I'm still fumbling through all of the pictures I took last season- we've had some warmer weather (i.e. a few days in the 60's and one day in the 70's), but we still don't have leaves on the trees or forsythia blooms. Its still so early, but I have lots of ideas still stewing which can feel overwhelming. Having a big garden, with so many varieties can be daunting, especially during this time of year when everything is barely breaking dormancy and I can't remember what's where, or what I need to get done. My easiest tool for this problem is my camera.
Pictures serve as reminders or what did well, how far things came along, and what needs to get done the following year. Often, I'm out there somewhat aimless pictures just to serve as tool for mapping our the beds in my sketch books, etc. Like a study of my own garden, if you will. I use the pictures to do everything from mapping out new beds (pictures show the shape of a mature specimen), reconstructing old beds (a picture can show what's getting overwhelmed by other plants, or what needs more space), and remembering what is where (pictures show you exactly what might be trying to reseed in a certain area!).
Here are some examples of how I can use last year's pictures to improve this years garden:
I'm really happy to see how well rose 'ramblin' red' did last year. I pruned the one on the right already this spring, and it had more die back than I wanted, but as much as I expected with the true zone 4 winter we had (low regularly hit actual temps of -25 to -30F). This honeysuckle always reminds me to plant more honeysuckle.
This is another angle shot of the rr rose on the right of the arbor; this bed in general has been the most challenging of the yard for sure. So many years of neglect and invasives to pull out. I've worked so hard on this bed, and last year it finally didn't give me a headache when I looked at it. I can see from this picture though that some of the taller plants could be lifted up and put deeper in the bed.
I was going through my pictures and was surprised to find how much I loved this 'paprika' yarrow with this yellow lysimachia. Not my typical color choices-- the lysimachia was here when we moved in, and I've yet to shovel it out because I like its height and haven't wanted to replace it.
The new shady path I put in last year made me so happy. I was able to play with some tropicals that I normally couldn't plant (for lack of workable shady soil). 'Miss muffet' caladium was an awesome pair with this heuchera (Georgia peach variety I'm pretty sure). Unfortunately the caladium bulbs succumbed to mold in the basement, and I had to toss them out. I ordered in bulk last year, so I had so many of them! I'm hoping to make some more money in the next few weeks so I can order again. This picture shows me exactly where all the annuals were last year, allowing me to put them down again this year early, or even replace them with perennials. Even more, the picture shows where the perennials are currently located, so I can match what I am putting in this year accordingly- long before the plants are growing for the season.
Clematis 'Madame Julia Correvon' has spent the last few years in the middle of our edible garden on an arbor. This spring I am moving that arbor out to make way for alleyway constructed of branches from the wood, suited for growing squash and pumpkins. The arbor is going to the north side of my house, and this clematis is going with it. I *think* I plan on putting golden hops vine on the other side of the arbor so they can make a crazy bright combination together... I picked up several golden hops vines for $3 last year from a wholesale nursery- and found a place for all but one, which I bedded down in a temporary location until I could decide where it would go. At the base of this clematis I will be moving her current arbor mate, 'lemon chiffon' to add some more lime colored glow to the mix. 'Madame Julia Correvon' is a tall girl- and 'lemon chiffon' is quite stout. take the colors from the center of MJC and you have a nice match with LC-- so I think they will make a nice pair. All together this arbor should screen a few ugly things from the road, including a radon detector with ugly old mismatched pvc tubing, and our air conditioner. I don't mind these things being in the garden, of course they are necessary, I would just rather people turning onto our street see a pretty arbor before they see the radon detector.
I am not excited to see how well this rose fared over winter. The rose came with the rental house we live in, and despite my best efforts I am still unsure of the variety. My best guess is 'Minnehaha,' although I'm not sure. It has a crazy rambling habit, which took me a few years to figure out. Last year I made a branch tepee that is about 10 feet tall and the rose seemed quite happy engulfing it. I can't remember if it does most of the growing in one season or if last spring I found it cane hardy to the great heights. Either way, I was pleased with the teepee, and will be leaving it in place for this season. I'm glad I took this picture, because I didn't recall how much I liked it. I also think it could use a clematis--- maybe a white one? Henryii?
I pruned these guys two nights ago. This wall of clematis is 3 trellises wide, and has 6 varieties, including this 'blue light' on the left, and this sort of orchid purple variety called 'kaaru' on the right.
The trellis to the left of the aforementioned one has 'rooguchi' and 'belle of woking' paired with rose 'new dawn.' New dawn is such a beast to prune. Its is one of the few climbers that blooms on new wood, making it great for my climate-- it may die back to the ground some years, but that doesn't mean I won't get flowers. 'Rooguchi' is also a beast to prune- as all of it gets clipped down to about 24" or less... and all this growth you see on the trellis here gets turned into mulch to keep the next season's roots cool. I made the mistake of pairing a hard prune clematis (Rooguchi) with a trim-at-best clematis (belle of woking), but it works out okay for a few reasons. One: I don't panic if some of the BOW gets knocked down, I know she'll still be fine and probably make more flowers later; Two: the dried post winter stems of both clematis vary so greatly, from the thicker, crunchy straight non-clinging stems of the rooguchi, versus the wispy thin twinning stems of BOW, so its easy to see which clem I'm pruning as I go.
As a general rule, I don't like "mixes." When I buy a pack of seeds or bulbs I like to know what I'm getting to some extent; atleast the height and color helps me place the item. Somehow still I was suckered into bringing home a 'kogana' mix variety of dahlias last spring. I really missed my old favorite 'kogana fubuki' and can't say there's a kogana I don't care for. That being said, my labeling should have been better at season end, so I could know this spring which were solid dark reds, like this one, and which were the bright bold spiky varieties.
This picture reminds me to plant more nasturtium, but not the mixed color variety- as the colors of the nasturtium look yucky with this red and white rose 'carefree spirit,' and clematis 'inspiration.' This year I picked up a seed packet of nasturtium that are a solid creamy buttery yellow, and they will work great here instead. So helpful these pictures are- without them I may have just remembered how well the nasturtium performed, and not how I disliked the colors.
I also am reminded how much I loved rose 'carefree celebration.' last year I could not remember the name of it when a neighbor asked, so I was reminded to search when I found this great picture.
Another happy reminder I glean from last years pictures is what combinations really worked, and therefore what NOT to change. Without the picture there's no doubt I would not remember how much I liked my finally mature geranium 'blue sunrise' with lambs ear. I think yellow and silver foliage is a HARD match in the garden, but I love these two together. This color combination repeats itself in my garden with the silvery leaves of blue iris skirted with chartreuse sedum angelina, lamb's ear with agastache 'bees jubilee' and the pale yellow flowers of 'moonbeam' corepsis with lambs ear, blue fescue, and dusty miller as well.
More chartruese and silver with purple here, as golden smokebush towers above lambs ear and salvia. Last night I planted some big 'redbor' kale in front of this smoke bush-- hoping for a very dramatic color combination of the dark purple and bright yellow, and also textural contrast between crunchy ruffled appearance of the kale versus the smooth smoke bush leaves.
I pruned these clematis last night as well. I love how big 'comtesse de bouchaud' is getting, and I really like how she plays well with 'carmencita' here on this arbor.
I have got to figure out the name of this unknown variety this year...
And this polish spirit is going to need a taller trellis this spring. The picture, as well as the appearance of it this spring reminded me.
Thanks for listening to my notes... hope you enjoyed the pictures!