Monday, July 11, 2011

My Eyes Are Bigger Than My Garden

While growing up, I was a member of the "clean plate club."  I was never a finicky eater--except for liver--so this was not a problem. But just in case I didn't finish everything on my plate, my mother would remind me of the sin of wastefulness and the starving children in some far-off land who would be happy to have a small morsel of what I had eaten, even that disgusting liver.  At family dinners or community potlucks where the array of tempting choices prompted me to fill every inch of my plate, my mother might warn me not to get too carried away, that "my eyes were bigger than my stomach."

These days I don't have to worry about my stomach not being big enough, unfortunately, and I try to limit portion sizes somewhat so that I don't waste food.  But this problem seems to have carried over into another area of my life--my garden, where my plant addiction has caused me to fill every available bare inch of soil with plants, so that my "plates" are overflowing.

Case in point:  the roadside garden, which is a smorgasbord of color right now.  These lilies are one of my favorites; passalong NOID's from my aunt, I named them 'Nettie's Coral' in her honor.  They really are the prettiest shade of coral and might cause drivers passing by to slow down to admire them. 

But when you look at the larger picture, you can see the problem.  Most of them are planted behind the coneflowers, which have gotten taller every year and now hide many of the lilies' blooms.  You know how much I love coneflowers, so removing them is not an option.

Maybe I should dig up the corals and move them to the front of the coneflowers.  Right now there is a row of 'Stellas' in front, which are shorter in stature and work well as a border.  Even this taller "rogue" daylily in the midst of the Stellas doesn't look too bad in front.  But the corals are taller yet and might end up obscuring the coneflowers. I'm not sure what I'm going to do, but I need to do something before the garden police arrest me for lily abuse.

To the left of the center of this bed, the butterfly weed has nearly doubled in size, so that the Profusion zinnias and a few 'Arizona Sun' gaillardias can't be seen unless you get up close.  To the right of the butterfly weed is a container with purple petunias and 'Diamond Frost' euphorbia.  I thought it looked rather appealing sitting on its side as if the flowers were spilling out, but again it's hardly noticeable next to the butterfly weed.

The roadside garden was purposely crammed with plants to create more of an impact in a limited space and also to make it as low-maintenance as possible: I'm too  lazy busy to walk the 1/8 mile down the lane to check it for weeds everyday.  But maybe it's time to do some thinning out.

Back up at the house, things aren't much better.  This zinnia is actually part of a container planting in the
front sidewalk bed, but other than this bloom and a few glimpses of helichrysum and persian shield,  you can't even see this pot because it is hidden by coneflowers once again.  When we moved here in the fall of '04, I decided this area filled with gravel was the perfect place for a small flower garden.  I dug out all the rock by hand and the following spring planted perennials and some annuals.  At the time my knowledge of gardening, other than growing vegetables, might have filled one paragraph--if that.  I ignored the recommended spacing on labels of perennials and packed plants closer together for instant gratification.  It didn't take long for me to realize what a mistake that was!   The next spring I dug up everything--one Knockout rose still hasn't forgiven me for tearing up her roots--and moved them all further apart.

That did help, but the narrow end of this triangular bed needed some oomph, so I decided to plant some coneflowers there, too, to hide part of the overgrown yews behind them.  (My repetroire of plants in those days was pretty limited, too.)  Fast forward five years, and the coneflowers have reseeded and expanded their original territory, flopping over the sidewalk and the aforementioned pot.  This time I do know the solution--pull out most of the new seedlings next spring--but I'm thinking a re-working of this whole area is overdue anyway.

Another area that needs re-working is the shade garden.  This is my favorite garden during the hot days of summer, and I really do like the look of hostas and ferns dancing cheek to cheek.  But I think we may have passed that point some time ago, and it's time for some crowd control.  The macrophylla hydrangeas aren't putting out many blooms this year, much to my disappointment, but those that are appearing have to fight for space between the bleeding heart and the large hostas.  The cause of this problem area is quite obvious--my plant addiction again, always finding another heuchera or other shade-lover that I manage to shoehorn into a tiny space.  It's time to divide and conquer!

Apparently, I'm a slow learner.  When I created this new flower bed last year just for my growing collection of lilies, I wanted to make sure I had blooms or foliage interest when the lilies weren't blooming, so I kept adding more and more plants.

Again, many of these plants have exceeded my expectations of their growth.  The amsonia that looks so lovely in the spring has gotten huge and is crowding out other plants in one corner of the bed.  This poor little balloon flower has to peek out from underneath the branches of the amsonia. 

