My gardening style is a reflection of who I am. It's natural. It’s imperfect. You will find as much of an appreciation for greens and mosses as for more showy colours and plants. You won't find checkerboard patterns and right angles but rather plants spilling into one another, but don't be fooled into thinking there is no design.
I patiently take a test-and-optimize approach since I am bound to create as many failures as successes.
I will forever be a student in the garden.
Even at the end of last year summer it was not as full as it already is now and next year many plants such as the Peony, Phlox, Ninebarks, Stella D'oro Daylilies, Lamb's Ear and Hardy Geranium should all be back and bigger than ever.
The new mulch this year must certainly be helping and it does not hurt that every day there is a volunteer to water the gardens by hand with a couple of watering cans and a faucet on the building next door.
Did I mention I have a dedicated team of volunteers behind me?
The quotes in the garden are encouraging comments from readers of this blog after last year's posts.
Now that I have started to focus more on the back yard I am somewhat surprised by the extent of the decisions that need to be made. For example, I generally like to try and work with existing flora to reduce costs and respect whatever planning was initially in place. In our backyard this means working with the chives, mint, Lamium, daylilies and Asiatic lilies.
However the aggressive mint was pulled out this spring and the chives followed suit just recently, and now I am officially done with the Asiatic Lilies as well - through no fault of their own, mind you.
The Asiatic Lily Beetle have won two consecutive summer battles and I do not need three strikes to know I am out...if the lilies looked like this because I had been ignoring them that would be one thing, but I have been as vigilant as I am prepared to be and yet still they look horrible at this point in the season.
So while it is with some sadness that I bid my lilies adieu, there is a silver lining: I will be opening up space in the backyard where there is less sun than the Sun Garden but more than the Monet Garden and opportunity abounds.
Last week I explained that I would be renewing my focus on the backyard gardens which up to this point have been lower priority.
My how fast things can change - as you can see, the garden is quickly filling up!
The first step was to remove the enormous quantity of chives which immediately made it look much cleaner.
The biggest source of plants to fill the void have been:
those that the deer eat in my unfenced front gardens
those that I find on sale once they are past their best for this year
those that are unsuited to where I originally planted them
Deer rescues include:
- lovely orange Oriental Lilies that were completely eaten by the deer last year and heavily pruned by them again last week when they were just about to bloom!
- a few Malva and the lone Lupine from the Monet Garden that the deer also snacked on last week
Sale plants include:
- 5 "Popsicle Mix" Lupine. Regular price $11 on sale for $3.50, done blooming for this year. I have to admit it feels quite freeing to purchase a colour mix and it will be exciting to see what comes up next year!
- 3 red and white carnations that would not have fit into my colour-themed gardens, which after a hard pruning should come back for a second bloom this fall. Also on sale for $3.50 from $11.
- 5 Primula with a great spike of purple bloom for the Monet Garden where I have created space by taking out the deer-chomped Malva.
Plants getting a second chance include:
-5 or 6 Rudbeckia that have grown much larger than I imagined when I direct sowed their seeds last spring
- 5 or 6 large-flowering, yellow Primula that have been completely overshadowed
by their enormous Rudbeckia neighbours and need to see the sun again
Next I need to dig up the Dutch Iris that clearly did not get enough sun in the Monet Garden. While they may have been the perfect colour match but that does not matter if they do not bloom, does it?
The other week, sitting in the back yard with my sister who was visiting from Victoria BC, it suddenly became clear to me that I needed to switch my attention to the back yard, after all we are spending a lot of time there once the dwindling daylight forces us to shelve our gardening tools for the evening.
My sister brought fresh eyes with her and because she did not know that the backyard did not have the same priority for me as my other gardens, she suggested moving the gorgeous Calla Lilies from the front into the back where they could have a highly visible place of honour, right beside the seating area.
I never would have thought of it but they look smashing, holding court between the two trellis.
Prior to this moment almost all of my planning has focused on the front and side yards: the Sun, Moon & Monet gardens I have been so busy writing about. In fact readers of this blog might wonder if I even had a backyard!
The plan for the backyard garden is to have no plan.
To move plants here when there is no room for them anymore in their original bed, to put gifts from friends that do not work in my other gardens and to incorporate the daylilies, Asiatic Lilies, and chives that were already so plentiful here.
Given the symmetry of the trellis and windows I have so far been repeating plants in a balanced way, however I am wondering if I should not just go wild and abandon principles of balance in both colour and form and see what appears...a place to put plants that are not working where I had initially hoped they would thrive could come in handy, and undoubtedly I would learn from seeing plant combinations that I would not otherwise have planned.
Let me know what you think, do you have a bed for mismatched plants from tests, gifts or overflow? Do you ever stop and think how well it is working, or does it always look like an "unmade bed" to you?
