And then…the garden, (and gardener) hits the wall. Nothing seems right. It is hot and rain is scarce, causing distress in plants and people. It is too early for the flashy foliage of fall and the grand finale of late bloomers that includes the spectacular muhly grass among others. The daylilies are done and the Liliums are nearly so.
Observe, study and action, that’s what! Or as we are fond of saying, onward!
Study and take note, what has fared poorly, totally consumed by chomping hordes or shriveled from heat and concrete like clay soil? Toss them! One must be vicious! Why waste time and resources nursing along plants that simply do not belong here, no matter what the Piet books say or how beautiful they look in the gardens of other areas? We live here, in southeast Tennessee, not Buffalo, not Chicago, not the United Kingdom or The Netherlands. Compost those that can’t cut the mustard or give them away. Be brutally honest to yourself about the wisdom or lack thereof of their purchase, whether long ago or recent.
Take action. Last year an experiment was conducted to see what would happen if we followed the gardening style of offspring Semi, doing absolutely nothing. It was difficult to not leap in there and pull weeds, cut down dead sticks or remove fallen leaves. Lessons were learned during that sit back and watch period, the first being that this gardener suffers mental anguish from inaction, as does this garden. Lists were made during the inactivity of things to do. One list was titled, yes, the lists are titled, dated, filed, the accepted accounting procedures followed.
Where were we? Oh right, the list, titled Too Tall-Cut Back-June 1. The list is still a work in progress for more plants need to be added, including the taller sedums. Here are the subjects to be cut: Vernonia, check. Goldenrod, check. Phlox paniculata, check. Asters, check. Japanese anemones, check. Helianthus, ummm, no. Mums, no. Not on the list but some were cut: Rudbeckia lanciniata.
Another action that is being tried for the first time this year, since the experiment continues, this time by doing rather than not doing, soooooo much easier for the hyper-active, is deadheading. In the past, the only plants regularly deadheaded were the roses.
This season, we have manicured the Echinaceas, Becky daisies, New England asters, some butterfly bushes. Verbena bonariensis and Gaura responded well to deadheading with new flushes of buds and blooms. The daylily foliage on the daylily hill was cut to the ground to allow the struggling plants in their midst, ferns and grasses mostly, to see the light of day, have their time in the sun. The felcos are constant companions.
Will the garden suddenly become the vision after a summer of activity? Dubious, at best. Will the goal of perfection ever be achieved? Highly doubtful. But that is okay. Gardening, like life is about the process, the journey, striving to find the shining light. Learning more about horticulture and nature, the best practices and plants, makes for a stimulating and spiritual saunter through time and space. Onward indeed.
1. Lycoris squamigera, Phlox paniculata ‘Nora Leigh’ left, and P. paniculata ‘David’ right.
2. Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’
3. Narcissus bulbocodium var. conspicuus ‘Golden Bells’, Athyrium niponicum var. pictum
4. The Flat Bed May 24, 2010
5. The Flat Bed July 29, 2010
6. Cucumber beetle? on pumpkin leaf (now deceased)
7. Verbena bonariensis, Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’
8. Echinacea purpurea
9. Vernonia gigantea
10. Rosa ‘Old Blush’
11. Echinacea ‘Harvest Moon’, Astilbe x arendsii ‘Bridal Veil’
12. Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Crimson Queen’, Papaver orientale