Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Look Back at 2011

Happy New Year to everyone!  A new year always brings the hope for better times and the chance to start afresh, oftentimes with plans to make important lifestyle changes. I've made my usual resolutions--eat healthier, lose some weight, exercise more, etc., etc.  I've also promised myself to make some changes in the garden this year.  Before I completely forget about 2011, however, I wanted to take a look back at the past year in the garden to remember what worked and what needs to be done.

The lily bed in January '11
January picked up where December '10 left off--snowy and cold--and ended with a blizzard that paralyzed much of the Midwest.  I can remember watching the news videos of Chicago traffic stranded in the snow on Lakeshore Drive after I had spent a day walking in the spring-like warmth of Portland, Oregon.  Each night I called my husband and talked to him after he had put in another 12-hour shift of plowing snow.  I was so thankful I had skipped town just in time, but payback came when I landed in Indianapolis the next week and had to spend an hour chipping ice off my windshield before I could drive home!

I spent the endless days of winter, though, checking out armloads of gardening books from the library and making detailed plans of the new arbor bed I had prepared the previous fall.  Dreams of the ultimate perfect garden kept me going through those cold, gray days of January and February.

Diane, yours truly, Monica, Lisa, Beckie, and Linda,  March '11
Even March started out cold, as Beckie, Lisa, and I had to bundle up to go to the Chicago Flower and Garden Show where we met up with fellow garden bloggers Diane, Monica, and Linda.  But it was a typical March--one week cold and snowy and the next with days in the 70's.Anxious to get a headstart on the gardening season, I started a few seeds indoors along with some winter sowing begun in February.

By March 15 a few little snowdrops--my first ever--and crocuses were blooming, 
and the foliage of tulips and daffodils were emerging.

My favorite place to be in the spring--my front yard.

Finally, the calendar said it was spring, but it was really April before it arrived in my little corner of the world. Spring--my absolute favorite season of the year!  Nothing makes me happier than seeing the first blooms on the redbud tree and then the crabapples burst forth in full bloom.  Garden work was delayed as the proverbial April showers turned into downpours, and strong winds blew away the crabapple blossoms much too soon.  But at least we were spared the floods and devastating tornadoes that hit many other parts of the U.S. this year.

'Professor Rontgen', a ruffled orange beauty with petite 'Fur Elise' in the foreground, both newcomers this year.

Finally, it was tulip time!  I'm not sure if I like tulips so much because of their unique beauty or because they are the ultimate symbol of spring for me.  Whatever the true reason, they are my favorite springtime bloom  and worth every minute spent on aching knees planting them each fall.

Spring was a whirlwind of activity as we prepared to leave the country for Daughter's wedding in Cancun and then, on our return, preparing for the wedding reception here on our front lawn in early June.  All I remember about May (after the wedding, that is) is furiously planting, weeding, mulching, and generally trying to get everything spruced up by the fourth of June.  Still, I took some time to enjoy the new irises--all passalongs--blooming for the first time in the lily bed.

'Rocky Mountain Blue' columbine, mid-May '11

I was also thrilled to see the first-ever blooms on the columbines in the shade garden.

Summer started early with some of the hottest days in early June, including the day of Daughter's reception.  June seems to be a transition time in my garden, with not a lot of blooms, but the shade garden was at its peak.  Summer blooms seemed out of sync, with the lilies later than usual and the coneflowers appearing earlier than usual. One of the highlights of the June garden was my first success in growing poppies from seed.

Agastache 'Heatwave' mid-August '11
After consistent rain throughout the spring, the water supply suddenly dried up in July, and we went into a second summer of severe drought and high temperatures.  After working feverishly in the garden all spring, I became a little lazy and ventured out to work only in the cooler hours of early mornings before heading back to the comfort of the air-conditioned house.  Much of that time seemed to be spent in the new arbor bed (subject of a post soon to come) weeding and watering all the new plants.  I fell in love again---with agastaches!  These first-timers in my garden thrived in the heat and drought and were a hit with bees and butterflies alike. 

