings on some shocking revelations! Now I know why I've been able to ignore the weeds in my garden with only a modicum of guilt. I've got so many pots to care for on my patio, so there are fewer reasons to go "out there" into the depths of the garden.

There are other reasons to grow plants in pots. I buy at least one Lewisia cotyledon each spring, and this year am growing the 'Sunset Strain'.  I plant it in a pot now, no longer willing to see it melt before my eyes when the heat and humidity come to stay. Thanks to my neighbor Lesley, I went on my first plant buying foray early in the season and was able to find a plant that hadn't yet started to bloom.

The orangy buds of Lewisia 'Sunset Strain' open pinky-peach.
According to American Beauties Native Plants, the seed strain of this North American native was developed at Inshriach Alpine Nursery in the Highlands of Scotland. 

A different species of this plant, Lewisia rediviva, was found by Meriwether Lewis on one of his expeditions through the highlands of Montana. Named for Lewis, the Bitterroot plant was given state flower status in 1895 by Montana residents. Lewisia is native to Oregon and California and is nicknamed bitterroot for the mountain range of the same name. 

If you live in northwest Indiana or the Chicago area, check out Sunrise Greenhouse in Grant Park, IL, which is where I am able to find a wide array of plants, including bitterroot, at great prices.

Falling in Love with Bacho Shears

Bacho Long Handled Shears at rest
It isn't often that I fall in love with a gardening implement. But as I used the Bacho Long Handled Lawn Shears, I was grinning like a fool. I'd discovered the shears in an A. M. Leonard catalog, they looked to be the tool I'd been looking for. I contacted the manufacturer and asked if they could send me a pair. They shipped me the shears at no cost so I could try them out and tell you about them.

As a gardener, I know the need for positioning oneself in a variety of poses in order to get the job done. From awkward twisted reaching to hope-for-the-best blind pruning, gardening claims its own special muscle groups.

Many of us gardeners have reached a point in our lives when we certainly won't balk at using one or two assistive devices. I have a pair of Fiskars ergonomic hand pruners that really take the stress off my arthritic hands. Although they don't seem to stay sharp as long as my old Felco 2's, they're great for light pruning of Clematis, and doing lots of deadheading.

But the tool I'm in love with this spring is the Bacho Long Handled Lawn Shears Model P74 with horizontal action. When I first picked them up they felt kind of heavy, and it took some muscle to use them. But it wasn't my hand muscles! It was my arm muscles, and in a movement similar to a machine at the health club called a pec deck.

The Bacho shears up close as they easily slice through Epimedium stems.
Once I started comparing the effort required at the health club with the effort required by the Bacho Shears, the shears became much easier to use.

I headed over to the Epimedium, where last year's leaf stems niggled at my sensibilities. They would detract from the newly-formed flowers that would be up in a couple of weeks, and I really didn't want to crawl around the ground to clip the 4-inch tall offenders. It all worked perfectly together--the timing of the flower emergence, the sharpness of the Bacho blades, and the ease of clipping the slender stems.

The Bacho shears are great for
ornamental grasses.
The Bacho was great for snipping off last season's Hellebore leaves, Hosta flower stems, and a host of other perennials. The shears worked on ornamental grasses, as I've shown in this photo of my lovely assistant as he demonstrates.

I had just about given up on ever finding a tool like this one and was looking around for a scythe, but imagined myself slicing off one of my toes with such a medieval object.

I'm really glad I still get catalogs in the mail. Otherwise I would never have stumbled across this wonderful implement. It's come in very handy this spring especially, as I didn't do any clean-up at all in the fall.

And who wouldn't love the fact that the Bacho Long Handled Lawn Shears are also a great, light weight work-out tool!

So would I recommend the Bacho Long Handled Lawn Shears Model P74 with horizontal action?
Not only can I recommend it, I give it an enthusiastic pec's up!

Springtime is about Promise

Early stems of Lilium 'Eyeliner' emerge from the leaf litter.
Color is pushing up from the ground, which is covered in leaves and other debris left from last November. Mostly oak leaves, the litter is compacted from the snow and must be teased off gently and at the right time so as not to damage the future stems of peonies and lilies. Sure, this could have been done in November, but who really wants to spend another day in the garden when white and brown are the next shades on nature's color pallet?

Heuchera 'Plum Pudding' shows it's alive by its color.

The Heuchera planted last spring in my garden have taken a beating, but are still drawing breath, so to speak. Although lacking leaf, their crowns show promise, and will soon sport leaves.

A wide divergence in emerging peonies shows the diversity of this group. The type I find most interesting is shown by the Intersectionals. A cross between a tree and an herbaceous peony, these sprout from stems above the ground and roots below the ground.

I have two Intersectional peonies--'Al's Choice' planted in 2007, and 'Yellow Doodle Dandy', planted in 2009.

'Al's Choice' has spread out to an above-ground crown about 18" in diameter. One of its roots has even emerged from the ground, and to cover it up would mean covering some of the stem buds. I'd like to divide it this fall and find new homes for the three or four plants it should create.

The many buds of Intersectional peony 'Al's Choice' turn deep pink and begin to swell.

'Al's Choice' brightens up the garden.
The better-known herbaceous peonies are showing their " dear rosy snouts," an apt term coined by gardening legend Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932), saying sh couldn't wait to see them as they poked through the earth.

'Roselette's Child', an herbaceous hybrid peony was planted in my garden in 2012, so this will be its third year, which is when most herbaceous peonies finally show what they can do.

Although 'Roselette's Child' bloomed last season, I'm really looking forward to seeing its flowers again.

'Roselette's Child' is described as having peachy-orange-yellow petals, and should be sheltered from harsh sun in order to maintain its color. I've planted mine in a location where it gets sun until late in the afternoon.

The delicate beauty of 'Roselette's Child' is a welcome sight in May.
I also have 'Roselette', a peony introduced by A. P. Saunders in 1950. 'Roselette's Child' was introduced in 1967, 14 years after Saunders' death. In his later years, Saunders worked with a wide array of peony species sent to him from all over the world. In order to inject some yellow into herbaceous peonies, he used a species called mlokosewitschii, a pale yellow herbaceous peony native to the Caucasus Mountains. More correctly this is actually a subspcies of the species daurica, and is listed as Paeonia daurica subsp. mlokosewitschii. The mloko peony (a shortening of the name by Saunders) is also referred to as "Molly the Witch."

I've tried growing the actual species of Molly the Witch, but she didn't do well. Luckily, Saunders' hybrids live on and are fairly easy to find. Not all peonies have a petal-packed shape. Some, like 'Roselette's Child' possess a simple beauty that is welcome in a garden otherwise crowded with such attention-commanding plants.