Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Newbie Confessions

Every year I post a list of all the new plants I've added to the garden during my fall/spring transplant-a-thons and every winter I fess up to how many of them I've killed or tortured. It's humbling, to say the least. 


From fall 2012 to spring 2013, I added numerous perennials and a few small shrubs. Most are still in the garden. The rest have been buried in shallow graves.

The Casualties and Not Quite Deads

'Dream of Beauty' asters




I did my absolute best to kill these. I really did. Despite being excited to add them to the garden, I foolishly planted them in a "dry" section of my rain garden. News flash: there are no dry sections of my rain garden. That's why it's called a rain garden. Even when it's not raining, the soil is heavy and moist. I rescued the lone survivor mid-summer and planted it in a pot with excellent drainage. It's still alive but laughs when I pass.

'Ascot Rainbow' euphorbia



I added three 'Ascot Rainbow' to the garden last fall and they sailed through winter, their foliage growing more beautiful as the temps dropped. But while freezing weather didn't bother them, they couldn't survive the annual anemone invasion. They also didn't appreciate being planted under the shade of a crape myrtle. Oops! By mid-summer, I only had one euphorbia left. This fall, I found another on the sale table at our local nursery and as part of my shade garden redesign moved them both to a much brighter spot. I think they'll make it. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

'Wenlock Beauty' wallflowers




I killed these superdead. Planted in a pot near my back door so I could enjoy their fragrance, they never bloomed. Having read they thrived when neglected, I took my new knowledge to heart and ignored them. They repaid my efforts by dying a slow, miserable death. By the time I realized I had been duped, it was too late. They only want to be ignored if planted in full sun in moist, very well draining soil. Mostly sunny with dry soil isn't quite the same. However, my determination to figure how to grow these has led me to purchase a new victim off the sale table and try again. It's planted in full sun in well draining soil that I plan on keeping moist. Who knew?

'Dark Ponticum' monarda



This is 'Peter's Purple' instead of 'Dark Ponticum' but they look very similar.

Hello, I'm Tammy and I'm addicted to monarda. Maybe it's the Rastafarian flowers or their "Yes, my hair is supposed to look like this. Deal with it!" attitude, but I find them irresistible.  If they looked more normal, I would like them less. 'Dark Ponticum' needs less water than most but its reputed ability to grow in shade is pure baloney. It thrived in the garden until two months of rain created so much growth in my crape myrtles, they blocked the sun. I moved them to a sunnier spot and they immediately put out new growth.


The Survivors

'Star Dreamer' daylily


I completely forgot to take any pictures of this plant because I'm just amazing like that. They are a tall, fragrant, light yellow daylily. 

Since it's impossible to kill a daylily, I grow a lot of them. Every year I rip chunks of them out as my garden grows shadier and eagerly gift them to friends. But I added the 'Star Dreamer' daylily to a pot and it's thrilled. After telling myself to stop buying daylilies and just rearrange the ones I already have, I turned around and bought more dayliles. Why? Because they were purple. What color were the other ones? Not purple.

'Pink Octopus' campanula



These are so happy growing in well drained partial shade, I added more. Like most campanula, they spread quickly but I consider that a bonus since they are well behaved invaders. Of course, I spent all summer waiting for them to grow to 18" only to discover they only reach 8-10 inches. I consider this an indicator of either sleep deprivation or early dementia. Both are entirely plausible.

'Star Cluster' and 'Full Moon' coreopsis




'Full Moon' are yellow and 'Star Cluster' are white.

If you give coreopsis hot sun and well drained soil, they will love you long time. These bloomed all summer in my front butterfly garden and only needed to be watered during periods of drought.

'Caradonna' and 'Rose Queen' salvia 



'Rose Queen' with orange milkweed
'Caradonna' is in the background.

These grow alongside the coreopsis and are some of the toughest plants in my garden. I kept them pinched back to encourage more flowers and fuller growth. They were also some of the first perennials to bloom in spring, much to my surprise. But the pollinators must have been waiting since they were lined up like kids for
candy as soon as the flowers opened.

'Red Hot' lilies



These aren't actually red but I love the name, anyway.


The bulbs were planted in fall 2012 and the plants are still small. Next spring, I'm going to tie them to stakes to help them push their way through the bleeding heart foliage without growing crooked. The plantings around my Big Daddy rain barrel are a bit of a hodge podge.

Since I'm in confessional mode, I have to admit the name was part of the reason I bought these lilies. I like the idea of having a clump of red hot hussies strutting their stuff on the side of my house. But of course, I also think there should be a cultivar of banana tree known as Well Hung but that nugget of horticultural genius is continually ignored. I can't figure out why. My Red Hot ladies pushed and shoved their way through the massive bleeding heart to provide interest long after it had gone dormant. My gals need more support, though, and an artistic plant stake plan is underway.

