News flash: it was cold last night, bitches!

Fitchburg, Mass. — A vibrant bed of innocent, unsuspecting coleus was destroyed last night, as the region’s first truly low temperatures wreaked havoc on summer annuals misfortunate enough to be outside.

Friday’s overnight low was forecasted to dip to 28 degrees, but Plantkiller Paysha Rhone neglected to follow-up on how low temperatures actually fell. “It was obviously really fucking cold,” she said, pointing to her shrunken, crispy plants. “I’m not the brightest bulb, but I don’t need a thermometer to figure that out.”

Rhone did move quickly enough, in a last-minute panic, to save her¬† potted patio plants, which she moved into to her “basement of death” for temporary protection. She hauled them back out into the sun this morning, unsure whether the next few nights will pose a threat and, frankly, just unwilling to “let go of the whole outdoor plant thing for the year.”

Among the saved…

“It’s barely mid-October,” she whined. “I was hoping for that warm and muggy extended New England summer that makes plants grow to rain forest proportions. I feel cheated.”

Her complaining continued, as she bemoaned her inability to dig up her prized coleus in time, re-pot it and move it indoors, where — it must be said — it would probably have eventually died anyway from inattention and lack of adequate sunlight.

“It was just such a pretty bed,” she whined on. “Screw you, frost!”

Unfortunately, September in Fitchburg proved slightly cold and rainy, with October continuing along the same uninspiring trajectory. Rhone just hopes the early cold doesn’t mean another Halloween snow storm is on the horizon. “That was just ridiculous,” she remembered. “Killed everything but the petunias.”

Her inner Bostonian mocked her for her naive refusal to embrace the reality of where she actually lives. “Whaddya expect? We’re not in Florida,” her Bostonian said, wisely. “You don’t like it, move. Quit yer bitchin’.”

“Oh, and that cantaloupe you planted in late August? Are you on crack? Whatevah!”

Rhone’s mammoth climbing orange-blossomed thunbergia (summer 2012 MVP) was not completely destroyed, but looked a little sad and crinkly after the cold night outside. She has still not determined how the hell she’s going to get it inside and where she’s going to put it. She will undoubtedly screw around too long, over-thinking the whole matter until the plant dies.

Strangely, a lone begonia escaped the cold completely unharmed.

The begonia, a former garden troublemaker, refused to reveal the secret to its hardiness. But it did aim sharp words at its wilted neighbors.

“That coleus is a wuss,” the begonia said. “All big and showy and bright, with no grit. Suck it up. Fourth quarter!”

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Posted in Mo' plants, mo' problems, This just in | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

2012 MVP: Thunbergia!

As fall really does settle in and the threat of frost seems imminent, I just have to hand a trophy to this summer’s “proven winner,” as the garden marketers say: the lovely Thunbergia alta! (Also known as the Black-eyed Susan vine.)

This fantastic climbing, trailing, blooming, luscious vine — popping with vibrant orange blossoms — is still going. And going. And going. Be still my heart!

I bought her at just a few feet tall from a local farm stand, climbing up a wee little trellis in her pot.

And now…

Yep, she’s a monster! (Why there’s a random rope going up the side of my house, I have no clue. But it gave her something else to climb anyway. Guess it’s just some hillbilly shit.)

I repotted her after purchase. (Careful to not disturb the trellis already deeply entangled in her vines… why screw with success?) And set her on a little table with a larger climbing frame behind her, twining a few vines into it to encourage growth. And away she went.

The only thing this plant needs, besides full sun, is lots of water every day. Those vines and bright orange blooms are thirsty. But what a payoff… I honestly can’t believe her performance, especially in light of what happened elsewhere in my yard this summer. A whole lot of death/nothing. Even hosta did badly in my front yard. Insane.

So, Lady Thunbergia is sitting on my back patio, which I covered in potted plants this year — all manner of succulents and crazy experiments. And everything back there pretty much went gangbusters. I was inspired by all the container gardens at Tower Hill Botanical Garden. I think pots like me more than the earth…

(And I hope the perennially failing/diseased Clematis across the patio is jealous and feeling very, very guilty right now!)

So, I’ve read Thunbergia are grown as annuals in most of the country, because they don’t survive frost. Booooo. But then I read this: “Plants in containers will also bloom over winter in sunny windows.”

Uh-oh.

Now I have to try to haul this beast in the house somehow and give it some highly-competitive window-front real estate.

I wish I knew how to quit yeeeew!

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Plant porn Phriday: prickly peenie!

Holy mother of gawwwwwd!

This guy just looks so damn happy, right? I hope none of those little prickers are sticking him where the sun don’t shine.

Thanks to my favorite cousin Nicole for alerting me to this gem, which was actually posted on another cousin’s FB page (the fantastic Sandi Pasero).¬† As Nicole well knows, she and I are practically the only “normal” people in our family, which is why we’re obsessed with plants that look like naughty people parts — especially all the crazy cacti that surround her in sunny AZ. Lucky!

Happy Friday to everyone, keep your eyes peeled for plant porn (which you should send to me) and enjoy the first day of fall. And yep, that’s tomorrow!

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Water. Duh.

Remember that Hosta I was agonizing over a few weeks ago? The one suffering a slow death in the parking lot of my son’s preschool (in a church, no less) because no one would plant or water it?

To refresh your memory:

Well, I have a confession to make.

After someone tossed it on the side of the parking lot and left it for dead, I scooped up that poor little Hosta and threw it in the back of my car. That’s what it looks like now, in the first picture, above. Thriving! (Though strangely, not looking very stripey anymore.)

