Archive for the ‘dracunculus vulgaris’ 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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Today was such a beautiful and mostly dry day that I decided to take advantage of the break in the weather and get some last minute gardening done. I rarely get an opportunity like this in November, and I had a number of peonies that I wanted to rescue from the choke-hold of the Creeping Myrtle.

The Myrtle is pretty, but it grows thick and deep and eventually it chokes out everything that was there before. Fortunately, it does not spread as quickly as an ivy, and a gardener who pays attention can hold myrtle at bay, confining it to one corner of a garden by pruning it back.

I like Periwinkle. It has several names: vinca minor, Periwinkle, Creeping Myrtle. I call it all of those names. The flowers are pretty in the Spring and it makes an excellent ground cover that springs back from a lot of abuse. I did not plant the Periwinkle in my yard, it came with the house. It wasn’t as widespread at it is now, but I neglected that corner of the garden a little too long.

That’s how it looked after I was finished digging and pulling and walking on it. It will spring back.

That corner is also choked with grape hyacinth bulbs. I did not plant them, either. I do not particularly care for them, but the ground in that corner is so littered with their bulbs that I can’t make any headway in getting rid of them. I’ve tried.

I divided five peonies and moved them to new plots. I dug up my purple aster and moved it to a sunnier and more open spot to allow for expansion. I also rolled back the Creeping Myrtle and dug out a handful of the dracunculus vulgaris bulbs (sometimes known as a “Voodoo Lily”I found enough bulbs to make two more clumps of the smelly carnivorous beauty.

As my husband said, I “shared the love” around the yard.

I wanted to weed the grass back from my Fothergilla Major Blue Shadow. It is supposed to be a showy plant through three seasons: when it flowers, after it flowers with it’s blue leaves, and in the Autumn when the leaves turn bright red. Hm. Not quite bright red, but it is pretty.

It’s behind a make shift “fence” because guess what dogs decided to use it as a marker?

All that digging and dead-heading and moving and bending over left me sore and tired, and covered with mud from head to foot. It felt good. I may not think so tomorrow. But I will think it was worth it next Spring, when the peonies bloom in their new locations and the “Voodoo Lilies” open their black hearts to spread the aroma of rotting meat around my yard.

I am so weird, I like that.

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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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