07 July 2010

tired foliage

Scott, who takes care of our lawn, told me that he will mow the yellowing daffodil foliage down near the road this week. From May on, he leaves that part of the lawn unmowed at my request, because I want those daffodil leaves to soak up as much sunlight as they can. The only problem is that I usually let them ripen until way into August, at which point the lawn is almost beyond reclaiming.

Finally, it all becomes too much, and to save Scott the trouble of having to mow and remow the area, I find myself crawling around on my hands and knees muttering to myself on a humid August afternoon, tidying things up with a rusty pair of grass shears.

This year I am happy to say that I was a little more on the ball. In May, after the last daffodil had bloomed, I looked ahead six weeks and circled 5 July on my calendar, at which point I called Scott and told him I wanted him to mow the old daffodils away in early July. Good for me for thinking ahead, and good for Scott for remembering. Seriously.

In the meantime, the daffodil foliage near the house, in the peony bed, on the long and steep slope, and against the stone wall is also near ripened, which means I will be busy this weekend cutting it back. Every year I feel like I should wait until the leaves are completely dead instead of half yellow and half green (which is why the flower beds look bedraggled until August), but this year I think I might risk everlasting damnation by cutting them back before they're completely crisp. How much can a half-dead leaf photosynthesize anyway? But how much will it compromise the health of the bulb next spring? Maybe the answer is not much.

On to the Oriental poppy dilemma. Well, it's the same dilemma. We have amazingly healthy Oriental poppies. So healthy, in fact, that I can dig them up, break the taproots, transplant them, and have two poppies for the price of one: the transplant and the plant that sprouts from the taproot left behind, bless its heart. What I don't love, again, is the way the amazingly robust foliage smothers everything within three feet of it in May, dies back in June, and leaves a gigantic hole in the garden in July. What to do? What to do?

It's easy to find plants I like. Well, I like pretty much every plant, so that's sort of a dumb statement. It's the working out of these details that frustrates me. The solution here is to leave enough space between the poppies and neighboring plants and put them in a spot where we won't notice the hole they leave when they die back in June, preferably in a spot we won't see very much of. This is easier said than done. But I might have just the spot: We have a beautiful stand of red and pink lupines behind a row of peonies in a part of the garden that faces the road. The lupines are pretty much on top of the peonies right now, which might argue for widening that bed a bit, moving the lupines out and farther apart, and then interspersing the poppies. I imagine a group of poppies and lupines would look smashing from far away (the road) in May, and from the other side, the peonies could do a lot worse than bloom pink against the red and pink of the poppies and lupine. Nice. Dilemma solved?

But what to do about all that daffodil foliage? Sigh.

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