Archive for the ‘aroids’ Category

One of my favorite flower beds is right out the back door. It’s a little triangle that is always full of something growing from May through October. This year, I tried to snap a photo diary of the corner garden.

I missed April – when the grape hyacinth and the tiny wild violets are the only color in this little corner.


May is peony time.


The Dragon Lily (dracunculus vulgaris) ends May and starts June with its stench – and striking beauty.


Even though the Dragon Lily is in full bloom, the corner seems a sea of green as the peonies fade, the milkweed and the asters push upward.


July. The peonies and dragon lilies fade as the milkweed blooms, fragrant and alluring. The corner goes from one aroma (dead meat) to another (sweet milkweed) in a matter of weeks.


August. The asters bloom when the milkweed fades – red and tall in the back, purple and lodged in a crack in the sidewalk. (The yellow mum was a potted plant.) You can see the faded glory of the Dragon Lilies, seed heads brilliant red, and the peony leaves turning brown. Seed pods are forming on the milkweed plants now.


And just like that the sun is low in the sky and September is leaching the color from the milkweed plants.


It is late October now. The rains have held off. The leaves have fallen from most of the milkweed. The asters cling to a little bit of green, but their blooms are all but faded now.

Soon, it will be an empty space of grown, brown and sad, all the stalks cut back before the new growth begins again in April. The rains will come, the days grow dark and – for me – depressing. But the cycle will resume in four short months.

The grape hyacinth, the violets, and the peonies came with the house and this little corner. I pulled back a blanket of creeping myrtle (aka periwinkle or variegated vinca minor) to bare the ground. We planted the Dragon Lilies, babies from a single corm we stole from a rental many moons ago and have carried around with us for 30 years. (Want some? We’ll gladly ship – up to zone 8.) I planted the little purple aster from a plant a dear friend gave me some 25 years ago. It’s been divided and planted elsewhere, but this little bit insists on pushing up through a crack in the sidewalk right at the apex of the flower bed. The tall red aster surprised me that first autumn in the house – an added bonus of the many flowers already here and hidden by neglect.

The milkweed, now – that was a project. I tried two or three times over the years to grow it by seed. I gave up four or five years ago, but one fine day three years ago, a small plant survived long enough for me to identify that it was, indeed, showy milkweed. Last year, more came up and they flowered for the first time. This year, they tripled in number. They are truly one of my finer moments in gardening, even if they are now rather prolific.



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Normally our dracunculus vulgaris blooms on the 7th of June. And this year, we were all set for a Stinkin’ 30th Wedding Anniversary barbecue. But the rain didn’t stop, the cold didn’t warm and the Dragon Plant didn’t bloom.

I was piddling around in the back yard Sunday (putting something together for Harvey) and I kept smelling this horrid dead animal smell. I thought:  Don really needs to clean his barbecue… Then I thought: turn around and LOOK, Stupid!

Oh yeah. It bloomed in time for the Stinkin’ Summer Solstice, a full two weeks late.

This plant STINKS. It smells so much like dead meat that the past two years, Murphy has bitten off the spadix on every bloom. I think he has not bothered the plant this year is that it must taste bad and he somehow (finally!) remembers that. Or he’s distracted with the temptation to get Harvey to play.

Today, I smelled that smell (again) and realized another one had opened up. They only stink for a day which is a good thing because the flower is spectacular.

I’m certain I have blogged about their history before: Don & I discovered them in the yard of a rental we lived in around 1984. The one plant that bloomed smelled so awful but produced such an incredible black flower that we figured no one would notice if we dug it up and moved it with us. And we did.

That one bulb has been planted and replanted in every home we’ve lived in since, until it is now several clumps of plants in serious need of another dividing. The best thing about this flower (aside from the incredible beauty and obnoxious odor – that only lasts one day) is that it invariably blooms for our anniversary, June 7.

Except for this year.

This year, one clump has begun to bloom just this week – in time for the Summer Solstice (June 21). But the second clump (pictured above) won’t open for a few more days.

Don’s birthday is next week. We should have at least one of these beauties in bloom for his birthday.

And then they will fade, the flower will wilt and the spathe will sag. The striking foliage will turn yellow and die back.

And we will dig one or both clumps up, separate and divide the bulbs, and spread them around the garden.

Tonight is the first time I have been able to find numerous sources on the Internet regarding this plant. We’ve loved it since our first whiff (OK, not so much the smell, but the deep purple-black flower) and no one has been able to provide us with much information. This year, I googled it and – wow! – all kinds of references.

So, for your pleasure & education:

Paghat’s Garden

The Garden Helper

Just remember: they really stink for that one day. After that, they are just incredible to view. And they are not little plants! Ours are HUGE.

