Up until the last couple of years, when gazing lovingly upon the garden but with a critical eye about what might be needed to make it look better, the answer has usually been to buy more plants, new kinds of plants.
Limited by what was available for purchase at the time, or biting the knuckle and ordering online such as the Verbascum chaixii ‘Album’ ordered from Annie’s Annuals, it was always the hunt for plants that were not already growing here. Seen in a magazine article, blog post or in real life garden visiting, it was the wanting of what we did not have that seemed to be the cure for the dull garden blues.
Following that course for over thirteen years at this location along with bringing in favorites from previous abodes in several states and climactic conditions, there is now a nearly encyclopedic array of botanical delights growing in the Fairegarden. Many have died, oh so very many, but some have proven themselves to be flexible when it comes to wet or dry, sun or shade, even acidic or alkaline. Or being moved over and over and over again.
I am a true believer in the Piet Oudolf/Noel Kingsbury school of garden thought. Naturalistic plantings with a matrix of grasses, swaths of perennials that might stretch past the boundaries of the original plan and dottings of taller, more colorful volunteers is the longed for look. Pre-Piet, the method was more of a plop a plant where there was room for it. We are still working on not plopping. It is a journey, not a destination.
Things to consider when shopping for plants in your own garden are height, color, season of bloom, foliage interest, and dying well if they are not evergreen. Repeating clusters of the same plants in an area is pleasing to the eye and makes good design sense.
Achieving the garden design goal without creating budgetary night terrors calls for using those plants that have already proven themselves on our steep slope. Divisions and seed saving are the way. Cuttings have not been as successful but do work for some, such as Sedums. A story was written in 2009, click here to read it, about how there came to be so many plants growing here. Hint, they were not all purchased, as some folks mistakenly thought.
As rains return in the fall the soil becomes moist again and digging is easier. August is the time to make those divisions if weather permits in our USDA Zone 7a garden, allowing the roots to be settled in before winter arrives. My To Do list includes the spreading of various Stachys ssp. along the wall behind the main house to spots where the fancy Euphorbias have died out. Stachys seems to like it there.
Rudbeckia seedlings will be lifted from the gravel paths and placed where a burst of yellow in late summer would be welcome. Low grasses such as Festuca Glauca or Japanese blood grass, Imperata cylindrica rubra make great fillers and can be safely moved and divided if well watered now.
There is one spot that has been properly planted in the mass grass method, the stand of pink muhly, Muhlenbergia capillaris along the driveway, seen above in a shot featured in this post from October, 2010. If only we could get a similar vibe going in the rest of the garden using the divide and conquer scheme applied to the muhly border.
Does this mean there will be no more plant buying? Well, the answer would have to be no, because I am not just a gardener but also a plant collector. Trying new things is good for us, after all and I like to support local and some online businesses. But the solution to making the garden more appealing is far less expensive. Use what is on hand that has proven itself to be worthy.