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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Hits, Misses, and Maybe's: Notes to Self

Have you ever bought a plant because you couldn't remember if you'd killed it before or found your self making the same mistake - because it didn't seem like a mistake - as you made last summer? Tired of getting trapped in the Swirling Hate Spiral of Stupid Plant Mistakes I began to write down what I should and should not do in my garden. At the end of the day, after remembering multiple passwords, a zillion work related things, kid things, dog things, house things I sometimes think my head's going to explode. My notes are my data backup. Even if I slide into bed an exhausted pile of goo, a second garden brain is waiting for me on my computer.

Notes to Self 2011


Whatever you did with these plants, do it again. Do NOT ever remove them from their existing spots. They aren't broken so do not fix them!

Kalimeris integrifoila 'Daisy Mae' and Kalimeris incisa 'Blue Star'

Kalimeris is the white daisy type flower in the middle of the picture.

Kalimeris has proven itself to be one of the toughest plants in my garden. Even when I had it planted in too much shade, it refused to die. I planted it in two different slightly dry spots with bright afternoon shade and it thrived, rewarding me with white and blue daisy-like flowers all summer. It rarely needed extra water and benefited from an early summer cut-back. 

Dwarf Nepeta

I found this little white nepeta on the sale table and thought I'd give it a try. It was one of the earliest bloomers in my spring garden and survived all summer with no supplemental water. It only grows to about 8 inches high and forms a small, tidy mound. It grows in full sun in dry, well drained soil.

Silene 'Rolly's Favorite'  

This picture shows the silene and nepeta blooming at the same time. The silene should be taller and fuller this year since it's had more time to establish itself. By the end of last summer I had a few silene seedlings that helped fill out this grouping.

This was another sale table special. I hadn't had much luck with other silene but these were so cheap I figured I could afford the gamble. They bloomed at the same time as the dwarf nepeta, which was a wonderful surprise. They also grew in full sun in dry, well drained soil. They looked a little rough over the summer since they didn't receive much extra water, but any time it rained they perked right up. I wrapped a soaker hose around them this fall and am hoping they'll be  a bit greener this summer. They're such a tough plant, I might add more to the garden this spring.

Yellow Columbine

Yellow columbine and kalimeris

I think this columbine is the southeastern native, but I'm not sure. It started blooming in May and didn't stop until October. Yep, that's right. OCTOBER! It was one of the best surprises of the summer. It grows at the very edge of my patio in bright shade under a dogwood tree. The sharper the drainage, the longer the columbine bloom. 


Quit buying the plant you keep killing! The verbena are smuggling spider mites into the garden and the wine cups aren't "mingling" with the veronica, thyme, or any of the other hapless victims you've planted near them. They are planning a hostile takeover. 

Antennaria dioica 'Rubra' 

What an ugly mess!!

I usually just refer to this as "the plant I keep killing". Supposedly it loves total neglect, dry soil, and hot sun. However, it died when ignored, fussed over, or even treated with dismissive tolerance. I think it hates me and I'm tired of killing it. However, its function as a larval host food for Virginia Lady butterflies keeps me bringing me back. But this year will be different. It can die at someone else's house.

Wine cups (Callirhoe involucrata)

 Wine cups in early spring before spreading three feet

They definitely have the coolest roots I've ever seen!

I should have this plant listed under the hits because it is impossible to kill. If there is ever a zombie apocalypse. it will be the only thing left living on Earth. Unless the zombies are vegetarians - then it's done for. Wine cups are the perfect plant if you have a steep, dry slope or retaining wall in full sun. They go dormant when the summer weather becomes too harsh and magically sprout back to life when it rains. I, of course, do not have a steep slope or retaining wall but was lured in by their tales of hardiness in the face of adversity. With nothing to cascade over, they spread horizontally in my garden, suffocating everything in their path. Drifts of dwarf veronica nearly met their end thanks to the frenzied sprawl of my wine cups.


Annual verbena 

If you look closely you can see the spider damage on the leaves. This happens every summer.

I hate putting verbena on the Do Not Buy list, but every year after bringing home pots of it, I end up with spider mite infestations. I'm convinced the spider mites are arriving as an unexpected bonus in my pots of verbena. Once established, I've found it almost impossible to eradicate the mites. This year I'm not buying any annual verbena to see if the mite infestation develops anyway.


These plants are on probation. They were underwhelming but had enough redeeming qualities that I might grow them again. But I might not. Perhaps it's just a case of the wrong plant in the wrong spot...


Beautiful flowers...

pain in the butt plant

I've decided that I'd like to skip growing dahlias and jump straight to just enjoying them as cut flowers. Wooed by gorgeous dahlia photos on other blogs, I finally bought a few tubers and and potted them up. Between the slugs, corn borers, leaf miners and summer storms that sent them crashing onto a pot of Louisiana iris, I'm not sure they were worth the hassle.


