These are dangerous days for gardeners.
According to the Anchorage gardening calendar, there's little more than a week left for you to get everything done so the yard is ready for the July Fourth barbecue.
As the garden gods annually decree, we started Memorial Day weekend -- with very cold hands.
We raked and weeded and amended; we timed hours of sun and shade, organized perennial vs. annual, border vs. back of the garden, and blossom succession (Good luck with that one).
We bought all the plants we needed -- well, maybe a few more.
We still plan to sharpen the edges of the various beds.
We've caged the peonies and fenced up the bachelor buttons that want to lie down in a big circle, and piled all those little plastic plant pots in a corner of the garage, feeling vaguely guilty about just throwing them away.
Whether this is your first little garden or you've been at it for years, the ritual is pretty much the same. Now it's almost time when you can kick back and enjoy the payoff.
Siberian Iris have opened their purple buds, and those poppies with the fat hanging heads have burst into stunning orange bloom.
The carrots finally germinated and the tomato plant in the kitchen window has two little green orbs.
The hanging baskets are trailing a rainbow of fuchsia, petunias and happy Ivy Geranium. There's color all around.
But -- you're vaguely dissatisfied. You've done what you're supposed to, but you can't just stop. You think maybe you need one more -- something you know nothing about, have never planted before. After all, you've got an empty space where that annual you put in two weeks ago died of unknown causes, or the sunny spot you mistakenly assigned to Ligularia until you noticed they collapsed every afternoon from heat prostration and moved them.
This is a dangerous moment. You may go to a greenhouse to pick up one interesting specimen, but you'll come home with half a dozen.
If this sounds like a confession ... well, here are a few plants I didn't have before. They're not new or exotic or anything, but they can solve a spot problem (if you can arrange to have one):
• Epimedium rubrum (sometime called Barrenwort). An interesting shade plant that's mostly about the foliage. Dark green leaves that age to a pink filigree pattern on their way to bronzy. Grows to about a foot, mounds with lots of leaves, puts up sprays of delicate red flowers. Hardy to minus 30. (I got mine at Sutton's.)
• Matt Presser at Mile 5.2, when asked to suggest something "different" with good survival chances, recommended an Arabis (Rock Cress) and a Liatris, both familiar names but unusual species, he said.
The Liatris spicata, hardy to Zone 2, will grow 3- to 4-feet high with good care. Straight green to-the-ground leaves are reminiscent of Iris. It puts out spiky bright violet flowers that bloom from top to bottom.
• The Arabis is small -- maybe 6 inches, with tight leaves that form a hummock and flowers that shoot up above them. The label promises red blossoms but mine put out vibrant purple ones.
• A Dianthus is probably too commonplace to satisfy the lust for variety, but Presser brought out a deltoids that runs along the ground and promises masses of crimson blooms rising maybe 1 foot above the foliage. It's hardy to minus 30.
• Finally, the perennial table at Mill & Feed (where end-of-season sales have begun) offered a really pretty Brunnera, a variety called macrophylla (Emerald Mist). Again, not unusual but its heart-shaped green leaves feature a silvery interlace design that is just beautiful and complements the little blue flowers. For a shady spot. Hardy to minus 25.
No, we don't "need" any of these interesting plants, but any one of them is a fun, learning opportunity if you need to plug a hole in your garden.
By the way, feeling the need to plug holes, real or imaginary, is a sure sign you've been infected with "gardening," an incurable affliction that's particularly hard on Alaskans.
Condolences, and welcome.