April Challenge: May Flowers (755 words)
The Midnight Garden
By Helen Curtis
I called them my midnight gardens and filled them with dark flowers. It started with an advertisement for a black rose. I was intrigued and ordered one. It was really a deep red and there will probably never be a truly black rose, but I was hooked. I bought a black iris which was deep purple. I recently saw a cultivar that is supposed to be actually black, called Superstition. The black lily was a dark orange. I planted a black elephant ear in the back with coca-cola holly hocks. The holly hocks were more of a brown. There is also black Heuchera (coral bells) called obsidian, a superb specimen. A gardening magazine suggested pairing the dark with white flowers, but I like the stand alone effect.
When we moved from northern Ohio to east of English Kentucky, the midnight garden was one of the first theme gardens I recreated. I lived in the woods in Ohio and mostly had shade flowers and a minimal vegetable garden. I had to learn a new way of gardening in sunny English and could have a larger vegetable garden, but flowers were my main focus.
My second love is wild flowers, which abound in May. The front of my house in Ohio was a feast of them in early spring. We had a fortune in ginseng, but I didn’t realize it until we had already moved. May apples peppered the front with their tiny, mushroom like umbrellas. Violets, yellow, white but mostly purple salted everything, as did the wild geraniums and ramps. Not as plentiful was the jack-in the pulpits, trout lilies, and my favorite blood root. There were a lot of Stinking Benjamins (trilliums) as well. If you want to know why they received that nick name, bring some into the house!
I decided to plant a wildflower garden in English. If I had waited, I would have seen that God had already planted one on the hill behind our house. Dutchmen’s Breeches abounded as did wild ginger. The funny thing is, I had always wanted some ginger and ordered some from the internet. (Warning: don’t EVER type wild ginger into your search engine!) The next spring, I knew what it looked like, and ginger carpeted the hillside!
My husband erected a wooden cross in the English garden. I surrounded it with the black, a red, a purple, and a white garden. I continued the color theme throughout the rest of the gardens there. St. John’s Wort was the focus of the yellow garden. I had yellow Summer False Sunflower and knew the effect I wanted, to pair them with Butterfly Blue Scabiosa. I never did get it to my satisfaction, probably because the Scabiosa is an annual. But my granddaughter, who was three last year helped me plant and she got it exactly right with the two flowers!
I planted a Fourth of July garden beside the patio, with red, white, and blue flowers. It was my second favorite. When we moved, I was working on a chartreuse garden. There is a company that specializes in chocolate flowers. If I still lived in English, I would have to have one of those as well.
Since moving to Mercer, I have concentrated mostly on a vegetable garden. We moved in July and left the garden up north and it was too late to plant one here. Last year I planted traditional vegetables from the local store. This year, I incorporated my taste for the unusual into the vegetable garden. I spent a lot of time since Christmas with my nose in seed catalogues. I ordered rainbow peppers and carrots in hues of coral, white, cosmic purple, yellow, and red. Cheddar (yellow) and purple cauliflower, brocciflower went on the order blank as well as white eggplant which is not as bitter as the purple. I like the heirloom tomatoes – they taste like they are supposed to. This year I started a West Virginia tomato. I drew the line at the red corn, however, but only because I was afraid it would cross with the yellow and we had to put in an electric fence to keep out the raccoons. We not only had to fence it, but Ken had to install a controller with a higher joules. They laughed at the regular electric fence. They are not laughing at this one!
It will be interesting to see how the veggie garden turns out, but I still miss my midnight garden.