I've already decided the amsonia needs to be moved to another area with more space, and I need to be more ruthless in getting rid of volunteer re-seeders.  My parents were visiting the other day and my dad asked about a particular daylily and its unusual foliage.  When I looked where he was pointing, I laughed--the daylily had the usual leaves, but it was growing in a stand of volunteer cleome.   It can get confusing:  'Moonlit Masquerade,' above, sometimes likes to play with the switchgrass 'Shenandoah."

As for the butterfly garden, well, we won't even go there--you'd need a machete to get through that jungle of promiscuous natives and self-seeders.

The solution to all of this over-crowding is pretty obvious--time to divide and do some selective weeding out.  My garden is very small compared to most people's I've seen on garden walks and here in Blogland, so I could probably double its size just by dividing and moving some plants.  But that is a project for later this fall and next spring.  It's definitely too hot right now to be moving perennials, and I have more pressing matters to attend to . . .

Unfortunately, it's Japanese Beetle season.  My poor Knockout roses have been decimated, and the blooms on my two hibiscus plants are devoured before they can open.  My father recommended spraying Sevin on the plants, saying that would knock these little villains right off.  Yes, it probably would, but it would also knock a few bees and some other good guys off, too.

Ack!  This means war!  There will be no chemical warfare here, however; my preferred method is to pick them off by hand and dump them into a can of soapy water.  Very early morning or late in the evening are the best times while they are sleeping off their gluttonous escapades.   I've been faithful about doing this for the past two weeks, ever since they first showed up.  In fact, if someone were to make a movie of my life right now (which would be pretty boring, to say the least) it would have to be a documentary entitled "The Making of 'Beetlejuice.' "

Amid the groans after that last comment, I bid you adieu for the day.  It's a hot one here in the Midwest today; I hope you are all staying cool!


  1. I like the busy look of borders that are crammed with flowers.
    I also had a mother who used to tell me that I' was lucky to get such good food & that I'd better eat up as there were millions of children starving in China!
    I used to tell her to send out my dinner to them!
    I was a fussy eater!
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  2. I especially like the look of your shade garden ~ it looks lovely. Have to pack in the plants here, or the Bermudagrass snakes up through everything!

  3. Crowd control! That's what I need too, as I jammed too much too close together and now have the same problems you do. I love your coneflowers. I may try them again. They didn't perform for me and looked wimpy with all their petals stripped by some critter I couldn't identify (not Japanese beetles thank goodness), but then I see yours and I want them again.

  4. I like the pairing of the coral daylily with the Coneflowers...even though the Coneflowers have gotten so tall.
    I have been trying to let enough room around my new plants for them to spread their wings a bit. It is soooo easy to get carried away with plants.
    I am impressed with my Panicum 'Shenandoah' so far. Have three clumps and the one closest to the lawn (where the irrigation hits) is the tallest. Mine are blooming now and are pretty. Can't wait until fall when it turns red!
    (I was a member of the clean plate club too--- have the weight issues to prove it!)

  5. OH those terrible beetles! At least there are no Cub games for a while. Dropping beetles into the bucket is probably more entertaining than the Cubbies...

  6. Your shade garden is so lovely! The beetles are here...I don't have as many this year as in previous years. Finally, my organic methods are working. I am looking forward to having even fewer...

  7. I do understand! So many pretty flowers...
    It is flirting with 100 degrees at my house.
    I am inside watching the Butterflies and Dragonflies. Early in the morning I do my one hour of gardening than take to the ac.
    Come Autumn I will divide and move some lilies. I also am thinking of thinning some cone flowers this Autumn and drying the roots for winter tea.
    Love seeing your gardens.
    Stay cool.

  8. Love your blog! I have the same problem with over crowing and the plant addiction (and working in a garden center doesn't help at all!)
    I just learned today from a good friend that geraniums kill Japanese beetles when they eat it. She showed me the proof under a row of hanging basket ivy geraniums today- tons of dead beetles littered the ground where the day before they had covered the plants, trying to devourer them! And to think, geraniums 'Used" to be my least favorite plant!
    Keep up the great work on you garden! It's beautiful.

  9. Your gardens are very full & lush. I have the same problem Rose, I've been very strict with myself this year. Hope you win the battle with those Japanese Beetles, I just pick them off & squish them. No spraying here either. :)

  10. Maggie, I used to hear that comment about children in China, too:) I always cleaned my plate, though; but back in those days I could eat whatever I wanted and never put on a pound!

    Sweetbay, That's a point I forgot to add--the benefit of a crowded garden is there's little room for the weeds!

