Monday
Oct192009

good bye, hyacinth bean

I got rid of a thug today.

A rose arch separates the patio outside the kitchen from a walkway going around the side of the house. The arch is old, and over the years I have had several different climbing roses growing there. They have all been beautiful, and they have all died. The current one is a Zepherine Drouhin, a thornless variety with old rose scented pink blooms. I planted it last year, and it grew a few feet, but not nearly enough to cover the arch. I decided to plant a confederate jasmine on the other side of the arch, hoping the two would eventually meet at the top, but this plant also grew only a couple feet. So, I then decided to plant a hyacinth bean vine, a fast growing annual, so I would have something on the arch while the other two became  established. It worked perfectly, with the hyacinth bean growing enough to climb one side and drape over the top. I liked its cute pink flowers and attractive purple bean pods.

I thought to repeat the strategy this summer. I planted one hyacinth bean plant next to the Zepherine Drouhin, expecting it to behave as it did before. But this time, the plant grew to zudzu proportions, swallowing the arbor and reaching long tentacles toward any soul daring to walk under it. There was no sign of the rose or the jasmine.

Today I looked at the hyacinth bean and decided it was time for it to go. It wasn't due to die until the first hard frost, at least another month away, but I was in the mood. It was a tangled mess and a lot of work. I was happy to discover that under it all I still have a rose and a jasmine, both about eight feet tall and healthy. 

Next year I won't plant another hyacinth bean on the arbor. Still, if I keep it pruned, one would look nice growing up the tall post supporting a bird house located by the driveway, so I will save a few seeds.I found a perfect rosebud, hidden beneath the hyacinth bean vine.

Thursday
Oct152009

the good snake

A  garden needs a snake. Every year I lose plants, usually because of the heat stress of summer or some fungus or viral attack. This year an anonymous underground villain decimated one of the four planting areas in the lady garden and was making a run on the other three when at last the damage stopped.

I counted the dead the other day: four hostas, three nandina, two Persian shield plants, and - the greatest loss of all - a weeping Japanese maple tree given to me by my mother. The tree was a slow grower which had finally made it to about three feet. Each of these plants was in perfect health until death came quickly in the night. Every time, I found the top of the plant lying wilted on the ground, cleanly decapitated from its roots.

I suspect some earth-dwelling rodent, but I'll never know. The plant destruction has stopped for now. My neighbor Betty phoned me one day to report a five foot black snake in her yard. 

"That's probably a garter snake," I told her. "Let it alone. It's not poisonous, and it eats rats and voles." 

I'm thinking Betty's snake slithered into the lady garden and ate the varmint that was killing my plants. It is a reminder that there is a purpose for every creature on earth.This close-up is of the leaves of a Frances Williams hosta, like the ones destroyed in the lady garden. I haven't decided if I will replant hostas or try something different.