'Shimmer' evening primrose (Oenathera fremontii)



This is a tough plant. It spent part of the summer fending of the advances of an aging parsley plant who was determined to have one last fling before calling it quits. They simply grew under the parsley like a rug until I yanked it out. Once their lanky growth was cut back, they flourished and required very little care.

'Venice' dwarf hydrangea



I wish they were more purple than pink, but the pink is pretty, too.


The hydrangea grows next to my mosaic pot. There is another one on the other side of the steps. 

I really shouldn't grow hydrangea since I don't have a good spot for them, but I missed them so much I bought these little dwarf cultivars and stuck them in pots on my front porch. As long as I remember to water them, they're very happy.

'Jelly Bean' and 'Peach Sorbet' blueberries




'Peach Sorbet' in early spring

I love blueberries but after losing my big shrubs in the Wheelbarrow Wars of 2005, I'd given up on ever growing them again. When I saw these at a trade show, I was hooked. I was hit with a serious case of plant lust and since a girl wants what she wants....I ended up with one of each. They have incredible fall and spring foliage and were bred to thrive in a container. They grow on my patio and I'm able to munch the berries before the birds find them. Score one for Tammy!

69 comments:

  1. Well let me just say that your confessions are brilliant! It is such an awesome (and comedic...you really are something!) way to log everything. Holy goodness...the Mr. would pass out if he were to read a gardening confessional by me...no joke! And I know a lot of them in my head but should really try this approach. And as for that 'Ascot Rainbow' euphorbia...I grew that beautifully for almost 3 years and then the darn thing just fell over flat on its face. It was seriously the craziest thing I had ever seen! You have so many pretty survivors up there lady! Here is to another year and to tucking away dough to feed the addiction! Nic xx

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    1. I find confessionals very cathartic. I would have made an excellent Catholic (until I was done confessing. Then it would be all down hill, unfortunately.) That's so weird about your Ascot Rainbow. Mr Rainbow better not pull that crap with me or it's back in the shade with him! Mwahaha!!

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  2. Hi Tammy, I always enjoy reading your yearly post about how the plants that you planted have been doing.I also love monardas, but don't have any in my garden yet, but if I ever will get them will keep in mind that they need to be planted in the sun. Last year I also figured out that salvias are doing quite well in my garden. Some did a little too well like 'Black and Blue' salvia, which became truly invasive. I tried to rip them out and planted salvia Mystic Spires Blue instead, which has been absolutely wonderful. It is still blooming now! Your lilies are so beautiful. I take your success with then as inspiration to try them out in my garden, too!
    Christina

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    1. I would definitely give some lilies a try. They are just so easy and smell wonderful. Did your salvia attract hummingbirds? I love the Black and Blue, too, but have never grown it. I'm not sure I have room for any more big plants.

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  3. I see that you keep a firm moral approach in this garden - no hanky panky between parsley and 'Shimmer' evening primrose.
    I love your 'Ascot Rainbow' euphorbia. It seems to me I tried it a few years back but, if I did, it did not make it. In my experience, euphorbia are very happy in your garden (perhaps the name comes from euphoria?) and spread everywhere or they promptly die. There is not much in-between.
    You certainly have tried a lot of things and your garden looks beautiful - these coreopsis seem to have settled in nicely.

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    1. Coreopsis are just hard to kill, which is so admirable. I love a tough plant, unless it's poison ivy. I let my parsley flirt with the oenathera for about a month but it was a suffocating kind of love so out it went. I just had to end the relationship. I think 'Shimmer' is enjoying her newly single status. :o)

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  4. Congratulations! You planted some winners! I especially like the purple Salvia/orange Milkweed combination. I have a similar combo in my potager, but I don't know if the Butterfly Weed will re-emerge next spring because it didn't go to seed. Your Lilies are fabulous. And EVERYTHING about that front-porch display is perfect!

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    1. Orange milkweed is a really tough plant. It's also easy to start from seed. I bet it pops up and surprises you. :o) The front porch arrangement just came together. Although the little fountain sounds like someone is peeing on the porch so I may not turn it on this year. :o)

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  5. Oh my gosh, you mean there are nice and cute plants that actually like sun?

    Wow...I"m going to have to make a list. Do you think they will tolerate hail storms? We really only get one killer one a year...snort.

    Jen

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    1. I think you could deep fry salvia and coreopsis and they'd still bloom. They like to be hot and dry in well drained, acidic soil. I'd put nepeta (catmint) up against a hail storm any day. It thrives when cut back and grows in the same conditions as the salvia and coreopsis..

