Imperfect Gardener


by Adina Sara



A Few of My Favorite Things

I recently visited a friend who had placed a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers from her garden on the table. The smell of one particular flower wafted my way, and I had to get up and take a closer whiff. Smell is the oldest of senses, predating language by millennia. That may be why it is almost impossible to adequately describe smells with clumsy words. This scent was so delicious I couldn't pull away. "What is that?" I asked her. "Daphne," she answered, surprised that I didn't recognize this common garden-variety plant.

We went outside, and she showed me the plant—unremarkable variegated leaves with flowers so small you'd walk right past them without notice. Except for that divine smell.'

I immediately went out and purchased a small daphne and placed it in a large pot on my deck. A few blooms opened during the recent rainstorm, and lots more are on the way. I read up on the sweet plant—officially called Daphne burkwoodii, named for Mrs. Carolyn Brett, who discovered the mutation of the hybrid in her New Jersey garden. How I would have loved to see her expression when that first bloom appeared.

Another recent acquisition came by way of a neighborhood plant exchange—a pathetic little cutting in a four-inch pot. The previous owner assured me the vine would stay contained and bloom nicely across my back fence (where my neighbor recently pleaded with me to remove a passiflora that was threatening to take over his property). I planted the spindly stick in the ground, not expecting anything. Barely two seasons later, the vine has completely covered the fence, crept over the neighbor's pussy willows, woven itself through the buddlea and chasteberry tree and is now reaching for the bamboo. No telling where it will go from there. Still, the stem that leads to the ground is no thicker than a pencil. Hard to believe so much growth can emanate from so spindly a source. The name of the vine is Cobaea sandens, aka cup-and-saucer vine. Did I mention that it's covered with fabulous purple flowers?'

Last but not least, I just discovered a fan-shaped spiked-leaf plant hiding underneath a massive overgrowth of tagetes (Mexican marigold). I wish I could tell you what it is. All I know is that it's not a watsonia (thank goodness—I have enough of those) and not a gladiolus, though it does bear similarities to both. A tall bloom is beginning to form, which I hope will help identify it. Here's what I love about the plant: it planted itself, choosing a perfect spot, midway between the flowering cherry and the curb.'

I sometimes wonder how many more miraculous plants are out there waiting to be discovered.


Water-Saving Tips

With water conservation on everyone's mind, now's a good time to check out www.greywaterguerrillas.com. They offer free or low-cost workshops on how to set up grey-water systems and can help you get free rain-storage'barrels.