Carefree Gardening on Skyline Ridge

By Mel Jenkins

Thirty-eight years of living at Scant Hill Farm has given us some insight into what plants thrive at 1000 feet and without much water during the summer. We have found bulbs, tubers, rhizomes, and perennials most satisfactory to grow with a minimum of effort.

One biennial we have is parsley, both the curly and flat-leafed varieties. It usually reseeds itself in great profusion. It likes partial shade or sun and does not transplant readily because of a long taproot. Another biennial we have enjoyed is nicotiana. The flowers give off a wonderful scent at dusk, and the plants reseed readily.

The garden workhorses are bulbs, tubers, and perennials. Beginning with the earliest snowdrops and crocuses, we progress to daffodils, narcissus, tulips, hyacinths, scilla, anemonies, peonies, lilies, and dahlias. We have orange daylilies that were on the place when we first moved here in 1958. They have spread or reseeded, and now we have five or six clumps in various places. We could have supplied the world if we had taken the trouble to divide them over the years. Pale blue and yellow iris were also here in 1958 and still put in an annual appearance, but they can't compete with the showy newer forms of bearded iris.

Most bulbs need at least partial sun and good drainage. Burrowing varmints do like to eat some-especially tulip bulbs and dahlia tubers-but they may survive for years without being eaten. Dahlia tubers are supposed to be taken up in the fall, but starting two or three years ago we began leaving them in the ground, and so far we haven't lost a plant

Among our most satisfying perennials has been the columbine (Aquilegia). We have many varieties because over the years they have done some genetic thing and developed new varieties. Our favorites ate the bright orange-and-yellow native and a dramatic hybrid with a deep blue flower, but over the years some mysterious natural genetic breeding has given us a great many fascinating varieties. Columbines tolerate filtered shade. They grow well on the north side of our house but also thrive in the sun on the east and south sides.

The lupines, both native and hybrids, are especially nice companions to the columbine. Be sure to give them air circulation as they are prone to mildew on their leaves. They do well in full sun but also tolerate some shade.

A much earlier blooming hardy perennial is the hellebore. Our favorite is helleborus foetidus. It looks good year round and its lovely big pale green and dark red flowers are very welcome in January or February. They reseed readily but are easy to control and never become a pest-unlike yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata), another favorite of ours. The leaves of loosestrife are very pretty in our early spring garden, and we love the bright yellow flower spikes which bloom in early July just as all the wonderful spring blooms have gone.

At the same time, the peachleaf bluebells (Campanu/a persicifolia) come into flower. The large purple-blue or white bells nod gracefully on long, two to three feet tall stems. They do well in both filtered shade and sun.

Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) are very hardy, and we've learned to enjoy their vivid orange next to our dark red peonies, which we introduced to our place early during our stay here.

A very useful midsummer bloomer is Oregon sunshine, also known as "woolly sunflower" (Eriophyllum lanaturn). It is a somewhat sprawling plant with fuzzy, gray-green leaves and masses of bright yellow daisy-like flowers.

The final carefree flower is the michaelmas daisy. It is available in sizes from six inches to four feet high, and the colors include white, pink, red, a variety of blues and purple, mostly with yellow centers. They like full sun and can be divided every fall. Mildew can be a problem.

We have also found five low-growing perennials to be especially useful: ajuga, English daisies, candytuft, violets and primroses, but they can be the subject of another article.

We would welcome learning about the experiences of other gardeners. Do share your favorite garden tips with he rest of the neighborhood.
RR Summer 96