Thursday, July 12, 2007

What's Working and What Isn't

Mid July is a good time to take stock of what is working in the garden and what isn't. Primarily because it is too hot to pull weeds and too dry to plant anything. Plus, it occurred to me that the photos I post on Leave Me Alone, I'm Digging are carefully selected to show my garden in the best possible light. In other words, there's a LOT that you don't see here.

Serendipitously, I came across this post from In The Garden Online where Colleen challenged garden bloggers to post "The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly" from our gardens.

"How daunting it must be," she writes, "for someone just starting out as a gardener to see those perfect images in Fine Gardening, those immaculate instant landscapes on HGTV, and, dare I say it, even some of the photos we present on our garden blogs, showing our blooms at the peak of their beauty, the veggie garden only after it's been thoroughly weeded, the perennial garden only after all of the toys the children have strewn there have been picked up..."

So, it is in that spirit that I offer you the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from my own garden:

About the only part of my garden that looks good right now is the Butterfly Garden. It is one of those totally thrown-together looks that actually works: Lantana, Butterfly Bushes, Coneflowers, Shasta Daisies, and Daylilies.


This section of my front bed (top) looked nice in the spring (right) when it was filled with bright yellow daffodils, pink creeping phlox, and pansies. For the past couple of summers, we've planted impatiens here to provide color throughout the hot months, but we decided that rather than spend ridiculous sums of money for annuals that would last a few months, we would spend ridiculous sums of money on new paint and carpets. I had vague intentions of planting some perennials there (maybe some balloon flowers to contrast with that lone clump of coreopsis) but somehow haven't gotten around to it yet. It actually looks worse than in the photo.

THE UGLYThis is a section of my back border that I recently expanded to make room for daylilies from my grandparents' house. I haven't been able to buy mulch for this area (see above re: paint and carpet) so the weeds and grass have marched right in and are waging guerilla warfare against the daylilies. Our new yard swing looks like it was just plopped down half way in the flowerbed and halfway out. The reason for this is that we plopped it down halfway in the flowerbed and halfway out. One day this fall I'm going to mulch and plant around the base of the swing so it doesn't look stupid. (I'm looking at my to-do list and fall is shaping up to be a mighty busy time!)

Finally, the hole in my fence, and what will be a hole the next time we have high winds.

This is the first year that I've really paid attention to when things bloom. The first couple of years here I was more focused on simply getting beds and borders laid out and plants in the ground (and not necessarily in that order). I'm finding that I need to keep an eye out for things that bloom later in the summer, toward July and August, and can go for millenia without water, since every summer we seem to fall into a drought and find ourselves praying for a small hurricane.

"Perfection, " Colleen says, "is a total waste of time, not to mention an unattainable, energy-draining goal that leads to frustration." My garden is never going to be perfect. Once I get all the sequence of blooms, bed layouts, contrasting textures and such the way I want them, I will find that something else needs work. A tree will have died, another one will have grown somewhere else, and I'll have to rethink my plantings to take into account the changed patterns of sun and shade. Or maybe I will have grown peculiar like some people I know and decided that I cannot abide anything red in my garden. The best any of us can strive for is as Henry Mitchell says in my sidebar, "gardens that we are pleased with, more or less." In the end, it's not really about perfection, it's not even about achieving a particular "look." It's about a place, right out the back door where we can find some sanity and beauty in a world that has gone terribly wrong.

A rabbi asked his young son why he always went to a secluded corner in the garden to pray. "Don't you realize that God is the same everywhere?" he asked.

"Yes," the boy replied. "But I'm not."


Colleen said...

This was a great post, David! Your butterfly garden is beautiful. I see I'm not the only one who makes/expands beds and then, for whatever reason, doesn't get around to mulching them. I have a couple beds that look lot like your third picture :-) Oh, purslane and chickweed just love me....

I am so glad you participated! For whatever reason, I hadn't discovered your blog yet...I love the name, btw!

Kylee said...

David, I'm glad I discovered your blog! This was great. I'll be returning. I loved the anecdote at the end.

David in Greensboro NC said...

Thanks, Colleen. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just creating a habitat for weeds when I expand a bed. It was nice and cool today, so I went out and weeded that mess...and found 2 more "uglies" to add to the post.

Kylee, thanks for visiting. That story struck a chord with me the first time I read it. I'm definitely a better person in my garden.

Hellebore Queen said...

There is nothing peculiar in not wanting reds in my garden. They scream at my hellebores.
Love you,

David in Greensboro NC said...

And how long have we been hearing these screams???

Wrenna said...

I loved that post. While gardens can be spectacular at times, it's just inevitable (for me at least) that at others they looked ragged. Honesty is so refreshing!

Gina said...

David - I ran across your blog via Old House, New Garden and I'm going to try the freeplants website. Seems like a charitable way to get cheap plants!

David in Greensboro NC said...

Thanks, Wrenna. Mine is more ragged than spectacular most of the time!

Hi Gina, Thanks for visiting. I'm enjoying Wrenna's house vicariously too (I don't have to paint or fix anything.) Most of my free plants have done fine so far, except for a couple of wiegela, which seemed to be dried out when they got here. They say they'll replace anything that's not satisfactory, but I haven't emailed them yet. Good Luck!

lisa said...

Excellent, thought-provoking post! I sure feel better about my lifelong "work in progress" garden!

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Great post, David--I'm looking forward to keeping up with the rest of your work in the yard! (I found you via Colleen's wrapup post.)

The anecdote at the end was lovely, but I enjoy your writing in general. I grinned when you admitted just why the swing looks like it was just plopped down half in and half out of the yard. :)

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Oh, and in your "bad" bed, I must say that I loved the ribbon of variegated liriope running through it. Beautiful stuff there.

David in Greensboro NC said...

Thanks Lisa and Blackswamp Girl (love that name, btw!)

All the work we need to do keeps us off the streets, I suppose. Thanks for visiting my blog!