Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Weekend That Wasn't (And other gardening disappointments)

Photo courtesy of

I apologize to everyone for not visiting the past few days, but I was supposed to be gone for a long weekend with my husband. The key word here is supposed, because as it turned out, I was gone for less than 24 hours. My husband, who really, really needs a vacation but is not easily persuaded to leave home, and I had made an impulsive decision to take off for the weekend. I've always wanted to visit Galena, Illinois, which is described as a quaint town overlooking the Mississippi River with historic buildings and interesting shops. It's about a four-hour drive from our house, which meant we would have almost three days to spend just relaxing and enjoying the sights. Other than seeing Galena, we had no set itinerary, so if something else struck our interest, we could change our plans and see where the road took us. We left Thursday morning, in no hurry to get anywhere, taking a spontaneous turn off the highway onto more scenic back roads to visit a site along the way and to have a relaxing lunch in a German-themed cafe. But about an hour from Galena, my husband received a call that he had to return to work the next morning to take care of an important work-related situation.

"What do you mean we have to turn around and go home???" I couldn't believe it, but there was nothing else he could do. To describe my disappointment is beyond my scope of writing talent here. It wasn't my husband's fault, but let's just say he suffered my silent rage. We had just come to the Great River Road, a highway that winds along the eastern edge of the Mississippi River, but instead of enjoying the sights, my mind raced between thoughts of alternatives--including dropping my husband off at the nearest bus station to find his own way home--and the frustrating realization that the weekend I had anticipated was not going to materialize.

By the time we got home that evening, I had sunk into a morass of self-pity that lasted for at least 36 hours. Friday morning I awoke still feeling blue, but left my suitcase packed in the hopes that Husband would come home from work saying, "let's take off today anyway." But, of course, he didn't, and a couple other distressing issues came up Friday that compounded my mood. I felt so bad that I didn't even want to read blogs, which shows you how down in the dumps I was! I slept a lot, watched a couple of movies on TV, and refused to cook. Husband tiptoed around me all day, needless to say.

Life is full of disappointments, of course, and I know none of you want to listen to me wallow in self-pity, so I thought I would turn my disappointment into a topic you can all relate to--gardening disappointments. . .How's that for a segue?!

This past spring when Beckie and I attended some gardening workshops at a local garden center, I saw these scalloped wire baskets on sale and thought I would try something new this year instead of the pre-planted hanging baskets I usually buy. To plant these, you must buy some kind of liner; in this case, the center had moss liners that were pre-formed to fit this basket. Unfortunately, I only picked up one, and when I went back all I could find were the thicker cocoa mats sold in most stores.

I filled each planter with potting soil and added some slow-release fertilizer. I planted a few "Priscilla" Supertunias, Euphorbia "Diamond Frost," and Sutera "Cabana Trailing Blue" in each one. However, planting these was not as easy as it looked. According to the instructions, you can cut a hole in the sides of the mat and "side plant" for a fuller look. The Sutera, a small flowering vine, was perfect for this, I thought, but it's not easy to cut a hole in the side and stick in the plant far enough to take root without losing a bunch of soil. And the thicker cocoa mats were so thick I had to use a boxcutter, and even then had trouble getting through all the thicknesses. After cutting that mat to fit the basket, I decided to forget about side planting and plant everything in the center of that basket.

I wish I could show you a beautiful end result, but I can't. At the moment these two baskets are looking pretty "fried," so the only picture I have is one I took about a month ago. The Priscilla petunias took off pretty well, but I think I almost killed them with too much fertilizer a month ago. At the moment, the euphorbia and the sutera are really growing, but the petunias look as though they're dying. Frankly, they've never looked the way I expected. To top it off, the planters were so heavy that anytime it rained, they bent the shepherds' hooks they were on all the way to the ground. Considering the work and the money spent on plants for these baskets, I think next year I'll go back to buying my usual pre-planted ivy geraniums and just plop them into these baskets!

