I stood in my backyard, my garden struggling against the grass border, and scowled. Beds full of lush, healthy plants merged tentatively with bare patches, the dessicated remains of 'drought resistant' perennials, and oddly designed groupings. I walked slowly along the grass, dragging myself from bed to bed. Maraschino red flowers screamed against the fuchsia of rose campion and I turned away. Salvia scrambled over its neighbors, suffocating expensive plants in a carpet of purple fluff, while soft orange agastache, overly shaded and desperate for sun, collapsed onto the plants in front. The garden was a study in contrasts and the ugly parts were screamingly obvious. White loosestrife had taken over an entire bed and needed to be pulled out root by root. If the garden had been a dating site, Total Hot Mess would have been pathetically flirting with Manicured and Polished.
Bright pink rose campion looks truly hideous planted next to red 'Maraschino' salvia. Next time, I'll garden with my eyes open.
I planted the campion in a semi-circle around the red salvia because I wasn't paying attention. Note to Self: Drifting into La La Land while transplanting can have disastrous consequences.
Frustration rising, I could feel my emotions begin to boil. I breathed deeply but it was no use. Angry and overwhelmed, I headed for the house, my clogs and hat thrown in a heap on the patio. Something was off and I didn't know how to fix it. Images of other gardens pulsed through my brain and I wanted to know how they were so beautiful. What artistic epiphany drove the gardener to create such exquisite designs? Flopping onto the couch, I curled into myself and simmered. Analytical, lively, and curious by nature, I didn't want to compete with the gardeners I admired, I simply wanted to know their secrets. My family wisely avoided me while my dogs huddled close.
This bed was a complete mess. A ring of overgrown shasta daisies, a clump of almost dead linaria, and a scattering of miserable groundcover plants as well as undermulched soaker hoses were painful to look at.
This entire area was redesigned.
This bed had been completely taken over by white loosestrife, a beautiful but highly invasive plant. The day lily, dwarf heliopsis, and phlox were miserable in the dry partial shade. The loosestrife had already been cut to the ground in this picture and was waiting to be dug up.
Too emotionally tied to the labor and expense of my garden mistakes, I needed an impartial judge to help me identify the strengths and weaknesses of my designs, but no names popped to mind. Restless and covered in dog fur, I got up, went back outside, and began pacing.
Verbena bonariensis had taken over this bed and crowded out numerous plants. It was thinned heavily. The compost tomato should have been moved to a pot.
These plants were all too close and had to be moved further away from each other once I began transplanting.
The Spock mind meld.
Rejuvenated and optimistic, I headed back inside and got to work. I went back to the garden pictures that had seemed so unachievable and asked myself what I liked about them. Emotional statements such as "They're fabulous" were off limits while I focused on the different parts that were the most appealing. I loved the fullness of one and the color harmony of another. I broke each photo down into likes and dislikes until I had a cohesive idea of what I wished my garden looked like. Keeping my emotions in check, I went back outside and forced myself to look at worst of my mistakes.
The wine cups (callirhoe) were removed completely since they were suffocating the surrounding plants.
Since I couldn't teleport Spock to my garden, I had to do my human best to channel his unflinching honesty and contextual precision. Once again I outlawed emotional statements such as "My garden sucks and was designed by drunk space weasels." Instead, I focused on making pure observations such as 'Rose campion and the agastache do bloom at the same time and the color combination is jarring. The coneflowers and asters are unhappy because the soil level is too low due to erosion, etc." I mentally broke my garden into a grid and like a field scientist analyzed it chunk by chunk. I stopped trying to convince myself that my cheap soaker hoses would make dry soil moist and began to acknowledge that my trees were only getting bigger, thus creating more shade annually.
I wandered the garden silently for an hour, my brain bursting with ideas. I had a ton of work ahead of me but finally knew how to fix my mess. Buoyed by a successful redesign I'd completed the previous spring, I felt confident and determined. I closed my eyes and wished I could slide onto the couch next to my dad, Star Trek blaring through the cheap speakers. I would snuggle next to his thick shoulder and describe my day. I hadn't been the fourth person in a transporter and Bones was no where to be found, but I'd taken a risk like Capt Kirk and hadn't doubted Spock.
Captain Kirk and Mr Spock
Live Long and Prosper!
I filled one of my driest beds with aster ericoides, variegated sedum, sea oats, and Solomon's Seal, all of which thrive in dry partial shade.
All of the loosestrife was removed and this bed was redesigned. A few phlox seedlings popped up but were moved this fall to a moister spot. More work was done on this bed recently and I think I've finally found the winning combination. Pycnanthemum muticum (Native mountain mint) and rudbeckia grow well here.
The red salvia 'Maraschino' was moved to a pot, the agastche was given growing room, and much of the campion was given to a friend. I still have a clump that I'm not sure what I want to do with.
I dug up the ring of daisies and put a teensy frog pond into the empty space. I filled the surrounding area with heuchera, amsonia 'Blue Ice', 'Rotkugel' oregano, and low growing veronica.
I added fragrant white 'Sunday Gloves' day lilies to a bed with too much pink.
Part of the redesigned dry shade garden.
This spot is super dry so I just added a decorative urn instead of sentencing another plant to death here. The frog pond and daisies are on the other side of the pink 'Red Fox' veronica.
I took out more grass to leave a mulch border between the garden and the lawn. I use the 'eyeball' method which doesn't always result in a very straight line. :o)
This is the bed that had been taken over by loosestrife, looking through the crepe myrtles and into the rest of the garden.