My final gift is indispensible to any gardener and must be had in quantities guaranteed to burst any stocking or box. If I could wrap resilience and faith, I would package them up and pass them out to everyone I could.
I am an optimistic realist and love the challenge of identifying and solving problems, even when they're my own. As my garden grew this summer, I began to realize what a complete wreck several beds had become and stopped posting pictures of them. Ragged seedlings I hadn't pulled hid disasterous design and a giant, shallow rooted rudbeckia that demanded constant water and a rampaging white gooseneck loosestrife dominated several other beds. Meatball shaped barberries looked ridiculous under a huge viburnum and a few areas were packed with disjointed planting combinations while others stuggled in bone dry shade. Tired of killing plants on my shady front porch because I forgot to water them, I finally stuck a few sacrificial heuchera in a pot and called it an experiment.
Birdhouses, when potted correctly, are tremendously xeric. Creeping bramble has been planted in front. It's a tough evergreen groundcover that is supposed to have beautiful fall color, although mine are still mostly green because this spot only receives morning sun. It will eventually cascade over the sides of the pot. A massive, but winter dormant, clematis thrives in the moist soil to the right.
I wonder if any birds will move in?
Creeping bramble is in the raspberry family and should be fruiting this summer.
By mid-July, it had become screamingly obvious that major work needed to be done to most of the garden. While the observation was easy, the realization wasn't. It forced me to see my garden as it was, not as I imagined it to be. The problem with mistakes is that we become so used to seeing them, we simply stop seeing them at all. They blend like leaves into the landscape until we only see the completed scene, not the individual leaf.
I redesigned a large portion of the garden near my dogwood tree in the fall 2010 and loved the result.
Buoyed by the success of several beds that had been redesigned the previous fall, I began making a massive To Do list of autumn projects. I gave myself a few days to wallow in my embarassment and humiliation, then got over it. I became almost clinical in my approach, which wasn't always easy. The peonies in my front garden had to go, a decision I wrestled with all summer. While gorgeous and easy, they had been planted in a miserably hot, dry spot, and were mildewy by mid-summer. Despite the various contraptions I employed, they flopped every year, their stems bent at the edges of the hoop, the grass littered with petals.
Several beds, one 20 feet long, were emptied, the soil ammended and lifted by up to five inches, and then redesigned and replanted. But the more I worked, the more my faith that I was making the right decisions grew. Gardens, like life, are fluid and needn't be defined by the mistakes of the gardener. I could be as resilient as my garden, which despite its problems, was full of wildlife and moments of beauty.
Blue veronica grew squished in between coneflower and phlox seedlings, daylilies, a giant rudbeckia triloba to the right, and a 'Chocolate' eupatorium. Most of the coneflowers developed aster yellows and were pulled and the phlox seedlings were transplanted to another bed. The rudbeckia and eupatorium, which needed more moisture, were removed. 'Chocolate' grows all over the garden and reseeds like crazy.
By midsummer, the veronica was in sad shape after growing in almost near darkness thanks to an enormous rudbeckia.
Seed grown rudbeckia triloba grew to almost five feet in just two months. It shaded out everything around it, nearly killing several plants. Wine cups, callirhoe involucrata, continued the destruction by almost suffocating the thyme and orange milkweed seedlings growing nearby. I dug up the winecups and gave them to a friend with a hot, dry slope.
Cute, but not cute enough to make up for its evil ways. However, this would make an incredible plant in a sunny, moist meadow.
By the time I ripped out the rudbeckia, the veronica looked like an octopus. This spot was packed with pathetic little seedlings, which I pulled after cutting the veronica back. It rebounded once it began receiving more sun.
Rudbeckia triloba is incredibly shallow rooted and demanded constant moisture.
I replaced it with well behaved rudbeckia fulgida 'Deams'.
Knautia 'Macedonia' was growing in too much shade and had collapsed onto a different patch of veronica. While it was pretty at first, it became an ugly fight for survival. Much to the relief of the veronica, I relocated the knautia.
I truly love the striking flowers of white gooseneck loosestrife. However, it invades moist garden soil like a virus and is hard to erradicate.
This picture was taken in mid-spring before the Loosestrife Crusades hit their stride. I'm convinced the flower heads are pointing in the direction of their next take over. By the end of the summer, loosestrife filled the bed and I had to dig up the entire bed to hand pick every root from the soil. I did not succeed and the battle continues. However, 99% of its forces have been destroyed. Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm', assorted phlox, and Maltese Cross were among its victims.
I managed to cut the loosestrife back before it completly edged out the Maltese Cross, which I moved to a different bed. I've saved the most hideous pictures for a Before/After post I'll publish next summer.