Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A few lessons and plans for the spring that may never come...

I don't know about you, but during the gardening season I rarely find time to process what is working, and what isn't- as far as the whole picture. Sure, I see if something needs more water, I water. I keep a regimented fertlizing habit. I look, and get distracted by a weed that needs to be pulled, a flower that needs to be deadheaded, or hummingbird buzzing around my head. I do make a point to get out my camera and take pictures, and come this time the following year I take the time to really process those pictures. I look at the overall scene- decide what I need to change. Being this far north I try to hit the ground running with any transplanting or planting I need to do, so each plant has plenty of time to get strong roots before winter onsets again- which could come as early as October up here. That time frame to move things seems to close up quicker and quicker each year, and spring looks like it going to be super late this year, so I've got to be ready.This morning I am taking the time to drink a second cup of coffee and write down a few concrete things I want to make sure to do this year.

1.The first is grow more unique rudbeckia. My neighbor gave me several seedlings she started under grow lights this time last year, and they were showstoppers. My favorite part? They bloomed when not much else was blooming- later than lilies, but earlier than mums or asters. I collected seed from them, as I know whether or not they come back is questionable- sometimes they choose to be annuals, or bienniels, or reseeders... or who knows. lol. But I already started some seeds in the basement- a moroccan mix, and some I collected from these babies. I think this one is cappucino.
2. Only time will tell if my new method of overwintering dahlias worked. For years I have stored them in my basement, and had great success, but last year I simply didn't have the room, or the time or energy to get all of them down there. Based on what my neighbor does, I tried to store them in a crawl space under part of our house instead. My darling husband and kids hauled each and every container into the space- my oldest even crawled in there and arranged them so they would all fit.  I don't know how cold it got in there over winter, but I will see soon whether or not they made it. In the meantime, when I saw my favorite dahlia on sale at a local big box store, I made sure to grab the bag of 3 tubers. Even if all the dahlias in the crawl space are lost to cold, this one is going to be a part of the garden.  Here is Akita, last year:

3. Along the same lines, I will be going back to planting my dahlias in the ground. I have always done it that way, but last year I decided to try them all in containers and I was exhausted watering them almost every day. We had a really hot dry summer, so watering was ridiculous all season. Plus, when we added a shade cover over the hot sunny back porch the dahlias all got moved to this space in front of the garage door- which looked sloppy and cluttered. Not this year! No sir.  This year they will be in the beds, in the ground, and this space in front of the garage will be as pretty as it can be. I will say, renting has its disadvantages and an ugly house exterior is one of them!
4. I also made sure, already, to get a jump start on caladiums.  See the tiny pink caladium leaf under the upright fucshia... surrounded by the massive coleus. This was a mistake. A missed opportunity. I waited for the caladiums to go on sale, well into late june, before planting them. I hoped they would grow fast because they like/need to warmth to grow anyway, but this idea backfired. They grew at the same rate, and several of the bulbs were duds, likely from sitting in the box/bag on the shelf at the store for so long. I love caladiums. They provide a beautiful leaf shape when paired with these coleus and fuschias- and much needed constant color for shade containers. This year, I already started about 35 of them in the basement. Caladiums will be everywhere- I hope.

5. I will acquire more white clematis. I've always avoided them, thinking why on earth would someone plant a white clematis when they could have a wine red or blue one?  This lemon chiffon (first picture below) snuck in under my radar, and I loved it last year. Coupled with a beautiful Miss Bateman (two pictures below Lemon Chiffon) that I inherited when I moved into this house and I have a new found love for white clems. I have 3 on my wishlist this year.
6. I will finally rip out what's left of the messiest bed here! This yard suffered from about 7-10 years of neglect when I moved in.  The lasy who owned before my landlord was a gardener, and some of her gardens were unearthed in to the process, but mostly every single bed had to be taken apart and re-done. It was a long, painful, gruelling process, I would never want to repeat.  Somewhere around 300 bags of weeds were hauled to compost when all was said and done, and it still doesn't look great everywhere! This bed here has been my last totally untouched place for me. Over half of it is ditch lilies. I will be pulling them out this spring, and putting in oriental, trumper, and asiatic lilies, as well as other perennials and annuals. I have a few sketches done, but those are subject to change when I get my hands in the dirt. See all the ditch lilies? Yuck.
I want to preserve some of the native plants she had growing in here, including the dame's rocket, which is a valuable source of nectar for the bees and butterflies in the early seasons. This picture is before I rehabbed a section of this area with lamb's ear, foxgloves, echinacea, and agastache. Can't wait to get to work on the rest!
Happy to-do-listing to you all!