If I forget to explain, sooner or later visitors always ask, “What are the flags for?” You may have wondered the same thing when you noticed them in photographs of the garden. The flags appear in three colors: white, pink, and florescent orange.
The plants here are in two categories either weeds or “Keepers”. Keepers are plants I do not want weeded out and thrown away.
A few years ago I voiced my concern that my inexperienced helpers would weed out certain plants I had planted in the Woodland Garden. I could not think of any way to mark them so the students would know they were not weeds.
One helper, a little older than the others, had previously worked for a survey crew. He suggested I mark them with surveyors’ little flags. He even told me where there is a surveyors’ supply store that stocks them for about two cents each.
In the beginning I selected white flags to mark the Keepers. White is easy to notice and see. Then I learned he was using them to mark where he had sprayed or dug poison ivy. That way he could find the exact location in later weeks when he wanted to return to see if the plant was growing back or if gone for good. I thought that was a good idea and decided a different color was called for. That is when Florescent Orange flags arrived to the garden.
For a while the bright orange flags were used solely for marking poison ivy. Now that the poison ivy is a little less rampant, I have set aside a few orange flags and am marking them with “P. IVY” in large black letters using waterproof markers. They are reserved just for that purpose.
The rest of the orange ones have a new use: When I weed all over the property including the large steep bank, I frequently find weeds that are beyond my ability to dig or pull easily. Those are usually perennial weeds with large roots and young, seedling wild trees and shrubs with tap roots that have gotten beyond my ability and strength. When that happens, I place a bright orange flag into the earth right next to the weed plant. Later, when the young men are here to help, they go about finding the flags, and use a strong, big foot and shovel to dig out the weed. They collect the flags as they go for me to use again. That system has worked out very well. They like it and so do I.
Now regarding the third and last of the three colors: pink flags, and Lycoris squamigera. L. squamigera is known by several common names (or nicknames as I like to call them). You may know it by: Resurrection Lily, Magic Lily, Naked Lady, Surprise Lily, or another I have not heard. I just refer to it as Lycoris, because squamigera is the only Lycoris I have here.
I expected to be adding more shrubs and perennials into the garden last summer. So, when the Lycoris sprouted in the spring I knew I needed to mark where their bulbs are, because of the nature of the plant. Their habit is to put up large strap foliage in the spring that is easy to find. Here it's completely covering the much shorter Liriope.
But, it dies down in a few weeks...
Now we can see the Liriope once again.
By then there is no way of knowing where the bulb is until late summer when up pops beautiful pink lilies on tall stems. Also, the bulbs are very expensive, around $10.00 each, so I certainly do not want to be slicing into one while planting in something new.
I visited the supply store for about the fourth time. (I had not bought enough bundles of flags on a previous trip and had to go back for more.) This time I chose pink for the pink lilies. These I carried all over the property and placed a pink flag behind each clump of bold foliage.
Now they were all marked, however, circumstances prevented me from getting newcomers planted. So, we still have pink flags everywhere a year later. Sometimes they trick my eye and I think I am seeing a pink tulip. To tell the truth, I am getting more than a little tired of them, but they were cheerful during the gray days of wintertime.
The flags have come in handy for other uses as well. I cannot remember everything we have used them for, but they are in use almost daily. One example is when we start a new project; flags are used to mark out the lines and boundaries, which makes it much easier to visualize and to explain to one another. Another use has been to mark off sections of the lawn I did not want mowed quite yet. And, when I kept tripping over a metal property boundary marker that is only about an inch high that is in the middle of Cliff Walk, I stuck a flag next to it. Now, I can see and remember that it is there and hopefully will not trip again and possibly roll down the bank. If I had been a cussing person, believe me there would have been blue language in the air more than once as I tried to keep from falling due to that bit of metal stub sticking up in the path.
I recommend the flags to gardeners, because they are inexpensive, easy to see, and have many uses. The ones I bought came in bundles of a hundred costing $2.00 plus tax. Like everything else, they may have gone up in price recently.