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  6. Wheelbarrow Wars?

    I too have found many plants can be ignored when planted in (mythical) moist well-drained conditions.

    Your clematis is gorgeous! You tried such a nice array of plants, I'm glad you were able to find spots for most of them to be happy.

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    1. Wheelbarrow Wars are what happens when you let energetic 13 year old boys "help" you spread mulch. The blue clematis is Baltyk and it's a beautiful beast. It's one of my favorite plants. I bought it from Brushwood Nursery (online).

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  7. Oh, wow, how wonderful your butterfly garden looks now! I remember when you first added that. Good job! And score one for that clematis. Holy Smokes that thing is gorgeous!!!! The container combo with the mosaic pot and the birdhouse and other blue and white pots with the blue blooms of the clematis tumbling over it all is just picture perfect :-) I had the Ascot Rainbow Euphorbia on my wish list at one point, too, but never got around to trying it. Sure love that foliage! I imagine I would have to put it in a pot and ignore it because I know they like very well draining soil. Congratulate yourself for being brave to try new things and being willing to learn by experience!

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    1. Thanks! I had a hard time capturing the right light in the front butterfly garden last year and a lot of the pics I took came out weird. But it did pull together well. I'm excited to see it this spring when the plants are even more mature. :o)

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  8. I'm taking notes as I read. I thought I had my front yard down pat, but no. Over almost twenty years in the same house, suddenly I have to re-think the whole front garden. So, my next post will be asking for some help. this is a good start because it sounds like you have heavy and damp soil too! Ah yes....the rain garden. Using all those pots with lovely color is brilliant. Go Tammy!

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    1. All of my soil is heavy but only some of it is damp. I have mostly dry clay loam. However, there are many Portland based blogs that would be able to help you find plants that would do well in your climate. I'll email you a list this weekend. :o)

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  9. Even a hard maker must agree that's not a bad report card for the year. Our gardens are so different. I have very few annuals or even perennials so don't experiment each year with new combinations. It would be fun.
    ....and thanks so much for your mountain of garden love.

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    1. You're welcome! I like knowing the garden always has the potential to look a bit different from year to year by changing my container plants or trying new perennials. :o)

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  10. You show me so many interesting flowers that I have never seen here. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by. :o)

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  11. Starting a new garden certainly has its challenges that We face here. I love hydrangea, but for the life of me I cannot keep them alive. My horticulturalist daughter says never to keep up, so I guess I am supposed to just keep wasting money and torturing innocent victims. In making true confessions, you inspire us.

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    1. Hydrangea want afternoon shade and very moist, deep, rich soil. They also don't do well with reflected heat. That's why the only ones I have are in pots. If your hydrangea keep dying, then try a shrub that likes drier soil. Maybe a Korean Spice viburnum would be a good alternative.

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  12. I understand your frustration. When we want something in a certain spot, it really ruins it for us when the plant decides to be fussy and show us they are boss. You have some great ones still remaining though.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. It was a pretty successful year. I'm very happy that more lived than died. :o)

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  13. Hmmmmmm....a veritable feast of lovelies here....some deceased, some still with us (well...with you that is). Off to check out those Monarda. Great post x

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    1. Thanks, Jane! Monarda would love all your rain. Plus, there are several dwarf varieties. :o)

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  14. You are a trooper Tammy. Never give up should be one of your mottos. Gardening would become a bore if it perfect all the time, right?

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    1. I am an odd combination of completely flexibility mixed with stubborn mule refusal. I'm flexible about the plants I'm willing to buy but too stubborn to ever give up. I'm convinced I'll get it right, just not convinced WHEN I'll get it right! So I have to keep trying. :o)

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  15. Nice mosaic pots, Tammy. I think you wrote about them in comments to my post, didn't you? They are very stylish both and the white ceramic one is nice. Your monarda is of unusual color, do you grow it in sunlight ?

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    1. Monarda can take light shade but does better with about 75% sun. It likes moist soil. I fell in love with the white pot when I saw it last year at the garden center. I made the mosaic pot with pieces of broken china and concrete. It was very easy. :o)

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  16. How fascinating to see what thrived and what didn't. You have some real treasures there. I must say I admire the fact that you can remember all the plants you've planted....I actually forget and stare at brown dead stumps and leaves and wonder what on earth they were, and I'm always amazed when bulbs pop out, I'm like a squirrel, I bury them and forget all about them. A wonderful post....p,s....I love purple too!!!xxx

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  17. Oh....forgot to say...LOVE those pots....how fab are they???xxx

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    1. I made the big mosaic pot. I just smashed up a bunch of china and stuck it to a big ugly pot with concrete. Here's the post about it: http://ts-casamariposa.blogspot.com/2012/05/explosion-at-china-factory-garden-art.html It was super easy!