'Limelight' Hydrangea September 'll
On a local radio show devoted to plants, one of the plant experts commented this fall that this had been a great year for hydrangeas--but not in my garden!  The drought seemed to hit them the hardest, even though I was diligent about watering them regularly.  The 'Endless Summers' produced lots of new foliage, but not many blooms.  The new Hydrangea paniculata 'Vanilla Strawberry' produced blooms, but they were much smaller than I expected.  It's the only paniculata I have planted in full sun, and I'm beginning to wonder whether that was a good idea.  We'll see how it does this year.  But the worst was my new 'Pink Diamond,' the hydrangea I thought I had killed last year.  It had some scrawny foliage, so I know it's still alive, but not a single bloom.  Only good old 'Limelight' (not so old, actually) lived up to my expectations, looking as glorious as ever by the end of the summer.

Looking back through last year's posts, I realized I never mentioned much about my vegetable garden.  Since I'm already turning this post into a novel, it seems, just a brief recap of the veggie garden:  spinach and lettuce did well in early spring, but the sugar peas were planted too late to pick more than a handful.  Green beans were a success as usual, with enough to put up in the freezer, but the squash and cucumbers were a disappointment.  The green peppers were a complete failure--they failed to grow past their original size and didn't produce any fruit at all, a mystery I have yet to solve.  The tomatoes were the biggest success, next to the green beans.  I planted half the number I usually do, but they still produced more than enough for us.  For the first time in several years, they weren't affected by tomato wilt, perhaps because of better spacing and the sturdier tomato cages I invested in this year.

As if to make up for the hot and dry summer we endured, Mother Nature rewarded us with a glorious fall.  The natives went crazy in the butterfly garden.

Front corner of the arbor bed, with petunias, zinnias, white cosmos, and pentas vying for attention with the fall-blooming 'October Skies' asters.

The new arbor bed reached its high point in the fall, with all the late-blooming annuals finally blooming.  With the warm temperatures, most of the annuals lasted until late October.  The warm and sunny days stretching into November also meant I had plenty of time to get fall clean-up done and some new bulbs planted for the coming spring.

By December, the garden had been put to bed for its long winter's sleep, but winter seemed slow in coming.  A far cry from 2010, the snowiest December on record,  2011 ended with only one light snowfall and some unseasonably warm days.  With Christmas preparations uppermost in my mind, I forgot about the garden until this week when I finally had time to look back and reflect on it.

Shade Garden, mid-July 2011.  I love it, but I wish I'd paid more attention to spacing!
If you've made it this far, thanks for hanging in with me on this long-winded review.  To be honest, this review of 2011 is as much for me as for any readers willing to trudge through it.  Although I was better about keeping a garden journal this year, every little bit I can do to remember details helps.  It's always good to look back at the past and remember our failures and successes, so we don't make the same mistakes again--though I'm sure I will be making lots of gardening mistakes once again in 2012:)  One of the biggest mistakes I've made, I realized this year, is planting everything too close together, in trying to fill up every inch of bare soil I see.  This year I've vowed that instead of adding another new garden area, I'm going to re-work the ones I have and try to give all these plants some breathing room!

And so we put away the calendars for 2011 and begin anew with 2012.  I'm looking forward to the next few months looking through gardening books and catalogs, once again planning that elusive perfect garden.  Happy Gardening in 2012!


  1. Rose, your garden is so nice. I love that last photo. That is my style of planting. ha... Best wishes for a wonderful new year full of gardening and hopefully some travel. :)

  2. Always love seeing your garden no matter what season :-)

    I love that first composition in the snow, I'm sure you could win a prize with that.

    Happy 2012 to you x

  3. Your garden reminded me that there are many plants to look forward to this coming year..... sleeping at present.
    Lovely photos.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  4. I can see why you'd rather embrace spring in your garden than anywhere else. I feel the same way. I have this old tangled redbud and many others in the forested areas. I also have peach trees and apples.~~Dee

  5. I love reviews of the garden. They're very handy when you're looking back on past work you've done in the garden and planning for the future. But I like others reviews too because there's always ideas that come up that I know I should implement in my own garden.

  6. I have help when it comes to leaving bare space in my garden, the deer and voles make sure there is plenty of breathing room, ha ha!
    Your beans look mighty delicious. I wish you a wonderful year of gardening in 2012!