At the same time I bought these baskets, I also bought this "living wreath" frame. The wire frame comes complete with a moss liner. To plant it, you pop off the wire top and take off the moss topper.

Fill the inside with potting soil and add some slow-release fertilizer. Once the soil is firmly in place, you replace the moss topper and the wire top, and you're ready to plant. You must poke holes in the moss--I used a scissors--which is much easier to work with than the thick cocoa mats. You can side plant--again for a fuller effect--but I found that a little difficult, so I stuck with placing plants at different intervals around the top to fill the wreath as much as possible.

I purchased a flat of hot pink, almost violet impatiens for the wreath, and it took all 36 plants to fill the wreath. You could use any small plant you wish, but this was the sample I saw at the garden center, and I liked the finished result. The instructions that came with the wreath form weren't very clear, so I checked out some websites for more specific instructions and found many other ideas for plantings. One of the most popular was to use small sedums instead. Of course, this would be much more expensive, but perhaps you could keep the wreath for years--don't take my advice on that; I'm just guessing.

Again, the end result was not exactly what I had hoped for. I took this picture just a few weeks after planting the wreath, so it has filled out somewhat since then. But I imagined this wreath full of masses of pink blooms, and that has never happened. I've watered it frequently--a trick in itself--but the impatiens have never bloomed in the way that they usually do for me. It's hanging on my front porch, and from a distance it looks like a wreath of moss, which is not all bad, I guess. I'm not quite as disappointed in it as my baskets and will probably try it again next year. Any suggestions for increasing the blooms, though, would be appreciated!

One more, definitely minor disappointment . . .the hosta buds I showed for Bloom Day a week ago opened into these beautiful flowers on Thursday morning. I saw them but was in too much of a hurry packing for my "long weekend" to take a photo. When I thought of them again this morning and took out my camera, the blooms were already fading. Oh my goodness, one really has to "seize the day" with these blooms! The good thing, though, is that another hosta of the same variety has yet to open its buds, so I will be ready with camera in hand for that one!

To leave you with a more uplifting note, I think I have found one sure cure for a minor case of the blues. Last night I made up my mind to finally go see the movie "Mamma Mia." I was all set to go by myself because no one else was available and I thought I'd punished my husband enough. But at the last minute my oldest granddaughter, who turns 13 on Tuesday, said she'd like to go with me. She likes musicals almost as much as I do and in the last year has become my "theater date." Although the critics--mostly male, I think--didn't like the movie, I thought it was the most enjoyable movie I've seen in a long time. An upbeat plot, great music, and some comic scenes make you forget any troubles you might have and will have you leaving the theater with a smile on your face, humming the title song. Colin Firth didn't have as big a part as I had hoped, but he was still pretty funny and endearing. Pierce Brosnan can't sing, but who cares! I give him three stars for trying anyway. If you're one of the last women in the country, like me, who hasn't seen the movie, by all means take the time and see it before it leaves the theater.

And now I'm off on another trip, one that won't disappoint me--visiting all the people in Blog Land that I've missed lately. Oh, and I need to unpack that suitcase.


  1. How disappointing for you and I do hope you are feeling much, much better now. I truly do! I think your containers are lovely too and do hope for a better week and a weekend away soon.

  2. Hi Rose....Life is full of ups and downs, is it not?......what a disappointment for you, the anticipation and excitement of going away and seeing new places........but looking at it from the other side, hubby had to go to work.....I know this one so well....Mr P. rarely gets time off, his life is so hectic, I worry for him......his long weekend in Valencia is a treat, he is having a wonderful time.....

    Your turn will come dear Rose and it will be all the better for see....

    as for your garden, oh the joys of the hanging baskets are rarely successful....I have tried every option imaginable and still, they are just ok.....

    Gardening is full of problems, and it can get you down......but I must say the wreath looks pretty...I know it did not live up to your expectations but this was the first year, perhaps next year??

    I hope the week gets better for you and something lifts your spirit high.....

