Saturday, March 24, 2012

Do or Do Not - You Can Always Try

I have discovered over the years that many gardening rules can be broken... or at least you try. It might cost you a plant or a few plants but one of the appealing parts of gardening is that it's a living palette and you, as the artist, can move the plants around as much as you like.

I often read that you are only supposed to transplant plants at certain times. Well, I've moved irises around in the spring, summer and fall. And when I bought my first [and so far only] home five years ago, I dug up every bulb I could in my rental cottage to take with me. And boy am I glad I did. The four feet tall magenta asiatic lilies bloomed that summer and I have never found these again in the big box stores. I also haunt the clearance racks of Lowe's regular and have gotten such great deals that I didn't care what month it was when I had to plant it. For example, I got a lovely white rose standard for 75% off at the end of last october and planted it immediately afterwards... and it's doing just fine as the central focal point in the center bed. Can't wait to see it bloom for the first time this spring!

Pictured below: Transplanted lilies and larkspur. All doing just fine in their new homes. Got dirt? Will fill!
If you don't succeed, try, try again.... this circular bed dug two years ago was supposed to be a herb circle. Well, I learned that first year that I can kill more herbs than I can grow. So year two daylilies, gaillardia, and shasta daisies were inserted into the bed along with the parsley, dill and cilantro - the herbs I did succeed in growing. Now it's just the circle bed and this year the dill and parsley are already coming back in full force. The cilantro I've had to reseed. And a beautiful rose bush that I scored for $2.50 from Lowe's along with that rose standard mentioned above made it through winter just fine. Course, we really had a mild winter so I probably just got lucky with this one. 
That plant I saw and wanted... then couldn't find. My co-worker bought a new house right before me and I discovered what looked like striped miniature hollyhocks in her backyard. Before I could make it back over to dig it up - since they were cleaning out this overgrown bed - her hubby had run over it with the mower. No more plant, wah! Two years later I found it at a local nursery and eagerly bought it and planted it along the back fence. This was a pricy plant for me, though I'm sure most folks would find the price reasonable. Anyway, it died by winter, 5 months later. Then I discovered that the nursery on the Texas Tech campus had this plant - the Zebrina mallow - growing in their strolling beds and collected a few seeds. Got nada. In case you're wondering why I didn't order the plant from a nursery the reason is simple - I kill over 50% of all plants I've ever ordered. The odds are just not in my favor. So I try to buy my plants from local nurseries and big box stores, which I know get a bad rap but for a gardener with a small wallet they really are great options for plant buying.

Finally find the mallow seeds at Sutherlands's two falls ago. Plants came up last spring but died down almost to the ground due to the drought. But this year might be my lucky year. Several healthy little plants are growing and I am excited to finally get some purple striped blossoms this summer. Some plants are worth the wait. [I am wondering when they'll finally get taller though. The seed packet said they'd get 3-4 feet tall. So far not even breaking 1 foot.]
Ever wonder why when you scatter seeds that nothing ever comes up or your plants don't reseed like they're supposed to? Maybe it's because you're using mulch. For three years I regularly mulched my beds to keep them clean looking and to keep down the weeds. Last year I didn't get around to it fast enough and bingo! suddenly I have tons of baby plants coming up in the fall and early spring. Pictured below are about 1/3 of the tall coreopsis plants that have reseeded themselves from last fall.

No more heavy mulching of the beds for me! I want my freebies for next year's garden. And I've discovered some plants reseed themselved several feet from their mother plants. For instance, today I dug up 5 purple salvias, 1 maroon scabiosa, and 1 gaillardia babies from the grass walkways and transplanted them into the various flower beds. The salvias particularly are really good about putting out offshoots or babies. More free plants, wahoo!
And sometimes the plant just win. I have tried to dig up this large hollyhock for two summers. The tap root is so deep I can't get it out. So I've decided to just let it flower this year and then try killing it again... and dig out all the reseeded plugs that will obviously result. Meanwhile I guess I'll need to transplant the two pincushion plants being overshadowed by this monster. Seriously, this thing is 3 feet x 3 feet, the widest hollyhock I've grown so far. This is growing around the small patio and this variety of hollyhock has reseeded itself around three sides of the patrio. The seeds get between the concrete and the grass and the tap roots are impossible to pull out. So I'll just go with the flow and enjoy the flowers in the summer... while I quietly plot it's death in the fall.
A few other quips of gardening wisdom. Bermuda grass is evil and always will be. It is next to impossible to remove when I'm creating a new flower bed and then sneaks back in before the season is out. Like coachroaches, you cannot truly kill Bermuda unless you pave over it. So I just have to continue to curse it regularly as I putter around in the beds.

True gardeners are plant collectors. We can't help it. We have to have as much as we can cram in the ground. Got a bare spot to fill? I'll cram a daylily, rose or salvia in it as soon as possible. Course, it will probably involve shoving the garden cat, Penny the Pill, out of the way as I'm doing it because as far as she's concerned a bare spot is grounds for rolling in the dirt... before she waddles over to roll on top of my plants. A fluffy bed of larkspur? Penny finds it to be a very comfortable place for a nap. Funnily enough, she can't stand the catnip which is running amuck in three of my beds. I only planted it in one!

And if you see a plant with the words "The plant you can't kill" written on it just spit on it and keep walking. It's only teasing you. For example, I've killed marigolds more times than I care to admit. I simply cannot grow this plant. And yes, the stupid plants did have that written across the pot. The only reason I want to grow it is that it reminds me of my late granny. She had a green thumb like nobody's business. I've inherited my semi-green thumb from her. So each spring I buy a marigold and hope that this is the year I can get granny's signature plant to grow... but deep down I know I'm going to kill it within 7 weeks. I guess I'm an ever hopefuly optimistic pessimist?

 And last, but not least, you should always wear either sunscreen or a hat while working in the spring/summer garden. A rule I'm constantly guilty of not doing. Yesterday it reached 82 degrees with a soft breeze. It didn't feel hot enough to get a sunburn but my lobster reflection in the mirror says otherwise. I so need some shade in the backyard! Even Penny wanted inside to take her afternoon nap.

1 comment:

  1. Lots of good tidbits here. I find with mail order it really depends upon the location. I've ordered from a nursery up north with very little success, even though most gardeners rave over this nursery. Other nurseries in the south I've had better luck with. I think our hot weather and harsh sun is just too much of a shock for those northern-grown plants. Bermuda grass IS evil. Hate it, hate it, hate it. And I have a sunburn, too!



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