Sunday, May 31, 2015

Gardening surprises, part 2

As I noted last summer, the life of a gardener is full of surprises—some pleasant, some un. I got one of the pleasant type a week or so ago, while I was hanging out the laundry. Our back yard has a steep slope on the northern side, right next to the clothesline, so I was looking right at it as I hung the clothes, and I noticed a bunch of little, fernlike, bright-green weeds all clustered together near the bottom. My first thought was, "Good grief, is that more dill?" because one of the dill plants in our garden went to seed a couple of years back, and since then, we've been finding tiny dill plants popping up all over the yard. But I'd never seen quite so much of it in one place before.

There was one easy way to find out, so I nipped a little piece off one of the plants and tasted it. And it wasn't dill; it was an asparagus fern.

At first, I was baffled, because the asparagus in our yard was all planted from crowns (two-year-old root clusters) rather than from seed, and I knew we'd planted those in only two places: the side yard and the big bed in front of the fenced-in garden area. But then I remembered that in both those beds, the allegedly all-male hybrids we'd bought had turned out to include several female plants that produced clusters of berries. And those berries probably looked pretty tasty to the birds that tend to congregate in our yard—particularly in the bushes atop the slope on the north side. So whether they'd picked the berries up and then dropped them, or they'd eaten the berries and they'd passed through, a bunch of them apparently ended up falling right out of those bushes, rolling to the bottom of the slope, and making a home for themselves.

Unfortunately, their new home was not the ideal place for them from our perspective. It doesn't get nearly as much sun as the two established asparagus beds, and because it's full of grass and other weeds, it would be difficult to find and harvest any mature asparagus stalks that might manage to grow there. So Brian took a crack at digging up some of the baby ferns and transplanting them into the big asparagus bed with our newer asparagus plants (the ones that won't be ready to harvest until next year). Some of the new plants in that bed didn't seem to be doing too well anyway, so we figured eking out the supply with a few extra plants couldn't hurt. It remains to be seen how well the transplants will do in their new home, but at least this way we have a chance of getting some edible asparagus off them.

Unfortunately, the other surprise in our garden that week was far less agreeable. And to be fair, it wasn't even really that much of a surprise, just a disappointment. You know how last year, I started spraying my rosebush weekly with baking soda spray in an effort to fend off blackspot? And when that didn't work, I switched to a commercial fungicide? And when that still didn't work, I decided that this year I would spray weekly with the fungicide starting in March, as soon as the first leaf buds were visible?

Yeah, well, that didn't work either. As you can see, despite all my efforts, the dreaded black spots are still showing up on the leaves, and I have no reason to think they won't eventually take over and strip the plant bare, just like they have every other year. In fact, they may even have an easier time this year, because the bush seems to be suffering from some kind of insect infestation as well. So the leaves that aren't gradually turning spotty and yellow and then dropping off are instead just being chewed to pieces right on the stem.

The bottom line is, this is probably going to be the last year for this rosebush. I've decided that if it isn't possible to keep it healthy, I should just take it down and replace it with a new one that's easier to care for. True, the black spot never actually seems to kill the plant, but it does leave it looking bare and ugly for the whole period from August through March, and I've decided I'm not putting up with it anymore.

The rosebush seems to know somehow that this is its last hurrah, because it's putting on a very impressive display for its grand finale. It almost seems like it's hoping it can still convince me to spare its life by looking so spectacular that I just can't bring myself to remove it. But I'm not fooled. It may look beautiful now, but I know that in a couple of months, while our neighbors' rosebushes are still covered in blossoms, this one will have nothing but a few hips and an ever-dwindling, patchy supply of yellowing leaves. So unless the rosebush actually manages to pull off a miraculous recovery and keep looking good all summer long, I'm not going to be deterred. This pesky plant is going away, and its place will be filled by a nice, easy-care rose like Knock Out, which is resistant to black spot and also a lot more compact than this big sprawling thing.

Normally, I'm all for working with my garden rather than against it, trying to save the plants I have instead of ripping them out and replacing them. But when you've got a plant that just won't cooperate, sometimes you just have to get tough.
Post a Comment