  3. Rose, first the gardening disappointments-think of them as learning experiences. You could use the analogy of writing. Good writing takes a lot of reworking and practice. Kind of like gardening. :) I know how disappointed you were about the weekend, and I wish I could make it better for you. It won't be the same, but we will have a good girl's day out this week.

  4. Rose ~ I'm so sorry your planned weekend didn't turn out for you. I'm glad you have turned the corner and are feeling better now. Very interesting baskets and esp. the wreath. I wonder why the wreath didn't bloom as much. I thought it was still pretty but I know you wanted it to bloom.

  5. Tina, Thanks for the encouragement. We'll get a weekend away one of these days.

    Cheryl, Yes, life is full of disappointments. I usually travel with one of my daughters or even by myself (to Arizona), but I was looking forward to time with my husband, who really needs some "down" time.
    You're right, I learn something from most gardening mistakes, at least, so I hope I'll do better next year with these planters.
    I'm glad Mr. P. is enjoying his trip.

    Beckie, Thanks for the great pep talk! Heaven knows, a "lost weekend" is not the end of the world. Looking forward to our day out.

    Cindy, I'm definitely going to try the wreath again next year. In the meantime I'll do some research or asking the experts at the gardening center for some tips.

  6. Oh, too bad you missed out on Galena! I hope you do go there some time; it's a very nice place to visit.
    The wreath really doesn't look too bad, in my opinion. I'll have to try that!

  7. rose, Terribly disappointing to want to spend time with your husband, away from home and exploring a new town and not have it happen! I know I would have been very disappointed and probably equally mad! I am thinking you need some Japanese Beetles to smash! Then if you will, my favorite remedy when I get in a funk...forgive myself and go to the next whatever! But I think you already have!

    Mama Mia sounds the perfect blues lifter and there isn't much Pierce could do to disappoint! Too bad about Colin Firth, he is a pleasant diversion in a movie!

    You know that wreath would look good planted with sedums!


  8. Rose, I am so sorry about your foiled weekend get-away. I smiled at your described funk, because I would have done the very same thing! I do hope that the two of you will get to actually go another time soon.

    As for your wreath, I thought it looked very nice. I have seen them displayed on a round patio table circling the umbrella insert, which looked nice and easier to water. Sedums would look very nice. I have had the same "luck" with the wire baskets. I think lining it with a bag of sphagnum moss lends itself to side plantings, but mine always fried even with daily waterings and kept out of direct sun.

  9. I'm so sorry your weekend didn't work out Rose. I can sympathise. You must have been very disappointed and it's strange how these things can make you so low. I wish you lived closer and you could have come around for cake and tea and we could have had a good old moan together!!!

    Thanks for your comments on my last post. One day I'd like to write properly and I often feel more creative when I'm down ! How's your book going by the way?!

    Hugs to you Rose

    Sub x

  10. Darn the luck Rose. I hate to hear that your weekend fell through. A good shop might perk you up. ;)

    I don't ever have luck with hanging baskets either. It doesn't matter if I plant them or I purchase the already potted fullly grown ones. Sigh~

    I am glad to hear that Mamma Mia was good. I have been wanting to see it but my DB doesn't. Maybe I will just go.

  11. Joyce, One of these weekends I will make it to Galena; it has always sounded like an interesting place to visit. The wreath wasn't that hard to plant, surprisingly.

    Gail, Darn, I didn't think of beetle smashing! Mamma Mia was definitely the way to lift my spirits, and tomorrow is a day out with Beckie, so everything is looking much better right now.

    Morning Glories, Thanks for the understanding comments. The wreath would look pretty good with sedums...The baskets, I thought, weren't supposed to require as much watering, but they seemed to dry out more quickly than I thought.

    Suburbia, I thought of your rainy vacation when I got home last weekend...sometimes when you expect too much, you just get disappointed. If you lived closer, I would have invited you over on Friday for a real pity party with lots of cake and chocolate:)

    Lisa, Usually the hanging geraniums I buy last pretty well during the summer--I'm going back to them next year! Definitely go see Mamma Mia, even if you have to go alone.

