Desirable Perennials at Harbour Isle

The first thing I did after moving to a condominium in 1986 was to dig up the lawn and put in a garden. The battle with the management company ensued the next several years until they resigned themselves to the borders I’ve planted around the entrance to my unit. It’s been worth it.
 
I had a friend then, Don Choy, who had moved here from Chicago attempting to reinvent his life. It didn’t work and he returned to Chicago but not before he helped me dig up rocks and gravel from what was a gravel pit, mix composted cow manure with new top soil, and put in the first foundational shrubs. Don had worked for years at Chicago area greenhouses. He was my first gardening guru, teaching me the names of flowering plants and shrubs. Half of those names I don’t recall now. I tell myself I could always go to my shelves of gardening books if I wanted to find the scientific name of any of them but I’ve forgotten the names because I’ve allowed them to disappear from the garden.
 
I am a lazy gardener. I let flowering plants seed in the fall and watch where the new plants establish themselves the following year. My borders have always been crowded so it’s a fight of the fittest. From having some 30 species, I now have half that number. The roses and dahlia went because they attracted swarms of Japanese beetles in the summer. Overlooking my Buddhist sensibilities, I used to drown dozens of the prolific eaters a day. I recently threw away the old McDonald beverage cup; I hadn’t used it in years.
 
So what has remained? The original plantings of weigela are still blooming late each spring. My collection of hostas has dwindled but the day lilies continue to bloom throughout the summer. Hydrangeas are lately popular with gardeners. Mine grow gorgeous giant leaves but seldom flowers. Last fall the landscape crew pruned the spirea hard. I was glad because the two shrubs in the back had gotten so big they blocked the path. The new growth this year is smaller and more likable, almost elegant by comparison to the squat, plump shrubs they had been. During the 1990s when I went up to Saugatuck, Michigan in the summer I would stop by a greenhouses there full of unusual species and varieties. The curly-leaf spirea I bought was also pruned hard last fall. It is just now starting to bloom. Peonies had been the glory of late spring but since last year the pink peonies have started dwindling. Oddly enough the one dark red plant in the back is getting bigger. In early spring, the glory now belongs to the dwarf lilac “Miss Kim.” They spread through runners in the ground and now occupy much of one border. They bloom for a couple of weeks and the garden is dominated by lilac, the air fragrant with their sweet scent that I associate with women’s perfume.
 
The one plant I look forward to blooming each spring is the tree peony I bought from Wal-Mart half a dozen years ago. It is a slow-grower but the blooms are as large as a four-year-old boy’s head, just gorgeous! I cut down the azalea a few days ago when it finally stopped blooming this year. I’ve had no luck with rhododendrons. I used to let the foundational viburnum by the front entryway grow into a tree the top of which reached the second-story roof. It was gorgeous and created the illusion when my friends or I would walk in the garden as if we were in the tropics. I sawed it down to three feet several years ago. I wanted to try growing more sun-loving plants. That shrub is starting to recover although I keep it low now. Grown for its foliage, in the spring the viburnum is covered with white flower balls. I miss those. They seed and now there are several smaller viburnum babies that show the typical, rounded shape and generous spring blooms.
 
The life of a garden mirrors a man’s life. Preferences form in our heads and we make choices but the universe has final say on what works and what doesn’t. Every morning I walk in the garden. That’s my meditation on life as I see which plants are thriving, which have relocated themselves where they prefer to grow, which have gone the way of the giants who used to roam in our childhood fairy tales.

Posted via email from Duende Arts

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About orlando gustilo

Digital content producer, photographer, writer.
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