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Two years ago I blogged about my Mother’s Day gift: more plants for my garden. We went out and purchased some ariseaema (aroids) from a specialty nursery. That fall, I planted all the bulbs in the ground (including anenomes & crucuses) and Murphy dug half of them up. I think he ate them.

Of the three ariseaemas that I planted, two survived. And of those two, one is in bloom right now. It’s in my lovely little prayer garden (that needs a lot of work still).

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My garden is behind this rather funky fence. The story behind the fence is… the dog. He can jump over the 4′ tall plastic green fence, so we had to be creative to keep him out. There are plants in there that I don’t want stepped on, and they’re not all ariseaemas. Fuschias, a bracken fern, the borage. Oh, heck: all of the plants except the grass. The grass has to go.

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We have a lovely view into the neighbor’s backyard. Eventually, we want to plant some clumping bamboo along that chainlink. This year, I planted some climbing nasturtiums and a trumpet vine for the hummingbirds. The borage works pretty well, too, but eventually, it gets so large that it falls over. (Why isn’t that fence fixed? Well, the guy who owns the rental behind us isn’t real keen on fixing it and we haven’t had that many nice days on weekends that weren’t taken up with something else.)

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The grass is going to GO. I intend to put a pond in there. The rock is natural: I want to pump the water over the rock in a natural waterfall effect.

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You can see why we’d like to hide that fence… I planted sunflowers along the wall of our garden shed. Can’t wait for them to grow! It’s always been too shady in this corner for most flowers, but now I have full sun and I can go wild with flowers.

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The borage is a hummingbird plant. My goal is to attract hummers and bees. Borage is also an edible herb – maybe one of these days I’ll get my act together and try it in salads. Right now, I just like it for its sheer size and the fact that hummingbirds love it.

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Right now, this little plant is the star of this garden spot; ariseaema tortuosum.

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A little jack-in-the-pulpit with it’s very own parasol leaves.

Pretty cool, if you ask me.

Hope you can imagine my corner of the yard like I can. My biggest hurdle will be the pond – and a permanent decorative fence to keep the Murphy at bay. I’m thinking something natural with an arch. The yard drops quite a few feet on that end of the yard and maybe the pond could extend into a series of small pools? Imagine yellow Japanese irises and Pacific tree frogs croaking. And lots of strange plants like the arisaemas.

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January is over. Well, almost. Groundhog’s Day is on Saturday. That’s a nice, mystical day. I did a quick study online on the history of the day and was amused to find it was celebrated long before there was a groundhog with the cumbersome nomer of “Puxatawny Phil” attached to him. That comforts me: I rather resent that some east coast mammal can tell me whether or not I am going to have six more weeks of winter in the western portion of the USA.

We’re going to have around six more weeks of winter, regardless. March 20 marks the next equinox. You just can’t win.

I put my wildflower seeds in the freezer, to give them a good chill. I collected them in zones where a hard freeze is a certainty: it is not a certainty in zone 8, where I live. I’ll pull them out of the freezer and start them this weekend and next. Probably next: I have a couple baby showers to attend this weekend, one of which is in my own living room. That is, we will have a baby shower *if* Baby Zephan agrees to wait to be born. As of today, he was busy nestling his little head in position and Arwen was miserably uncomfortable.  I don’t remember that feeling because neither one of my kids burrowed into position until just prior to birth and well into labor. It sounds as if Zephan is not going to do anything weird like Arwen (who wrapped up in her umbilical cord and couldn’t drop) or Levi (who was posterior until I was 9 cm and we turned him): he’s turned right and his little head is right where it needs to be.

Maybe he will be a Groundhog (or is it a Hedgehog? Sam is German and Arwen’s roots are vaguely German: Presley is a Germanic name derived from Pressler)? The Irish in me rebels. Oh, heck, the Scots in me rebels. How dare he give in to his German roots? Oh, heck, he  could be born on Feb 2 and still appease the Scots & Irish: Imbolc. Kind of fascinating to see where my people come from, religiously and otherwise.

(Actually, he will be a Rat: the Chinese Astrological Sign for his year of birth is the Rat. His mom is a Rat.)

Not all of us are anticipating a baby or worrying about the length of winter. My co-gardener (the one I currently am angry with over his indiscriminate “pruning” of my tree peaonies) wishes winter would never end and that much more snow would fall. Murphy is of good strong German heritage. He’s hoping for more winter. He loves snow.  4.jpg

Yeah, he’s turning into a handsome puppy. He’s not as hairy as I thought he would be, but he’s got nice lines.