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    2. Oh....way to go girl....I will deffo steal that idea!!! But shall give you credit for it!!! Lol...xxx

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  18. Hey, you're going to have to try harder if you want to make a real burial ground. The plants that you did kill were simply sacrificed in your quest for knowledge.

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    1. 'Sacrificing in my quest for knowledge' sounds so much nicer than 'plant murderer'. :o) Thanks, Lee!

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  19. Your update is wonderful - loss tempered by humor. I considered a post on the status of my own 2013 plant purchases but, after reviewing the list, I was too disheartened. Although many more survived than bit the dust, each loss is sad nonetheless. I have a nasty habit of crossing my fingers and placing plants based more on what I think looks good than on what's optimal for the plant. I'm not much for new year's resolutions but I will resolve to make 2014 the year I put culture ahead of color!

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    1. I am a research-based gardener and have adopted the approach of looking at my garden to see what is really there as opposed to what I wish I saw there and then making unemotional statements like, "This plant is thriving but this one is wilting" and then doing some detective work on the growing conditions they need to determine the cause. But you also have to include all the other factors that contribute to plant failure. I compile my observations, do some research, and then hope I've come to an accurate conclusion. Then I move the plant or make changes to the spot and just try again. It took me a long time to figure all that out but it's made evaluating my failures a more productive process and has taught me a lot. But of course, I still have a ways to go! I spent 4 months last year trying to convince myself a shady spot in my garden wasn't really all that shady. How shady was it? Pretty damn shady!

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  20. I'm not good when plants die-the whole neighbourhood hears my cries of shock, indignation and frustration. My problem, one of them anyway, there are a lot more unrelated to gardening, is I naively believe in the descriptions. O.K so maybe I sometimes ignore planting requirements or try to push it a little bit but then I'm an optimistic planter. I've made a list of your successes and advice re failures as preparation for the coming year.

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    1. I'm an optimist but am convinced all plant labels were written by hungover, underpaid copy writers and are, therefore, hopelessly inaccurate. I use them as a guideline along the lines of "If you keep going north you might get to Canada" and then I do my own research. :o)

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  21. Hi Tammy. I find it soooooo reassuring to read of the miserable ends reached by unfortunate plants, other than my own. You have definitely more successes than failures though, so that is win, win !! I have a veritable graveyard of sad little labels, still marking the death knell of the fallen. My trouble is that I just don't take the hint. I have bought , planted and killed no less than 3 Clematis Almandii. It is too tender for my climate, but I won't admit it!!

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    1. I save all my labels and occasionally go through them to clean them out. I've thrown away dozens and dozens. It always stings a bit when I realize how many plants I've killed over the years. I'm sure there will be more victims this year!

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  22. I've certainly had my share of failures, escpecially when something new catches my eye at the garden center. But sometimes they make it. I enjoyed reading your honest account of your failures nd successes. And I have always admired that mosaic pot that you made. What a cheerful grouping of plants to greet you!

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    1. I do love that front porch grouping. :o) I don't see any purpose in pretending I don't make a million mistakes in my garden every year. It's best to just be honest about them and share them so others don't have to make them, too!

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  23. A wise person once said “If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener.” I cling to that proverb every time something dies in my garden and I don’t think you should beat yourself up about any of the plants that died or sulked – we all learn as we go and writing about it means other people learn too, thanks for the lessons/confessions!
    Funnily enough, I also planted lilies and dicentra together last year, both pure white, looking forward to seeing them in flower this summer.

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    1. You'll love the lilies and dicentra! If killing plants mean I'm stretching as a gardener, then by this point, I'm made of rubber! But I definitely learn as I go, which makes the experience richer. :o)

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  24. Overall, I think you did pretty well with your plantings. I think all gardeners put plants in the wrong place hoping they will survive. I know I do. Because we buy plants we just have to have even though we don't have a spot for them.

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    1. I'm very good at convincing myself I have a spot for a plant, especially in the winter when I order plants online only to find the spot was already full or the area was drier/moister, etc than I remembered.

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  25. I think we all break our resolutions to buy less plants during the year....it's a given in my opinion. My new thought on this habit is "you win some, you lose some, life goes on."
    Now about that Well Hung banana tree.....you may be on to something there......

