I miss my garden whenever away from it for an extended period of more than a day or two. My garden misses me, as well. We exist in a mutualism type of symbiotic relationship, one in which both organisms benefit. There are three types of symbiotic relationships: Mutualism-Both organisms benefit; Commensalism-One organism benefits, and the other is not affected in any manner; Parasitism-One organism benefits, and the other is harmed. My garden and I need each other, harm comes when we are apart, to both of us.
In times of drought during the growing season, the garden needs me to help out by supplying extra water. It is mostly only those newly planted and/or moved things that need the additional moisture, since over the years the garden has been adjusted to include the growing of mainly xeric types.
Above: The very xeric Echinops bannaticus ‘Blue Glow’, not quite glowing yet.
Hydrangeas which were grandfathered in when the xeric rule was implemented are the first to show signs of stress when the temperatures climb and there is no rainfall. Sometimes they will succumb outright, sometimes they will drop their leaves and wait until better conditions arise. Other plants will also go into survival mode, drop their foliage and hunker down. Over several years of that sort of thing, they might die.
The Fairegarden clan goes on a weeklong vacation every summer, in addition to shorter excursions of overnight stays. Seven plus days away during the often hottest and driest time is a test of the survival skills of the garden. I am happy to report that some, but not all plantings not only survived but seem to thrive during my absence.
Above: Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ and Japanese blood grass, Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’.
Real joy comes when the first garden perusal occurs upon our return from being away, usually as soon as the car is unloaded. We might miss a daylily blooming or a new lily flowering, but those are small ‘taters compared to outright losses in our absence. Learning through experience can be cruel, but Nature is wiser than human gardeners. There is no point in planting what cannot survive here in Zone 7a Southeast Tennessee without automatic irrigation, which we don’t, and won’t have.
Above: Orienpet Lilium ‘Holland Beauty’, nearly missed
For the first few days away, thoughts about the garden are rare, there are too many other distractions involving travel, family and/or friends. There is no sense worrying about something over which we have no control, like the weather. But as the end of a fun-filled trip draws near, a gardener’s mind turns to home. Did the container plantings, so carefully chosen and well hydrated before leaving, make it? Did the blueberries shrivel up? Did the pole beans grow and begin to flower? Are there any red tomatoes?
Above: Helictotrichon ‘Saphhire Blue’ and ginger mint on the left. Salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious’ and red cabbage on the right.
All of those questions and more are answered soon after our arrival back home. The answers are: Yes, sort of, yes and yes. Well, one little cherry tomato had colored up, plus there was a little baby zuchinni about three inches long. But there was no rain and I don’t live in a neighborhood with watering helpers available, so the garden was thirsty and more than a bit parched upon my return.
But there were some bright spots, too. Those plants that seem to do the best with neglect include ornamental grasses, Euphorbias, Mediterranean herbs and some natives. The planting of the Shed Bed, one of the driest and sunniest locations here is a beacon of hopeful Xeric-ability. Surrounded on one side and at the bottom by a short boxwood hedge, the Eryngiums, Nasella (Stipa) tenuissima, Salvia greggii and just coming into bloom Belamcanda chinensis look happy and healthy. Echinacea tennessensis and Lilium ‘Regale’ line the lower portion. It seems that the Mexican natives that are hardy in our winters do quite well. Note to self…
The garden gives me great joy at all times, whether the weather is pleasant or not. The least I can do is to try and make it joyful as well by using proper plantings for the conditions that continue to evolve. And water them.
Above: Aster laevis ‘Bluebird’