    Laurrie, Coneflowers are so easy to grow here, but I know that's not true everywhere. They're my favorites.

    Janet, I planted a new flowerbed this spring and resisted the temptation to plant too close together. Let's hope it works! The panicum is a beauty; mine has red tips already. And yes, the "clean plate" club is not such a good idea for me anymore either:)

    Sissy, Lol, at least with the beetles I know I'm coming out a winner:)

    Sage, I've heard that the beetles are fewer in our area because of our past winter. But I think the whole population has descended on my garden:)

    Sherry, I just came back inside from an hour and half in the garden, and that was enough! The thermometer is climbing steadily--stay cool!

    Lil, Thanks for visiting! I've never heard this about beetles and geraniums. And to think I've been picking them off the geraniums, too--maybe I should let them eat those to their hearts' content.

    Racquel, Thanks; I'm trying to do better this year. Part of the problem is that in the older beds the plants have really grown, which is a good thing actually.

  11. So sorry not to have commented on your last post Rose (I thought I had), I definitely read it because I remember almost crying with relief when darling Sophie was found! It must have been horrendous while she was lost. I hate fireworks with a passion for the fear they cause to animals. My Louis is petrified of them, as he is of thunder and lightening, he just sits staring into space and trembling for hours, it is horrible to see.

    Anyway, I think your packed flower beds look lovely, so much nicer than lots of bare earth. I do understand the problem of finding flowers at the back of the border being overshadowed by taller ones at the front though, it happens to me... a lot :)

    I too was told by my parents that starving children in Africa would be glad of the food I 'couldn't' eat and I was frequently told my eyes were bigger than my stomach :)

    Rose, I was intrigued by your battle with the beetle and the comment regarding Geraniums so looked it up and thought you might find the following interesting, just copy and paste it into your browser address bar:

  12. Success and abundance do bring their own challenges. Beautiful challenges. Great photos.

  13. Rose, it all looks great there. I have eyes bigger than my garden too. I think it's a normal affliction. Mine is getting thinner and thinner though as plants are trying to cope with the heat. I'm sorry you won't be at fling. I will miss you.~~Dee

  14. My mother used to say that to me too! I also hated liver.

    Your garden still looks lovely to me, I still have lots of bare earth and the weeds are loving it.

    Send some heat over please, our summer - as always- needs a kick start!

  15. You know I love the "cottage" look of your flower beds. My garden looks much like this. You have lots more blooms than I do. I just love baloon flowers and have had no luck getting them started here. It must be all that sunshine you have. How is the garden around your new bench/arbor doing?

  16. I have the same plant addiction. It must be contagious! I always over crowd things too. A plant in a pot always seems so small when you first plunk it into the garden. Your lilies are pretty and so i hope you can relocate them to better advantage.
    We don't have Japanese beetles here (yet). I have seen them in a neighbouring city. I dread their arrival from everything I have heard and read about them.

  17. I hear you, Rose! Trial & error is what gardening is all about :) I'm forever moving things about ...

  18. Your coneflowers are really beautiful. I have not had much luck with coneflowers, although local friends have, so it's a problem with me and my garden, not the general area.

    The Japanese beetles were just showing up when I left a bit over a week ago, and I'm wondering what the population will be like when I get home!

  19. I suffer from the same thing with crowds! But your flowers are lovely, and I'm just sorry that there is a crowd of Japanese beetles moving in too--I had a few this week as well and hope they don't start inviting friends!

  20. I have had numerous warnings from my husband to NOT EXPAND THE GARDEN any more. What's a girl to do? Cram even more plants in a tiny space.
    Your echinacea are beautiful even with the little buggies.
    My brother made fish food out of chopped up grasshoppers, maybe you can develop something from those beetles.

  21. Well I think most of us are related! We all seem to have the same mother. LOL!

    And I am the same. The more flowers and plants the better. Yours look lovely and add so much bright colour, I wouldn't worry a bit.

    Come autumn, there will be time to divide some of them, but until then, just enjoy.

  22. Beautiful!! I too love the lilies, all varieties!! The pink cone flower is also one of my loves. I was glad to see (not really) that someone else was dealing with these pests and that I had identified them correctly, Japanese beetles! I've never seen so many!! And they are so hungry!! I hand pick them and tried to step on them but it flew anyway before I could! It's war!!

  23. Pests are inevitable! They're also a creation of God and they only go to green and beautiful gardens!

  24. My eyes get bigger seeing those photos of your garden! Love the pink cone flower. I think it is perfect here at my garden. Pest is really a problem but you can never get it away in your garden.


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