Given that last year was the first summer here in Winnipeg for me there were quite a few perennials that I started last year but that did not bloom until this year, plus more new plants added this year than I had expected.
So this post focuses exclusively on plants that are blooming for the first time in my gardens.
These orange oriental poppies were planted last year but no blooms made an appearance. I am very glad to see them as I have actively been looking to add more orange in the Sun Garden.
Last year's Foxglove did not survive the winter, these were just added this year. Despite the blooms I will wait until next year to make any judgment of success or failure.
I added ten of this primrose to the Sun garden this spring and while it may be yellow that is about as far as as the similarities between it and the Sundrops I have at the Ontario cottage. There are fewer blooms but they are substantially bigger, while the plants are substantially smaller.
The Sea Holly is just beginning to turn blue. I have two different kinds, both planted lat year but neither accomplished much to speak of in year one, in fact I am happily surprised to see both of them back in year two at all.
This Delphinium was planted in the Monet Garden last year as a test and since it was coming along healthily I added two more this spring, however they are not doing as well so I may no longer pursue these notoriously high maintenance plants anymore.
These Malva were given to me by a friend last year but they struggled and I had all but forgotten about them, but this year are seeming quite healthy.
Petite Allium Graceful in the foreground were added last fall while the pale purple spires of Campanula were direct sown as seeds last year but never got around to blooming until this year.
'To mulch or not to mulch', that is not much of a question for most gardeners, including myself, and many blog postshave been written on the subject already, extolling its virtues to retain moisture and aid in the never-ending struggle with weeds. Despite this I have not put down much in my own gardens to-date.
I have been too busy planning and planting.
I think of mulch as the icing on a cake, insofar as it should be the last thing I do once I am comfortable with the overall make up of my garden. For example in my Sun and Monet Gardens which I created in the fall of 2012 there was simply too much movement of plants last summer as I refined my plans, and digging through mulch every time I made a switch would have made the whole process unbearably slow.
In their second full summer however many areas of the garden are now feeling full, properly planned and ready for mulch.
Yet still I hold off.
I still need to add a layer of bulbs in most places now that all of the perennials are in place, and until I do the idea of digging through an additional layer of mulch this fall is simply too much, so I will hold off - for now.
While most people seem to agree that mulching is worth it, not everyone agrees. The other day my neighbour mentioned that he did not mulch because it did not actually hold back the weeds and while he is correct that it will not eliminate them completely, it certainly makes a difference as evidenced in the photo below.
What was a grand book for her is one that leaves me wanting more.
The biggest fault for me is that Miriam Goldberger has not included any details on zones. She has made room for light, soil, germination and moisture, but not zone. She has even made room for how long cut flowers will last in a vase, which feels like putting the cart before the horse if one does not know what one can grow. I do not want to use this book as a starting point for further research on every appealing plant - I want all the information I need in one place.
Zone is right at the top of my list for deciding if I have the time to read further; I do not have time for fantasizing about growing plants hardy to zone 7 (though I can be easily seduced by a handsome zone 4).
Zone 5 Crocosmia in my zone 3 garden
In addition, the final 30 pages or so faltered for me due to personal taste. Donna tried to warn meby saying "The last two chapters deal with how to harvest, use and design floral
arrangements with wildflowers. She even includes some wedding ideas.",
and yet I was still disappointed to have so much space dedicated to topics that do not rank in my personal 'top 100 things to learn in the garden'.
Instead, my increasing interest in natural gardens, brought on in large part by my Ontario lakefront cottage landscaping, drove me to think that any book on the subject of wildflowers would be a sure-thing.
Even a quick flip through its plentiful pages of beautiful photos is enough to raise the readers appreciation for the natural beauty surrounding our cottage, and really what more could I hope for from a coffee table book?
I suppose I had just been hoping for more of a text book.
Despite working long hours in the garden and not shying away from big tasks, I am in some ways still a lazy gardener. I prefer to do things once, so I tend to stay away from annuals and tender plants that need to be lifted in the fall. This means I have missed out on certain plants but I have been okay with that...so okay in fact that I have wondered if people who do plant tender plants requiring all that extra care aren't a little bit cucko-bananas.
Lucky for me I have a friend who is one of those cuckos and he gave me some Calla Lily which I have added to the Monet Garden based on sun & soil requirements rather than on colour.
The Callas' yellow and orange tinged flowers should contrast beautifully with the purple/blue of the Hyacinths, Pansies, Salvia, Speedwell, Monkshood, Iris and Campanula. No matter how well they might fit in, I still warned my friend before departing with his generous gift that this would likely be their last summer since I am a lazy gardener. I made sure to seek the acknowledgement in his eyes of what was at stake and gave him a moment to take leave of his babies which he did with nary a tear.
Now they sit in the Monet Garden, a full season ahead of them in which to beguile me so much that I add lugging them inside to my already long list of fall chores.