A Peculiar Fight For Turgidity

The tame, too smug, I cry;
There’s no adventure in security;
Yet still my little garden craft I ply,
Mulch, hoe, and water when the ground is dry…

-Vita Sackville-West
The Garden; 1948



The other day I was looking up odds and ends when I came across a word I have never heard.  It’s a word that has been rolling around in my mind for days as we are in desperate need of it.  Turgid, or swollen in reference to plants means they have a healthy amount of water hydrating their cells.  Imagine a plant whose leaves are plump and stand upright they way they ought to.  That is turgidity.

Yesterday, I did something rather peculiar.   It hasn’t really rained here for weeks and the trees are beginning to droop.   Everything is looking rather dull and dry.  Even my precious maple my husband planted as my Mother’s day gift is looking sad.


Anyway, I was doing my daily watering of the garden when it struck me how dehydrated my neighbor’s lilac bush looked.  Its bright green leaves had lost their luster and they drooped and sagged with drought.

My neighbor rents.  They keep to themselves mostly.  We hardly speak.  But through my keen observation I know they rarely look at that end of the house.  They do the bare minimum to take care of the old plants surrounding the property.  Funnily enough, the rose bushes and iris’s looked quite healthy and turgid, but the grand lilac bush of many years was struggling.


(Above: My neighbor’s neglected rose bush rests its arm on their old meter.)

A thought came to my mind as I stood watering my own plants, and a sly smile creep upon my face.  Stealthily I crept over and threw my hose under its dehydrated branches – turning it on full blast.  I left it there for a moment while I meandered about, falsely pondering my own precious flowers.

Despite my efforts to be cool however, I imagined her watching my every move from her kitchen window wondering what the hell I was doing, and wishing I’d mind my own business.


(Above: My neighbor’s lilac the morning after I gave it a douse of water.  As you can see it could use a little more.)

But I believe her lilac bush is my business.  It’s all I see out my kitchen window and its large green leaves distract from the poorly painted black and white motif of their asbestos siding.  I thought for sure it might die and they would neglect to tear it out for years – leaving it in the ground to rot and turn brown; much to my sorrow.
I refuse to look at death out my window when I can prevent such a disaster.  So I must utilize the hose and sprinkler for now until the rains come again.  Bring on turgidity please!!





The Daylily: “The Lord Loves A Working Man”

They used to be regarded as a common old plant, almost a weed, when we grew the type which spread everywhere and was only a pale orange thing, not worth having…

Now there are many fine hybrids, which may come as a revelation to those who have not yet seen them.
They will grow in sun or shade.  They will grow in damp soil, even by the waterside if you are so fortunate as to have a stream or a pond in your garden, when their trumpets of amber, apricot, orange, ruddle, and Venetian red will double themselves in reflection in the water.  They will grow equally well in an ordinary bed or border.  They are, in fact, extremely obliging plants,  thriving almost anywhere.

-Vita Sackville-West
The Joy of Gardening; 1958



I was more than a little distraught yesterday as I looked about my garden and nothing seemed to be blooming in abundance.  Abundance enough for me to cut a few flowers to use as a center piece for my Father’s Day table.   The Lilacs, I know, appropriately bloom on Mother’s Day.  It’s an easy find because I wait all year for those purple fragrant blooms.  But what for the father?  The roses have taken a little break it seems, and the hydrangeas are not quite there.

Without hope, I rounded the forgotten east corner of our yard and spotted them.  The orange trumpets that live but a day.  I’ll admit it was probably the first time I rejoiced at their sight.  They are too often forgotten by me.  A third rate flower as they seem in my mind.

However, I saw them and remembered years past when I, newly married and exhaustingly playing “Suzy homemaker”, would cut the blooms to beautify my table setting before the flowers shut themselves up for all eternity.

Seemed a waste of energy really.  I almost resented them for their lack of resourcefulness.  But that is nature, it often doesn’t make sense but it is miraculous and awe-inspiring all the same; to exert one’s energy and strive for perfection for just a day; for just a life.

In many ways we are like this.  Preparing a meal for the entire family for this day: Father’s Day past and present.  Us, the hosts and hostesses of the world; exerting all our energy and striving for perfection for just one little party.  Or rather it is like the father who works hard everyday so he can provide for his family.  Is that living?  I say yes.  Perhaps that is our only purpose; to exert and exhaust our energy for one eternal goal: survival for all.

By our old house on the lake, daylilies grew in abundance.  So much so, that now, I truly believe if you hold one of the orange trumpets to your ear you might just hear the sounds of motor boats, jet skies and crashing waves, or perhaps the call of the kingfisher and the wings of swans as they flap across the sunset with their reflections below them.

So with this memory, and a new found appreciation for their hard work, perhaps I will rethink my forgetfulness.  I fixed myself a small bouquet; a rather handsome collection, much like our hardworking fathers.

I have a new appreciation for the Daylily today, like a new appreciation of a father whose obliging qualities are gradually recognized by their ever maturing children.  It is an obliging plant after all.  So, I’ll leave you now with the words of my own father who announced this wisdom as he went off to work every morning: “The Lord loves a working man”.

Indeed he must.



Ramble On…

He kept them sitting for hours over the dinner table, he who was usually so impatient to move away; he kept them entertained by anecdote after anecdote, reminiscence after reminiscence, observation after observation…

-V. Sackville-West
Easter Parade: A Novel
Copyright: 1953


Allow me, if you will, to ramble a bit?  Ramble like a climbing, rambling vine?  One that reaches and twists until its head is in the sun or in this case the truth?


