My garden is full of wonder and surprise. Mother Nature — assisted by birds, bees, and other wildlife — constantly provides us with a wonderful bounty of volunteers: Viburnum, Hydrangea, Japanese Maple, Magnolia, Ornamental Cherry, Rhododendron, and more. I’m exceedingly careful when I rake and weed because I never know what amazing plants may magically appear.
Author Verlyn Klinkenborg had a unique take on the subject of plant volunteers in his garden: “[If] the plant community on this place consisted only of individuals I had put in the ground myself, it would resemble one of those fading Midwestern farm towns where the schools have closed, the grocery stores have pulled out, and the only new building in town is the nursing home. Instead, this place is crowded with life.” (The Rural Life, Little Brown and Company, 2002.)
Here are three welcome volunteer additions to my “crowded with life” garden along with the parent plants “I had put in the ground myself” :
Rhododendron mucronulatum ‘Mahogany Red’, a deciduous shrub, has for many years provided the WOW factor to my Spring garden. Photos below.
Apart from its early-April spectacular bloom, Mahogany Red has been disease-free and pest-free. Deer avoid it, most likely because it is poisonous. Bumblebees, on the other hand, flock to this early-Spring flower source of nourishment. In the Fall the shrub’s foliage takes on vibrant shades of red and purple.
I’m happy to announce that my beloved plant has finally produced an heir. Looks just like Mom — but it’s not tied to Mom’s apron strings: Baby Mahogany Red volunteered on the opposite side of the gravel driveway and over 40 feet away. Photo below.
Deutzia rubens produces an abundance of beautiful pink and white flowers in June. Photos below.
Over a decade in my garden, it has bloomed every year and never suffered a pest or disease problem — plant virtues I appreciate. Woody shrub guru, Michael Dirr, is not a Deutzia fan. He claims that they are “often bedraggled” and “although usually dependable for flower display, rarely overwhelm one at any time of the year.” (My plant has never looked bedraggled. That may be a Georgia thing.)
I do agree with Dirr that the identification of Deutzia species “borders on impossible”. My plant was tagged D. rubens, which means colored or tinged with red — in this case pink. But garden literature says D. rubens is a white-flowering plant. And the flowers of a number of Deutzia scabra are identical to the pink and white flowers of my shrub. The Deutzia volunteer in my garden mimics its parent in form but is adorned in June with lovely pure white flowers. I’m glad to have it. Photos below.
Digitalis (Foxglove) come in a variety of color and form. I’d like to have them all. While I was shocked to find a volunteer growing in the middle of the tennis court, I was also delighted. Photos below.
Foxgloves are trouble-free. Like R. mucronulatum, they are poisonous and deer avoid them. So do voles. (Yet, be aware that voles have added toxic Hellebores to their menu.) Normally, digitalis plants prefer shade and well-drained soil. I think a bird planted this one. Our gardening rules don’t apply to them. This bird gift resembles Digitalis ferruginea.
Bird Alert: Sadly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella linked to wild songbirds. This disease can be transmitted from birds to pets and humans. As of early April, nineteen people had become ill and eight were hospitalized. Care should be taken to wash hands after touching bird feeders or birdbaths.
Gardener Alert: Avoid Hicks Nurseries in Westbury N.Y. The plants are nice but they get an F for their treatment of customers. It isn’t worth the stress.