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A Spring Tonic

A Spring Tonic

Kathy Renwald

 Looking for serenity in the garden?  Plant a star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) and underneath it, create a perfect place for the stellar double bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Multiplex’).

  This would almost be a place of worship. In springtime when the sky is piercing blue, the magnolia unwraps its strappy white flowerslike ribbons fluttering in the wind.  After looking up in rapture, fall to your knees and drink up the beauty of the double bloodroot.  Imagine pure white flowers as plump as peonies, popping their heads above leathery leaves.

  Even though both of these plants are achingly precious to look at they are darned easy to grow.

The slow growing star magnolia is ideal for smaller gardens, with a mature height of 15 to 20 feet and an equal spread.  It is adaptable to many sites, but does best in full sun. The coolish spring we are having is perfect to prolong the flowering of this handsome tree.

 The double bloodroot likes a woodsy soil that is well drained, and a position in semi-shade. I have grown it easily for years, and it is the highlight of spring.  The flowers last for days, and force you into the garden, in every kind of weather, to admire their beauty.

  I seek serenity in the garden in the spring, because normally when I am out and about, people are peppering me with their gardening questions, or telling me about their tragic failures.  Chuck E., for instance, told me how he chained a hammock to a pine tree, planted years ago in honor of his daughter’s birth. He forgot about it, and the tree trunk grew around the chain, and he had to chip it free with an ax. The tree died, his wife is mad, and now he’s trying to make amends by planting a ginkgo tree.  How fast will that grow, Chuck inquires. Not fast enough to make your wife happy. Ginkgos are slow growing (although sometimes there are startling growth spurts), and if Chuck was unlucky enough to get a female tree the odor from the fleshy seeds may send him to divorce court.

  Cheryl B, wants to spend a lot of money on her garden, but doesn’t want her husband to know it.

To keep him off the money trail she wants to lull him into a stupor with some fragrant plants, particularly hostas. Cheryl should seek out the following hostas, ‘Flower Power’. ‘Fragrant Bouquet’, ‘Summer Fragrance’  and ‘Guacamole’.  These hostas bloom late in the summer, unleashing their scent when the garden is humming with insect activity.

  Bill D. planted a privet hedge because it was cheap and so is he.  How should he prune it he asks.  Well privet can take a good whacking, if need be shear right down to the ground if you really loathe it.  It’s a rambunctious grower and needs to be roped in.  Prune it so it is narrower at the top then the bottom, to keep it from losing its lower leaves due to lack of light. Privet is a utilitarian shrub that tolerates drought, smoke and grime. There’s something oddly depressing about it, but it grows fast, and provides a little thicket for birds.

  That’s the time of year it is, things run amok, but it’s also a time of divine pleasure, so waltz out and enjoy serenity where you can find it.

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