I haven’t told him that I planted some aroid bulbs, but I noticed he’s been digging where I planted other bulbs last autumn… Darn this dog! He thinks he is a Master Gardener. Or maybe he thinks he is invincible. Did I mention he chewed a wood glue stick the other day? Into tiny little pieces. I don’t think he ingested any.

He’s been loving the snow that we’ve had this past week. He will be disappointed if the groundhog sees his shadow. He’s a Pig, by the way. That explains everything.

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Murphy – AGAIN

Just when I think we’re making progress… Darn Dog.

Friday morning, I could not find my glasses anywhere. I had new ones ordered (new frames, new correction) and planned to use the pair I had for my back up pair. But they weren’t anywhere. I’m rather forgetful, so I have to check all the usual places two or three times. Finally found something resembling glasses on top of the microwave with a note: “Murphy chewed your glasses. Sorry.”

ARRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH. The frames were bent and twisted and the scratch resistant lenses were scratched. The ear pieces were gone. I need glasses to drive, so I got out the pliers and bent the frames enough to fit my head and silently thanked God I have long hair to hide the mangled earpieces. Then I prayed a silent prayer that there would be a message from the eye doctor on the phone… There was! Yay! I figured I could pick them up before I came home Friday afternoon.

So I wore the mangled pair to work and confided in one co-worker (one who likes animals and isn’t going to tell me to get rid of the dog). She managed to make me laugh about it by sharing one of her pet horror stories. “This, too, shall pass.” We hope.

The eye clinic staff was able to save my old frames and replaced the earpieces for me. They’re still slightly bent and the lenses are scratched, but they’re adequate for back up glasses. I’m being careful to keep the new glasses behind closed doors (on top of counters is apparently not high enough, so behind closed doors must work. As long as Murphy doesn’t OPEN the door and find them… He does know how to open doors).

That would be enough, but Don mentioned that Murphy chewed off a branch of one of my tree peonies. WHAT?! Those poor peonies! When we bought the house, they were struggling under a mat of thick grass. Took me three years to get the grass cleared away from their roots. They’re fragile enough, and the dog has to eat one of the branches?? I knew I’d have to look at the damage and he did: he twisted it right off. Nice work, Murphy: now the poor peony is open to disease.

A few weeks ago, I planted all those nice aroid bulbs Don and I bought last spring. I thought to put rocks over the tops of them, to keep Murphy from digging them up. Well… He dug under two of the rocks. I don’t think he dug down to the aroids, but I can’t tell. I put bigger rocks over the tops of them and I won’t move the rocks until March.

But I really am at a loss as to how to protect my garden from the ravages of this latest garden pest. Sure, I could fence off all the flower beds, but that’s an expensive task and would change my landscape from  a warm, natural, & flowing one that moves between lawn and flowers beds to a rigid, unnatural, & cold landscape. I want my flowers easily accessible to me.

I have some comfort: Murphy attacked the bonsai trees, too. He pulled one of the little spruces out of its pot. Mis Boss was not very happy about that. It’s personal when you attack Don’s bonsai trees.

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To all my friends who are mothers, whether naturally, by marriage, spiritually or through adoption: Happy Mother’s Day.

Don took me shopping yesterday. We were looking for some specific plants to add to our garden (his gift to me for bearing his children). We had to find a nursery that carried the plants he wanted to buy: not everyone specializes in odd plants. The one we found doesn’t have a web site and has only been in business for a little over a year, specializing in orchids. We weren’t looking for orchids, but Hana Farms has recently expanded to include ariseaema – and we were looking for aroids. (A little free advertising for the nursery: they’re located at 1600 SW Borland Road in Tualatin. Right under the freeway, across from Southlake Foursquare Church).

Their collection was a little disorganized, but the gal working there knew where everything was and directed us to three very interesting plants, one of which will eventually grow to be two meters tall. We picked out ariseaema tortosum, ariseaema speciosum, and ariseaema costatum.

We already have arum italicum Miller – the house came with this particular arum growing wild in the yard. At first, I thought someone threw out a houseplant because the leaves look so much like a philodendron. I learned yesterday that philodendrons are aroids.

We also have the dracunculus vulgarius. We dug it up when we moved out of a rental some 20 years ago on the theory that the next residents would never appreciate it and it’s unique aroma as much as we did. It was a solitary plant then, and we have moved it several times as we moved around. We even kept it dormant in a box when we lived in an apartment with no yard of our own. It has multiplied to the point where we had seven in bloom at once last summer and it looks like we will have easily that many blooms again, in just a few weeks’ time. It smells like rotten hamburger and does not make a very good cut flower, but you can’t have everything.

Last summer, I sat down and painted a watercolour of some of the blooms.  Dragn Flower

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