12 February 2004 - 2:39 PM
Mnemnosyne in the Gardens
Yes, Ealdthryth, that was the article I was thinking of the other day. I sat down last night with my milk crates of photocopies from my postgrad days and dug it out. The copy was in a folder with articles on religious houses and the commendator system in Scotland, for some reason. I also found my copy of the Turner article on the miles literatus, a couple of conference papers I presented a few years ago and quite a lot of material on the mediaeval Scottish historiographical tradition. Ah, memories.
It's not that being a PhD student was fun, at least by most definitions of fun. It was, in the main, a wretched, unnatural existence. But I do miss having a community of similarly overeducated people with whom I could talk over coffee without having to stop to explain what the Book of Pluscarden is.
Before I got too misty, I put the paperwork away and turned back to my present pleasant vexation, which is what to do with the border along one side of the front walk. The orientation of the house and walk means that one side of the walk is in almost complete shade, and the other gets full afternoon sun. The single act of gardening performed by the previous owners was to plant lilies of the valley along the shady side, and they are fine where they are. The sunny side, however, is a bit more of a challenge.
Two autumns ago I planted a variety of spring-blooming bulbs there: 'Miss Vain' and 'Blue Pearl' crocuses; 'Salome' and 'Ice Follies' daffodils; and 'Mata Hari' and 'Angelique' tulips. The tulips were not a felicitous mix. The photo on the package of 'Mata Hari' bulbs showed an ivory flower with a rose-pink picotee edge. The blossoms, when they appeared last spring, were lemon yellow with a screaming fuschia picotee edge. Exactly the sort of thing you'd name after an exotic dancer, and not harmonious with 'Angelique,' which is more the classical ballerina type. They both performed so well, though, that I hate to complain.
I also planted a lily at one end, a former potted Easter lily, probably a selection of Lilium longiflorum. I gave it to Maman two Easters ago, and it lived, despite her best efforts to kill it as a potted plant. She gave it back to me, figuring that it would have a better chance of surviving in my yard. I have sandy soil (understatement); she has clay, and lily bulbs tend to rot if they don't get good drainage.
The only problem with spring-blooming bulbs is that by May, they're done. The lily put up three stalks and bloomed on two, but otherwise the border looked like a landing strip for most of last summer. Since the lily did well, I ordered a six-pack of mixed oriental lily bulbs and planted them last autumn.
Lilies do not a complete border make, however. For one thing, they don't bloom until midsummer, and for another, they like their feet shaded. Something that would help cover the fading foliage of the bulbs would be nice too. Ferns mix well with lilies in part-sun locations, but I think my little border gets enough sun to fry even sun-tolerant ferns. Daylilies (Hemerocallis) are sometimes mixed with daffodils, but it seems to me that with the oriental lilies, daylilies might be too much of a good thing. Something feathery, perhaps.
Into the box of seed packets. Feathery. Achillea millefolium is feathery, and white so it won't clash with whatever colours the lilies turn out to be (they are supposed to be various pinks and whites, but you never know). Yarrow is also supposed to be good for staunching spear wounds, another excellent reason to have it. Cynoglossum amabile is somewhat feathery and annual, so if I'm wrong about the feathery part, I am not stuck with it. It comes in pink and blue, but it should bloom after the lilies, so clashing pinks and reds shouldn't be a problem.
Why do I have so many packets of Cynoglossum seeds? I cannot have bought them; I wouldn't have brought home four packets of one thing. It's out of keeping with my inner magpie. Flipping a package over, I was reminded. The Viking brought home these packets last summer, after an Alzheimer's care facility handed them out at his office. Cynoglossum sometimes goes by the common name of Chinese Forget-Me-Not. The name of the facility is stamped on the back of the packets. I can hear the rep now: 'Oh, your wife gardens? Here, take a couple extra for her.'