Ironically, I haven’t decided where to plant it yet, so it’s been sitting on a coconut planter liners for a few weeks. But it looks pretty happy, nonetheless.

Never thought I’d stoop to plant-jacking, but this just felt right. I couldn’t stand seeing the little guy go down like that. And I am not sure it really constitutes jacking when it was clearly tossed away. (Am I justifying my rescue action? Yes!)

No regrets!

(And yeah, it feels damn good to be a plant hero for once, not just a plant killer.)

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Weeeee are not amused: does neglecting royal roses = vandalism?

Apparently HRH The Prince of Wales’ divine powers do not extend to granting eternal beauty to royal roses. Witness the demise of this once-prestigious rose garden in Dundee, Scotland, which contained “Peacekeeper Roses” planted by (pretty sure that’s a very loose “by”) Prince Charles to honor the men and women who serve the United Nations.

Discovery Rose Garden in Stobsmuir Park has grown so weedy and unkempt that a local crank has accused the City Council of vandalism for the neglect, according to the local paper, The Courier. That’s the complainant, marching around judgmentally above — 56-year-old Doug Thain. Maybe he could work a little tummy off and help his community by weeding a wee bit? Just sayin’.

Now, I’m as hypocritical as the next citizen when it comes to garden neglect. But can we really levy vandalism charges for failure to weed?

Thain says yes. The weeds, thorns, tire tracks, moldy plaques and sad little refugee roses are not be borne. Not in a garden that has welcomed roses from sister cities in Germany, France and America since it was established in 1991. That has received celebratory¬† “Friend for Life” roses from the Bank of Scotland. And that was, of course, touched by the hand of HRH.

“If young people had caused this level of vandalism and devastation, they would rightly be prosecuted,” Thain argues.

The city says, meh. Roses die.

“The rose garden was created over 20 years ago and, since then, many of the roses have either died or reached a point where they are now in poor condition,” Environment Convener Craig Melville says. (Convener? What’s he convening? Weeds?) “Roses are notoriously difficult to re-establish in beds which have previously contained roses.” So the city’s trashing this bed, starting a new one and promising a pergola to boot.

Mr. Melville makes it sound like after 20 years, rose gardens just go rogue. And then you have to start over in fresh dirt. He still doesn’t explain how the city let the “royal” garden die.

A rose is a rose is a rose… until it’s a weed?

I’m suspicious. But I’ve never grown roses, so what do I know?

Posted in Mo' plants, mo' problems, Uncategorized, Wallowing in death | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Poison patch: the sequel

In two years, our massive backyard garden patch, once bursting with the kind of insidious hemlock that killed Socrates, has gone from this:

To this:

To this:

No chemicals. No rentals of industrial farm equipment. Just black plastic + the heat and humidity of a Massachusetts summer. Shazam!

After much paranoia and speculation and Googling and overthinking — that is what we do, here at Casa de Plantkiller — we have decided this completely vegetation-free dirt is not going to kill us. From what I have read about hemlock… when you see it, you’re supposed to pull it up and dispose of it like hazardous waste. Not treat the soil like it has seven years of bad luck. (That’s for you, poison ivy.)

So we’re going to plant some stuff and pray that our first frost date is NOT October 5. And that we instead are blessed with one of those balmy, muggy, lingering summery-falls that New England sometimes bestows. (I am presently clinging to a much-treasured memory of doling out Halloween candy, sitting out on my stoop in East Boston in a T-shirt. Bring us that fall, please.)

Once we decided the dirt itself wasn’t poisonous, my superhuman husband pulled out all the 3-foot rebar stakes that were holding the garden’s railroad ties in place — you know, should that big tornado finally hit. (Did I mention a previous owner drove 30-plus metal stakes into the garden? And that they were lodged so firmly my poor husband had to go buy some special kind of wrench to wiggle them back and forth and work them loose from the hard clay deep below? Uff da! As my grandma would say.)

I spent today making little seed-growing trays, something I should have done a long time ago, but… na ja. Bygones. It was very fun. I found some cool covered trays at Agway. I made a few more from my huge collection of old plant containers. I will plant the little buggers, if/when they sprout and hope for the best. Hopefully, we will get at least a little spinach out of the deal.

Most importantly, it’s a start. A wee toe in the water. And if none of these plants work out, hey — I’ll be more confident about starting seeds next spring. I even got a few packets of sunflowers today, in anticipation.

My garden is kind of like the Red Sox; there’s always next year…

Posted in Keep hope alive | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Plant porn Phriday: ballsy!

I had to have a root canal this week. That was kinda sad. But life got a lot better when I spotted these gigantic green balls outside my dentist’s office.

Now, who — who would sculpt two bushes, almost exactly the same size and right next to each other, into these naughty shapes? And right on a major thoroughfare? Who? Someone with an awesome sense of humor and dirty mind, that’s who. (Whether you think they look like buns, boobs or balls — take your pick — they’re funny.)

Thank you, dirty gardener, whoever you are. Thank you for making my exit from the dentist a whole lot happier. I think I was laughing, but since half my face was numb, I’m not totally sure. I might have just been drooling spastically. (Is that a word? Is now!)

Happy Friday to all… it’s still Friday for a few more minutes.

It poured today, we had a tornado warning (!) and I don’t know what will happen in the yard this weekend. But I do have a project to tend to involving a certain, ahem, rescued plant. Host(age)no more!

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