Admiring the laurel, not resting on it.

One of the nicest things we inherited with this house is a mountain laurel, the state flower of Pennsylvania (also of Connecticut — they were first). It’s a special treat because I’ve tried to grow these lovely shrubs a few times — they’re expensive to buy and I’ve never had any luck getting one to live let alone thrive.

If you’ve never seen one before (I didn’t until I was an adult), the blossoms are little engineering marvels. Each petal is delicately held in place by a tiny “spoke,” sort of like a tiny pink and white umbrella. And the buds are mini starbursts waiting to pop. Definitely a highlight of June.

After saying I wasn’t going to do any new planting this year “until the retaining wall was done,” I completely went the other way, buying plants like some women buy clothes or shoes — obsessively. We ended up adding over 20 perennials and 14 shrubs along the driveway and in the back yard, plus moving many things around (as gardeners always do). And there’s still so much more to do “after the wall” and “after the front porch.” I’m not convinced these projects will happen this year (or in my lifetime) — it’s frustrating waiting for something you want SO BAD. Like the Christmas that never comes.

But, patience is a virtue, no? We still have much beauty to look at and much to keep us busy maintaining and “perfecting” what we have. For such a small lot, we’ve cleared out and burned a mountain of plant debris and planted so many new things over the past 3 years. Even these crazy 90-degree temps haven’t dampened our enthusiasm (our shirts, but not our enthusiasm). We spent most of the weekend outside (and the truck is still half full of mulch — yay!).

But that’s enough about gardening for now — there’s that other work to be done (the paying kind), and with the Lowe’s bills poised to start rolling in, I better get busy. (But I’d rather be pulling weeds — yes, really.)

There can be no other occupation like gardening
in which, if you were to creep up behind someone
at their work, you would find them smiling. 
                                              ~ Mirabel Osler


  1. robbie said,

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    I too love the mountain laurel. Our miniature one (the last survivor of three) is covered with blossoms. I’ve never seen one bloom like this before. I’m not sure why they are so hard to grow in PA (being the state flower) but one must persist because a mountain laurel is a must in any garden!

  2. WritingbyEar said,

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    I feel so lucky someone else got a mountain laurel to grow and I get to enjoy it. Especially when its neighbor, a formerly healthy burning bush, up and died last year for no reason I could see. It is growing in absolute crap soil (heavy clay) and gets morning sun only. The azaleas and rhodies that make up the row also seem to like it. (Obviously it was too much for the burning bush.)

  3. kevie said,

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    The 1/4 mile driveway up to my family’s house in Biltmore Forest, NC was lined with large mountain laurel and there were many more in the woods! It was beautiful.

  4. WritingbyEar said,

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    I think our trip to Asheville (staying with Susan) was the first time I saw mountain laurel, even though it’s the PA state flower.

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