  12. Forgot to say, my mum cheered herself up watching Mama Mia last week. I'm hoping to take Tall Girl soon :)
    Hope things are feelin ga little better.

  13. Hi Rose, too bad about the canceled trip. I hate to look forward to something and then have it fall apart. Oh well, might as well be philosophical, Galena will be there when you finally get the chance to go. It's an interesting town--be sure to take your camera--and comfy walking shoes. We like the winery, that's always an interesting place to spend a hour or two. There are several nice restaurants to try. Tons of gift shops and antique shops to find unique Christmas gifts. But it's the architecture that makes the town unique.

    Every other year I give up on potted plants. In July and Aug I cannot water them enough to prevent damage from drying out. The following year I forget the problems and have to learn that lesson all over again:)

  14. That must have been so disappointing for you. So close and yet so far away.
    I probably would have used the silent treatment also.
    Your living wreath is lovely. I wish my gardening disappointments turned out half as good as yours.
    Mama Mia is marvelous but I prefer the stage presentation of it myself.
    Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog.
    Come over and visit again.

    Bear((( )))

  15. What a shame the trip didn't happen, Rose - but I'm glad you got to see Mamma Mia - and even though I've seen it twice, I'm jealous you got to see it with your granddaughter.

    I agree with Gail that Pierce cannot disappoint and was also going to suggest succulents for the wreath - I've seen some with hens and chicks that were wonderful, but nobody needs Japanese Beetles!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  16. Suburbia, Granddaughter loved it even though she went to humor me; I'm sure Tall Girl will enjoy it, too.

    Marnie, Thanks for the tips--I love old historic storefronts and small shops. The winery was on my to-see list, too. I have selective memory, too, when it comes to plants. I keep trying astilbe, but once again I've killed them!

    Bear, Thanks for the compliment on the wreath--it's quite green at the moment, but I had hoped for lots of hot pink as well! I've heard the stage version of Mamma Mia is wonderful.

    Annie, Granddaughter is a wonderful theatre "date"--she enjoys the music and catches all the nuances even though she's just thirteen (today!). I'm contemplating the sedums for next year...

  17. That must have been so disappointing for you! I can well understand why you got the blues. Perhaps the weekend will happen soon?

    You made me laugh though with your tales of planting! Sometimes things just don't go right, do they? I love the idea of the wreath planter though; I don't think I've seen them here. I can imagine that watering them is a challenge!

    I'm sure there was something else I was going to comment on but I've forgotten what it was! And if I go back, I'll lose tnhese comments ...

  18. Oh Rose, I'm so sorry your trip didn't work out. How disappointing!

    I can sure relate, as my husband's job can be all-consuming too, and has interfered with our plans many times. This weekend we'll be missing a wedding we'd planned to attend due to demands of his job. So many people working for corporate america these days are having to make unreasonable sacrifices in order to hang onto their jobs.

    I haven't seen Mama Mia at the theatres, but saw the play a few years ago. What a blast it was. So much fun! The music is so nostalgic, and still sounds great in a new century. I'm glad you had some company at the movie. It's so nice to spend time with grandchildren.

  19. Liz, One of these days we'll have that weekend. But I hope it's soon!

    Garden Girl, You're right about people having to make more sacrifices at work in today's economy. In my husband's case, it was a matter of bureaucratic paperwork--somebody "screwed up," which made it even more maddening.
    Oh well, we'll find a weekend soon.

  20. Too bad about your weekend. I also had trouble with those cocoa liners. They looked good, but were impossible. Too heavy, the soil leaked out everywhere and my plants were too compact and didn't look nice.
    Ah well I"m glad you enjoyed your movie. I've never seen it, so will look for it. Sounds delightful!

  21. Reschedule that trip. Galena is stunning in the fall. I hope you make it there soon. I haven't been blog visiting much either lately, but I don't have traveling as an excuse.


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