Wednesday, May 28, 2008
False Indigo, take three
I'm on a quest to grow false indigo in my garden, and I'm not doing a very good job of it.
The first time I heard of false indigo was 8 or 9 years ago, when an unfamiliar plant appeared in my plot at the community garden. It was one of those plants that was not obviously a weed but not obviously a perennial either. My neighbor, Frances, who knew quite a bit about perennials, said it looked like it might be false indigo, and maybe I should let it go and see. And so I did. It had light green leaves like false indigo and, later, a bluish flower, but eventually, it became apparent that it wasn't false indigo, and it had very long taproots to boot. So, before it got too big and unwieldy, I dug it all out. (I think perhaps it was some kind of wild pea, but I'm not sure.)
But when I moved to my house, I remembered false indigo and decided to plant some. I bought a pot of it at a garden center and then let it sit for months while I figured out where I wanted to put it. Meanwhile, I realized that, in fact, there was false indigo already growing in the bed outside my back door.
Except that there's lots of other stuff also planted in that bed, and the false indigo, which you can just see in the middle of the back row of plants, was a bit crowded and just not flourishing. Meanwhile, the new plant I'd bought died in its pot because I'd taken so long to decide where to put it. Yes, I am a negligent plant killer. At least sometimes.
So, I decided to try again. I bought another plant, and, at the same time, I decided to move some of the old plant along with the new one to a new bed, one where there would be more room for it to spread out. This time, I planted it in the bed beneath the stone wall that separates the part of the property where my house is from the part above where the cottage is. This bed was a bit shadier, but for awhile, it seemed like it was working. There were no flowers yet, but I knew that false indigo can take a few years to settle in. Last June, when I was visiting Abby in Burlington, we were lamenting the lack of blooming false indigo in our gardens. We saw some growing in front of houses in her neighborhood, and it was just gorgeous. Here's what it looks like when it's in bloom.
So, I was hoping that if I was patient and gave the plants time to settle in, I'd eventually have those lovely blue-purple flowers in my garden. Except that in the middle of the summer last year, something came and ate the false indigo. I have no idea what it was. I just know that one day, I went outside and found the plant chewed in half. The stalks were lying there, and something had chomped them, maybe thinking they were a tasty garden treat. I wondered if, perhaps, I was being punished for having let that false indigo plant die a few years earlier.
Anyway, I decided to try one more time. Last week, I went back to the garden center and purchased a type of false indigo called "purple smoke." And over the weekend, I planted it in the main part of the garden, where there is lots of sun. This is actually the spot I'd been thinking about for it originally. But I was waiting for the dead birch tree to come down (which Alex facilitated last summer, though you can't really tell from this picture--I'd still like to take the stump down another foot or so), and then I was waiting to get rid of the wild blackberries that were taking lots of space but not giving me any berries. It's just one stalk now, but I'm hoping that the third time will be the charm. If it doesn't work, I may have to resign myself to the fact that false indigo just doesn't want to grow in my garden, as much as I want it to grow there. I hope that won't happen. I don't want to feel spurned by a plant, if I can help it.
The other thing I keep realizing is that someone who owned this house before me really, really liked ferns. Last year I cleared out some of the ferns to make room for more plants, but when I was looking at the garden over the weekend, it was apparent that the ferns were starting to take over again. They're not nearly as bad as the mint, so I'm not going to whine about them, but I did think that if I'm vigilant with fern removal, then I could put some more perennials in here.