9/15/18: Bathing Beauties and Other Delights 

Well, on September 9, in the Fairy Garden, I finally tucked in the huge, collapsed Dicentra spectabalis.  What a perennial star! 

She emerges emerald green in mid-spring, from partly shaded, moist, fertile earth, and grows feverishly to 3 feet high. Then, quaint, plump, dangling pink or white flowers emerge.  Children, especially, love them.   

The blossoms look very much like hearts, but I love to introduce her as ‘Bathing Beauty in her Bathtub.’ Remove a pink flower, turn it over and spread each end apart gently to reveal a blushing lassie rising from her bath, caught out. It’s impossible not to giggle when I wiggle the dim-witted damsel and view her discomfiture.  

White works too, but for me the impact is lessened by Madame’s sheet-white, bashful countenance. The pink flower is funnier. 

Dicentra blooms and blooms, impervious to slugs, bugs and disease. The flowers finally finish in late June, but her leaves remain lovely, very gradually evolving to buttery gold by mid-to-late August if she’s not stressed. ‘Di’ appreciates being groomed- once. With both hands I snap off the skeletal, exhausted twig-ends that housed the blossoms. (Be careful; the other lovely leafy branches can easily break.) 
Finally, one early autumn day, ‘Di’ finally droops and snaps, done in by wind or heavy rain.  

Cleanup is easy. With deft flicks of my wrist I simply tug at the base of each fat stalk, which snaps cleanly, leaving barely a bump in the soil.  I cover the raw area with an inch of rich, black earth, and she happily snuggles down for the winter.  (The vacated space can be huge, so I might pop a potted chrysanthemum or other arrangement that doesn’t mind a bit of shade, over her spot.  Judiciously placed stones underneath the pot keep the mum from pressing down too hard on my lady’s nearly invisible bump.)    

Sharing space with this delightful resident is Corydalis lutea, a cobweb-delicate, incredibly prolific plant. Her butter-yellow flowers are always evident, most especially in spring and summer. Despite her incredible fragility, she handles the crushing weight of heavy snow with nary a tremor.  I was thunderstruck to discover her in perfect condition in early spring, as I began to master the art of gardening. 
How can ‘Cory’ be so tough?   

Unlike Dicentra, who is content to stay where I put her, Corydalis makes merry constantly, but she is incredibly easy to dislodge. When her offspring threaten to become a nuisance I simply tug gently, and that bit of rooted plant pops out of the soil without a fight.   

Tidying ‘Cory’ should be done regularly. She’ll grow too cheerfully amid the emerald green Irish moss (Sagina), or among the thick clumps of Labrador violets. The area becomes noticeably neater when I cull, but I’ll still have lots to enjoy.   
Nothing nibbles her, or makes her sick.  Given part shade, moisture, and well-drained, fertile soil, she’ll look lovely 12 months a year.   

‘Violet,’ another low-growing plant, needs a firm hand, though; otherwise she’s everywhere. Stunning June blossoms glow an intense blue, just above plump, lush purple and green leaves. If she’s cut back (a tedious job), I’ll often get a second flower show. 

Ostrich ferns, and one enormous Goat’s Beard (Aruncus), enhance the Fairy fountain. I’ll chainsaw the easy-care, 6-foot tall, plumed Aruncus to the dirt in November. Both plants will spring back in Spring. 

In the Ram’s Head Garden the Sargentii crab apple tree has burst into bloom. Zillions of bright, orangey-red berries dangle from her branches, providing food for the birds through much of early winter. Some avians eat too many and stagger about, slightly tipsy. It’s quite a sight! 

Every spring, billowing blue and white clouds of perfumed Sweet Alyssum reseed in brick-walk cracks throughout the Fairy Garden. I love its delicate scent. 

Hovering over everything is my 18-year-old Cornus kousa Dogwood tree. Profuse, pure-white butterfly-blossoms blanket the tree in stunning fashion every June and remain for weeks, before finally evolving n August to masses of quarter-sized, bright red seed balls perched atop stiff stems, which hang down like Christmas ornaments. When they drop I poke them into the soil, creating enchanting, miniature red ‘forests,’ perfect for fairies. It’s fun too, to slip the long stemmed berries into the curl of giant hostas’ leaves, creating a pretty picture in autumn. Imagine huge blue hostas ‘finished’ with these lovely red balls... 
Birds, and Sir Chipmunk, love this fruit, too.   
There are so many! 

Today marks the season’s last day to view Sunnybank’s secret garden. Do pop in to see the final show!

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