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    1. I'm convinced it would be a genius marketing trick to name the banana cultivar Well Hung! Just seeing that on a plant tag would make me laugh. :o)

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  26. Your successes greatly outweigh your failures. I cannot grow any kind of coreopsis cultivar in any conditions at any time (I do have the tall weedy species coreopsis). So I admire how well you did with yours. And my Jelly Bean blueberries were a disappointment, I am hoping they just need a second year (they are alive, but don't look great). You have a lot of nice successes to be proud of in your garden!

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    1. I bet you could grow coreopsis in a pot. As for your Jelly Bean, here's what I did with mine: Potting soil has a pH of about 6.8 so I added two cups of Espoma Soil Acidifier to the dry soil and then watered it in with water that had been supplemented with a few tablespoons of cider vinegar. The vinegar helped dissolve the acidifier pellets and lowered the pH in a day to the mid 4.0's. Both the Jelly Bean and Peach Sorbet thrived in that soil. If the leaves are yellowed or a cheapo soil pH probe shows a reading of higher than 5, try lowering the pH and see if it perks up this spring.

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  27. I loved this post, Tammy and I'm fascinated by your casualties and survivors. I (and my bees) love monardas, but last year was not a good year for them. I don't know why but must find out because I want to make sure I have some thriving this year. I really am surprised by how tough my daylilies are, they really are survivors in my garden.

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    1. I love a plant that refuses to die. I have tons of daylilies because I can always count on them. I wonder if a vole or some other creature ate your monarda roots. They like to be really moist and usually spread by runners. I'd try them again. :o)

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  28. What an entertaining review of your garden hits and misses. You gave me some great ideas for things that even I may not be able to kill. I especially loved your red hot lilies, and that Pink Octopus Campanula is just too adorable. But are you growing clematis in pots? It looked like it from the photos. If so, I am definitely going to copy you next year. I've wanted clematis but don't have a great spot for it in the garden.

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    1. All my clematis are growing in the ground but there are several small cultivars that would do well in a big pot. Try this nursery for some ideas: http://www.gardenvines.com/shop/ I grow the native clematis crispa and it would be fine in a pot. It's also a category 3 so you don't have to worry about pruning it. Just chop it to the ground every spring and you're done. :o)

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  29. Well it seems to me you had more successes than failures - I daren't admit in public just how many failures I have every year!

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    1. I don't mind looking back at my disasters. It reminds me I have so much more learning to ahead of me.

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  30. Such a funny post! I love the way you look at things Tammy. For most of us failures are just sad. For you they are a source of humour and a way to learn.

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    1. I am convinced failure can be a beautiful thing. It's a wonderful way to learn. It's when I keep making the same mistake over and over without realizing why that I go crazy. I used to make chocolate cakes that we kept naming Earthquake cakes because they always cracked down the middle and split apart. It was irritating but also very funny. I finally figured out what I was doing wrong but my new and improved cakes aren't quite as exciting as the old ones, especially when we watched the layers slide off each other.

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  31. Wow, you are brave. I would be frightened to write down all the plants I killed in one post. Do you think that some plants, when they claim that they thrive with neglect, it's a form of passive aggression? "Oh, don't mind me, I thrive on neglect." I love S. oblongifolius, sorry about 'Dream of Beauty'. There were no varieties of NE aster that fit the bill, because you know they like their moisture?

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    1. I'm not sure if I'm brave, fearless, or slightly stoopid for having no need to filter my disasters. :o) Do you know of any dwarf NE asters that would thrive in moist, heavy soil?

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  32. I'm still chuckling 5 minutes later - "I killed it superdead". Yep, that's pretty darn dead. I think for every plant you kill it just adds to your wealth of knowledge about plants. The more times you kill it the more knowledgable you are. So you're well on your way to being a supergenius gardener.

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    1. I'll have to remind myself of my genius status the next time I slaughter a plant. :o)

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  33. I like your positive look at the ones that failed. There is always more to learn in failure than success I think. Funy post as always when you get in confessional mode.

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    1. Laughing is better than screaming in frustration. There is so much erroneous info on the internet that it's easy to plant something in the wrong spot while feeling quite convinced you've just planted it in the perfect spot. Websites need a Bullshit Alarm that goes off when you read something incorrect. It would save me so much money and time!

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  34. I appreciate your sharing your successes as well as those that did not do so well! I also learned the hard way that monarda doesn't do so well in the shade. When people comment on my lovely garden, I am grateful they do not see all the dead ones!

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    1. Deb - I read is several different places that the monarda thrived in partial shade but apparently they didn't get the memo because ii almost went dormant. I do have a huge patch of monarda, though, that is growing well in partial shade. However, I recently cut down two narrow but tall trees that had been shading the patch and I'm curious to see how much more they grow this summer. It will be an interesting comparison.

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