A newly planted 'Lemons and Oranges' gaillardia

I've read in several places that gaillardia are among the easiest plants to grow. That may be true, but there's a big difference between simply having a pulse and looking happy and healthy. After solving a previous summers drainage problem, my gaillardia decided they wanted to grow in partial shade in well fertilized soil. I expected the drainage demands, but shade? Seriously? Maybe it was a stress response to the damage done by the spider mites and leaf miners, but the plants in the shade improved while the ones in the sun didn't. My 'Lemons and Oranges' gaillardia self-seeded and seedlings are already sprouting in last years pots. I'm giving them one more chance.


I wish they looked this good all summer!

When it grew in the shade, it flopped. When it grew in a moist, sunny spot, it developed rust. However, I have seedlings popping up everywhere and the flowers are so pretty I want to figure out how to make this plant happy for longer than just a few weeks. Frustration....

Zinnia marylandica

I grew two pots of orange and red zinnia marylandica from seed last summer only to have the butterflies completely ignore them. I liked their smaller size but I'm growing the larger ones this summer while I decide if I prefer the Double Fire and Double Cherry varieties to the old fashioned variety, despite their inability to attract pollinators.

Showy Tick Trefoil (Desmodium canadense)

They spent all summer leaning towards the sun and didn't get much taller than 12 inches. They're supposed to be three feet tall!

I added tick trefoil to the shady Bed of Death and Misery, hoping it was tough enough to overcome the odds stacked against it. To my surprise, it grew although it didn't thrive and spent all summer looking like an alpine skier about to launch itself off a ski jump. I moved it to a patch of bright shade this fall and within a few days it was upright and happy. Fingers crossed that it's beautiful and lush this summer.


This Parisian Market carrot is so ugly it's funny!

I grew multiple pots of carrots this summer only to succeed in growing the ugliest carrots I've ever seen. They looked like they were sprouting little brains. My purple carrots actually grew large enough that I was able to shred them for a carrot cake so I'm trying them again. But even the ugly carrots had beautiful foliage that was full of swallowtail caterpillars so all was not lost.


  1. Repeat what works, scrap what doesn't. You go, girl! I still grow winecup, but I moved it a few years ago. I used to have it growing by my front walk, but after it almost completely covered the walk, I moved it to an area where it can sprawl. I like the fact that it does its thing in the spring, and then recedes for the summer. Those roots are amazing, aren't they!! Gaillardia cannot grow in my garden anymore either. Too much water, not good enough drainage?? Who knows, but it wasn't happy, so it's out of here. Too many other plants that are perfectly happy to be in my garden. Your carrots look like mine! I am rebuilding one section of my square foot veggie garden with 1x12s so that I have deeper soil to grow carrots. We will see if that helps.

  2. Well, I know its on the miss column, but I think you've talked me into the winecups. I definitely have hits and misses and lets try again. This year the lets try again is going to be Rozanne geraniums. I think I killed those myself, not the actual environment of which they were planted. On the misses each year that I keep trying AGAIN its the dang dahlias. They live, but something in my garden eats all their leaves, no matter which variety I have. It is the most favorite food in my garden. I dug a few up last year to transplant in my mom's garden and POOF! Magically they started looking a lot better. I really really need to give these up. I mean, seriously... I have one thats sprouted a few leaves because of the early spring here and they are ALREADY eaten.

  3. Hits and misses --- every garden is unique. My frustration is the spigelia marilandica (just got back from a Tony Avent talk and what gorgeous Indian Pinks he showed us, complete with a funny story about them.) Not in my garden. But the unanticipated no fuss silent stunners make me happy just as yours do --- caryopteris and Himalayan fleeceflower, shrub zenobia, and so many others.

    Those roots on the wine cups! Really?? I've never seen anything like that. (Your puny carrots tilt the balance the other way though Eeep.)

  4. Great post! Love the Yellow Columbine! I don't do Dahlias - not worth the digging up for Winter I'd have to do.

  5. I enjoy dahlias most when I buy a bundle at the Farmers Market. You can't give up on carrots yet. If you can grow the elusive purple ones, you can certainly grow orange ones. No odd-colored carrots for me this year. Waste of space.

  6. I loved reading about your hit and misses. I have misses that make me feel so inadequate, because I hear other gardeners go on and on about how fabulous they are. Now I know not to feel inadequate - it's just my garden, and I should move on!

  7. I am always saying "never again" about certain plants and then once more succumbing to their nursery charms the next year. Or, as you say, buying plants because I can't remember if I've killed them before. I enjoyed this post very much, and it reminded me to make more notes and not rely on my increasingly spotty memory (I also bring home library books and then find I have read them before. Sadly, it sometimes takes several chapters to realise this...)

  8. I like your style and your notes to self post. I need to do this as well. Hold on...I need to write something down:
    (Note to self: Post a Note to self post) LOL

    Ok..that's done. I love that dwarf Nepeta. I must find one. Is it a smaller version of catmint or catnip?
    David/ :0)

  9. I should make the same sort of list. Meany's the time I've asked why I've asked myself why am I planting this here, when the same thing didn't make it here last year. Lol

  10. Wow, that was a long blooming columbine! Love the Kalimeris--I'm always in favor of a tough plant...
    Also--Thanks for the award :)

  11. I keep trying gaura, telling myself it's my own fault it's dying. Maybe the next spot I choose will be better .I like your lists. Maybe if I wrote notes to myself, I wouldn't argue myself back into making the same mistakes!