The Clematis, if planted with good support, such as a twiggy bush – like a rose or lilac, will grow well and fast.  If the support is not there, it will falter and stagnate.  I have also heard that it will produce more blooms if grown horizontally.  Take for example, my neighbors clematis which grows on our side of the fence, much to my delight.  It grows horizontally through the fence and rambles about itself, see the abundance of blooms as a result?

However, for my three varieties of clematis I have chosen other plants to support them.  I have two growing throughout my lilac bush, and I recently discovered a third I assumed was dead. See my post, The Living Dead, for a good lesson on this.  Perhaps I should have read my own post.  Anyway, I thought about transplanting it to the lilacs as well, but instead I simply left it alone and planted a yellow rose bush beside it.  This purple Clematis growing through my yellow Floribunda Julia Child rose will make a striking combination when they begin to flourish.

SONY DSCThe clematis found its way to the rose without any assistance from me.  It shot up from the ground erect and happy, strong enough to support itself, but as it grew too long, it slumped over and slithered across the garden like a snake in search of a branch to coil and climb upon.



The honeysuckle (featured in yesterday’s post Honeysuckle Fireworks ) has done well for me, I am surprised actually because the first year is usually hard on my perennials.  I watch the newly planted with nail biting anxiety, and at the slightest inconsistency or yellowed leaf, I worry and fret.

It seems this year more so than others, I have subconsciously made bright decisions about troubled plants.  I will attribute this to all I’ve read in books for the past two years.  In the past, information that had enlightened me was soon forgotten.  This year however, my focus has been more acute and I’m able to recall garden truths on a whim as if someone besides me has thought of it.

One such example of a bright decision was the transplanting of our Holly bushes.  They were originally planted in complete shade and continually had spots on their leaves and weren’t growing.  So I dug them up and planted them on the west end of the house where the morning sun would touch them.


I gave them a drop of fertilizer and destroyed all their yellowing leaves as some looked to have the dreaded black spot fungus.  Again, evidence to me that they just needed more sun.  Since bacteria and fungus is usually killed by UV rays I would think more sunlight would lessen the chances of the black spot coming back.  But I am no botanist, this is only my educated guess.  Either way, they are doing quite well. They are now producing beautiful, perfect growth rapidly.

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The cool weather we endured throughout February and March this year suited its arrangements perfectly, for a warm spell during the early months tends to hurry it up, and then the flowers are liable to damage by their two enemies, frost and wind….Avoid planting in a frost pocket, or in a position where [flowers: in this case the blooms of a magnolia tree] will be exposed to the rays of a warm sun after a frosty night…

-Vita Sackville-West
The Joy of Gardening : 1958

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They instantly became like ghosts; covered in white sheets like children on Halloween.  Their protection of white waved and beckoned in the rain and wind which threatened and warned. I assumed this shroud of comfort would get them through the worst of it but when I awoke this morning, the frost, although anticipated and prepared for never came.
The lilacs I cut for the encore of winter was all in vain, and instead, I only ironically hastened their death.  To think, I tore off their leaves in the cold violent wind and smashed their stems while shaking my fist at the sky – it was all for not.
When I uncovered them this morning the lilacs bounced gleefully in the morning sun – and like prisoners finally given their freedom after proven innocence, the flowers laughed at me and smirked at my efforts of authority and wisdom.





An unusual way of treating clematis is to grow it horizontally instead of vertically…but do this as gingerly as you can, for clematis seems to resent the touch of the human hand.
…the reward will be great.  For one thing you will be able to gaze right down into the upturned face of the flower instead of having to crane your neck to observe the tangle of colour hanging perhaps ten or twenty feet above your head.  And another thing, the clematis itself will get the benefit of shade on its roots, in this case its own shade, with its head in the sun, which is what all clematis enjoy.

-Vita Sackville-West
May 15, 1949


I bought one White Clematis (pictured above) at Bordine’s Nursery the other day.  It was beautiful and perfect.  Compliments rolled from surrounding tongues as I crossed the store to pay for it while snapping these lovely shots.  My plan is to allow it to climb up my lilac bush.   This way I will practically have blooms all summer long, and they will look so romantic glowing in the dark at night.  My own little “white garden” like Vita had at Sissinghurst Castle!




I resented having to transplant my other clematis.  I know how delicate they can be, and I hope it will survive.  It did not like the spot I put it last year and it was looking pathetic.  I thought it might do better under the other lilac bush (I have two side by side). So, now I will have two clematis of two different colors climbing, and hopefully one day connecting; climbing through each other to make one large colorful hedge.  We shall see.
Anyone have luck doing this in the past?
If you have anything to add or further advice about clematis please leave a comment. I’d love to here from you!


Friday Snippets: “Smash” Their Stems with a Hammer


Any lilac is ‘easy’: they need no pruning, though it is most advantageous to cut off the faded flowers, this is really important; they are perfectly hardy; and very long-lived unless they suddenly die back, which sometimes happens….By the way, if you strip all the leaves from cut branches of (lilac) they will last far longer, besides gaining in beauty.  Try. And smash the woody stems with a hammer.

-Vita Sackville-West
May 1948


When we moved into our house about six years ago, I was ecstatic because we had two thriving lilac bushes.  Then, for reasons I can’t remember, we pruned them.  For two years they struggled to bloom. Vita is right, they don’t need pruning!

Now, following Vita’s instructions I simply cut off the “dead” blooms and they’ve been blooming very well in recent years.  Come Mother’s day I’ll treat myself to a bouquet cut from my own backyard and I won’t forget to pluck their leaves and smash their stems.  This trick also works with other blooms cut from bark-like stems like forsythia or a catkin. Try.

Happy Mother’s Day to you and yours.