I just finished a charming book: “Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life” by Marta McDowell. The second half gave me food for thought. It went into detail about her garden, the quintessential cottage garden that England is known for and many of us strive to achieve.
With the moon near full, I found myself sleepless at 3 a.m. and took to my gardening book shelf. You would think that as our growing season winds down, this would not be the time to plan for next season. Au contraire.
Although my garden has been referred to as a cottage garden, it isn’t. It IS a Homer garden. And I am proud of that. A cottage garden actually makes me a tad edgy. They are so stuffed. So helter-skelter. So riotous. So wanton.
I need a modicum of peace, and I am starting to lose it.
There are too many plants that are falling over that I thought wouldn’t need support. They have been beaten by wind and rain. By Jade the Dog. I spent the last two days pulling them out. Cutting down spent lily stems that were so brown and ugly that they were the only thing I could see when I looked at the garden.
Mayhem, no peace in sight.
The Royal Blue veronica that I started from seed has formed such huge clumps that it has buried everything around it. I cut it back after it had finished blooming this summer and I thought it would regrow into a tidy clump. Wrong. It achieved its former size minus the blooms. I need to dig it out, leaving maybe three to five clumps here and there. Not everywhere.
Many gardeners will be gifted with Royal Blue veronica next spring.
The thalictrum (meadow rue) that I actually like, is too much. There is a lush stand of it in the lower bed along with hesperus matronalis and I am calling that enough. I pulled out a ton of it in the center bed that includes peonies, campanula glomerata “Superba” that many gardeners detest, not me. I love the color, the shape, the hardiness, the size. There is a host of columbine that I started from seed and am loathe to tamper with, they will stay, swaying in next seasons breeze.
There are too many California poppies. I never thought there could be such a thing. Too many poppies, who knew? Not me. There are two colors out there: Bridal Bouquet and Rosa Romantica. I love them, but there is a limit. They flop, and the blooms and buds look horrid after a rain. In the west garden they are still looking vibrant. The dwarf Korean lilacs are holding them up, how handy and they are out of the day breeze, which, at this location, is relentless.
Digitalis “Foxy” foxglove is having a good year. The first three years living at this location saw so many foxgloves in the garden that it was referred to as a fairy garden. I loved them. And then they disappeared. I started more year after year with little to no success. Gave up. This year I gave them another try. Wouldn’t you know there were volunteers from who knows where all over the place. I put mine in anyway and now I almost have the look I love about foxgloves. “Foxy” blooms the first year but rather late, if they make it through the winter they will bloom sooner come spring.
I am hoping and mulching. Hope only goes so far.
Stoking my sleeplessness I turned to Lois Hole’s book “Favorite Trees and Shrubs.” I have studied this book but find myself in denial when it comes to her advice on pruning a mock orange. She lives in Canada and for some reason I just believe Lois Hole. She says old canes (they really are obvious) should be pruned to the ground after bloom because mock orange blooms on old wood, meaning this year’s wood will bloom next season.
I have followed her advice on the red twig dogwoods with resounding success. What is my problem with the mock orange. Here it is, ready? If they don’t bloom I will be devastated. I LOVE my three mock orange. They are spectacular. My pruning shears were in my hand, at the ready, and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Plus I couldn’t see what I would be cutting, they are still too leafy.
Decisions. I will stall on this and, perhaps, act on it come spring.
The hydrangea that I have been holding my breath all season for is in full bloom. And it is almost laying on the ground. The blooms are so profuse (and heavy) the stems don’t have the strength to hold them up. Drat. The wood hasn’t time to develop. This is a marginal shrub. Do NOT put it on your must-have list. If I could just figure out how to successfully hold it up. This may be something John needs to study.
Which brings me to: the greenhouse.
John built a tool shed for me about four years ago. I had specific needs especially as to height. It couldn’t be more than 5’2” tall (I am 5 feet tall and figured I would be the only one around here hanging up a tool) or else it would block the afternoon sun to the first two bins on the west side of the greenhouse.
Well, it is about a million feet tall thereby exceeding my expectations, and certainly does block the first two bins of afternoon light, limiting what I can grow in them. We were standing around in there, companionably eating tomatoes, and discussing what I should plant in these two deprived bins (beans and basil have done well) when John noted that the back of the greenhouse, where my workbench is, was drenched in sunlight. My workbench will be switched with the two deprived bins.
Methinks it took a Y chromosome to figure that one out. I’m rooting for him to figure out the hydrangea support system.
Gardening, for me anyway, is an ongoing learning curve, like the violin that I have been learning to play my whole life. There is a challenge here that many of us find alluring and somewhat daunting, but we continue to try. The rewards are deeply satisfying.
Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener. She has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.