  12. Whoa I've never seen wine cups. Those are cool! I totally sympathize with the carrots. Your hits are great though, so whatever you're doing, keep at it!

  13. Oh, I have one of those lists, which I keep losing, but I want one of those white nepatas!

  14. Nigdy więcej, a jak przychodzi czas siania lub sadzenia, to znowu im dajemy szansę i liczymy na to, że może w tym roku się uda :-). Pozdrawiam.*** No more, and when the time comes to sowing or planting, then again we're giving them a chance and hope that maybe this year will succeed :-). Yours.

  15. What a great idea to make a list of hits and misses. I only remember my failures when they fail again. And then I forget again.

  16. If it's any consolation, I've given up on: Tradescantia, Zinnias, Gallardia, Verbena, Wine Cups and carrots for many of the same reasons you describe. I love that Silene even though it reseeds all over and tends to flop on its neighbors. I'm still hanging in there with my Dahlias although my soil is so dry in the summer, they aren't what they should be. I like the Trefoil. I'm not sure I'm familiar with it. Maybe I'll have to do a little research. It's always nice to have plants that flourish in sun. My Nepetas are outstanding. I wouldn't be without them. Thanks for sharing. Great post!

  17. We did carrots in the early years while in Virginia, they looked like nasty naked little men. hahahaah
    I had Kalimeris pinnatafida in our garden in Seaford and what a winner! I should have brought some with me. The bloom is little pompom daisies. Really super...great companion to yours. Love it with that sunny yellow Columbine, what a beauty!

  18. I love all your hits! But especially the yellow Columbine--it's gorgeous! Sigh. But I'd vote to try Dahlias again, too. They're such great cut flowers and they're just so full and lush and lovely. Plus, then you can give me tips on growing Dahlias.

  19. The hits and misses are so funny. I love your get to the point humor. Tradescantia gets thumbs down from me. It wants to own the garden. And the roses want to stomp it out.

  20. Tradescantia wants cutting back to the ground when it starts to flop after successful bloom. It may bloom again. If not, it will at least look tidy. It does spread about -- a shovel will take care of that tendency.

  21. Misses - what misses ? Looked good from this side of the fence. Beautiful yellow columbine.

  22. I like the idea of documenting my hits and misses because I do forget. One plant, a houseplant, that I refused to give up on is Norfolk Island pine. I must have gone through 3 or 4 before I got one to survive. Now, I have two. Some of the plants you listed seem like some I would like to add to my garden.

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  24. Oh, I am so late to the party... I love the dwarf nepta - I hope I can find a plant around here somewhere as the regular size does so well here. As for the Tradescantia, it is a native here and only looks good for a short while. I know folks around here that love it, but I don't care for it when it goes past it's best days. It used to grow in our yard in the spring so I was happy when my husband mowed it down for the year.

  25. Love your post! You've put a lot of thought into your hits and misses! I'm going to look into Kalimeris. You are Zone 7... so you're a lot more "temperate" than I am (usually! ha!). I'd not seen dwarf nepata. I love catmint - I have "Walker's Low." But I like the idea of a dwarf. I know nothing about Silene... so I'll have to check this out, too. (Notice, I'm going by your recommendations!)
    Your Winecups is not a hardy geranium? It looks like it - from the foliage. It is definitely healthy and happy! :-) Thanks for your recent visit.

  26. Just to let you know I responded to your Versatile Blogger award in my current post. Sorry I didn't follow the rules, but I did link back to your great blog!

  27. You are more adventurous than I am -- I won't even try plants that look iffy for my garden (but are nevertheless sold by local nurseries)... I do like verbena, it is supposed to be a perennial in my zone, but doesn't usually return (probably because, in my case, snails get to it long before spider mites...). I haven't had any luck with tradescantia either, I also love the flowers and hate the plant... You have had a lot of successes in your garden, and you even taught your columbines to read?

  28. I need a bed of death and misery too! Great post - I've got to find that lovely columbine right now! On the dahlias, the dark leaved bunch, like Bishop of Llandaff and Fascination are nicer, lowish plants that don't require staking. Glad someone else can see how gross tradescantia look most of the time :)

  29. That is a great idea to categories plants by hits, misses and maybes. I think a more systematic approach to gardening can be very helpful for long term success! I love your white dwarf nepeta, that could be a plant that might do well in my climate, too. I will see if I can find it at the nursery. I planted white flowering verbenas lately with high hopes, yikes, guess I have to watch out for the spider mites! I think, I will make a similar list for my garden, too. Hopefully it will help me to avoid making the same mistakes over and over, again.

  30. It is a great photo you have of the sholders of the taproot of Callirhoe involucrata.
    May I use on my page: ?


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