First of all, thanks to Amy, Susan, and Elizabeth for your extreme patience in letting me spend 7 or 8 months attempting to organize my life rather than blog posts. Thanks also to the Garden Rant community for your kind words! I am back in the garden, more or less, though not quite caught up to the grass among the daylilies, weeds in the perennial beds, edging, mowing, etc. etc. Fortunately, as a backyard farmer of several decades, I am well aware that even an ill-kempt vegetable garden will generate a scary amount of food between August and November. And as for ornamentals, well, ugly years are forgotten as soon as the snow falls.
But the fact that I am so far behind in the garden does not stop me from visiting nurseries. Au contraire! And if you don’t faint in the heat, July is a good time to visit them. You will have no competition for the attention of the employees, since everyone sensible is on vacation or indoors in climate control. It’s still early enough that there might be interesting plants left. You might even catch a sale.
I went to see my parents three hours south in New Jersey this weekend, which allowed me half an hour at one of my absolute favorite merchants: Rohsler’s Nursery in Allendale, New Jersey. I have never figured out who buys Rohsler’s stock. Probably the nursery is just a front for the adjacent landscaping business. I went to my 35th high school reunion this fall in New Jersey and was reunited with a lovely woman from high school Advanced Biology class, who assured me that there actually ARE gardeners in Bergen County. But damned if I ever see any evidence of them. Lots of professional landscaping, sure. But gardening? Never seen it.
Nonetheless, Rohsler’s is fantastic. Always incredibly interesting and beautiful shrubs, vegetables, perennials, annuals, and pond plants. They ALWAYS have woody plants I am unfamiliar with. Cough up $40 there, and you will come home with something incredibly beautiful that involves a grunt to lift out of the SUV.
Of course, it’s July now. I’m hot, I’m tired. But here is what is on my mind: I have a new fence at the back of my property and had the Norway spruce trimmed up very high to allow more light in. Now, there is sunshine under those trees, with an expanse of six-foot apricot-colored new cedar behind them begging to be climbed, clung to, and aged into a more attractive grey. I’ve been thinking about hardy kiwi vines.
What I wanted was a pair of ‘Artic Beauty’ kiwi vines, Actinidia kolomikta, with beautiful variegated pink and white foliage. I figured that for a fruiting vine that never fruits, you might as well get the pretty foliage. I am only so cynical because I have a pair of the other hardy kiwi species commonly available, Actinidia arguta, a male and female of the variety ‘Meader’. This is a plant that is like wisteria, in that it is notorious for getting huge before ever flowering. Mine are at least six years old, have never fruited, do not have particularly interesting foliage, and are doing nothing notable other than aggressively attempting to climb and crush much prettier plants.
But when I asked Rohsler’s for ‘Arctic Beauty’–actually, is was not Rohsler’s I asked, it was a handsome guy in his fifties who I could SWEAR I went to high school with–he brought out an arguta: a variety called ‘Issai‘ that is in theory self-fertile. Again, self-pollinating in fruiting plants is another concept that from experience provokes profound cynicism in me. I was about to explain that this was NOT what I wanted, when I saw that there were actually fruits hanging off this not terribly mature plant! Sold!
On my way home, I stopped by another nursery, vaguely dissatisfied that I hadn’t held out for the more ornamental kiwi. But there on sale was a yellow trumpet vine. Oh pretty! The two thuggish vines could duke it out on the fence all by themselves, until they both got so woody and huge that they pulled the fence down, and I might never be called in to settle the question of edible versus ornamental! A lazy but possibly lovely solution.
The great thing about shopping in the wilting July heat is that the gardener is too hot to argue or to be fussy. Yes, sold! Now let’s go home and have a cold beverage.