  7. Your experiences sound so familiar--except for the drought in the summer. We must have had more rain up north here? Your photos and flowers are so pretty! Everything looks so peaceful!

  8. HI Rose,

    It is lovely to wander through your garden and see the seasonal changes in one post.
    You have done well Rose, I am amazed to see the changes and the beauty that your garden holds.
    When I think of your first post, a few years ago now....what a difference. You must feel a great sense of satisfaction.

    I do love the aster and golden rod. That colour combination really works for me :)

    Perfection? Good luck my friend, I gave up chasing it many years ago :)

  9. It looks like 2011 was a very good year in your garden. That bearded iris wowed me ... such a delicate shade of yellow! I can't grow them here so I'll enjoy them on my fellow gardeners' blogs!

  10. Looks like you have had a better year that we did herein Kansas. Your front looks like a botanical garden adrift in flowering crabpples. Nice work over the year that was,

  11. Gode billeder.
    Tak for kigget.
    Jeg ønsker dig et blomstrende haveår

  12. I love your front yard in Spring!

    I will try again in the garden this year to emulate your plantings!

  13. I loved seeing the whole year from snow to blooms - wonderful retrospective! Happy New Year, Rose! I'm looking forward to more posts this year.

  14. It's so important to look back and learn from the differences from year to year in the garden! It was a challenging year weather-wise, but your garden looked great!

  15. You had a lot going on this year, and many beautiful flowers in your garden too! I love your blue columbine and pink Agastache. And of course your front yard with those wonderful crabapples.

  16. I love all of your pics, but the natives one is my favorite, except for maybe the green beans. Is it lunchtime yet? My tummy is growling:)

    Are you still keeping up with the MG hours? This past year was difficult for me because of other commitments.

  17. Lisa, Thank you. Yes, my style of gardening is to pack everything in tightly, too, but I think I've overdone it.

    Suburbia, I don't think my photos are prize-worthy, but thanks so much for the compliment!

    Maggie, Looking at photos from the past season in the garden is so much better looking at the brown mess it is right now.

    Dee, There is something about the leafing out of the trees each spring that really lifts my spirits. I'm so thankful my in-laws planted all these trees years ago.

    Marguerite, I did write this post as much for myself as anyone else, to remember the successes and failures in the garden. But whether it's my garden or someone else's, I can always learn from the mistakes!

    Rosey, I guess I shouldn't complain--I'd rather have crowded plants I need to divide than to discover empty holes left by the deer and voles!

    Plantpostings, I know there were times I heard about rain in Chicago, but it never came here. Climatologists were talking about a "severe drought," compared to the "extreme drought" in parts of the South. Consistent rainfall would be nice this coming year.

  18. Cheryl, Thank you for those kind words. I do feel I've come a long way, but I have so much more I'd like to do and so much more to learn. I hope you'll be able to see my garden in person again one day to see how it has changed.

    Cindy, I was lucky to have been given so many iris as passalongs; they really add to the garden in June. It was a good year in the garden, in spite of the weather.

    Patrick, Thanks for those kind words! I'm just hoping for more regular rainfall this year.

    Landbohaven, Thanks for visiting!

    Liz, I don't know if I'm the best gardener to emulate, but thanks for the confidence boost!

    Sarah, Thanks; I'm hoping to do better about joining in on book reviews, too, this year, but I didn't have much time to read over the holidays.

    Rose, I like having this year-end summary. I would certainly forget what worked and what didn't otherwise!

    Sweetbay, The columbines were planted the year before and never bloomed, so I was thrilled to see them this year. The agastache really impressed me--there will probably be more in my garden next year.

    W2W, I was determined to get my MG hours in this year, in spite of other activities that kept me busy, and I did. I'm hoping to get a better start on them this spring, though.

  19. It is so nice to look back in the garden. You have documented everything so well. I hope to finish up some of the beds, so I am more in maintenance mode than creating mode. Happy new year!

  20. Rose what a lovely way to wind up the past year by looking at all the colorful blossoms!A truly gorgeous collection of images!
    Loved the one with all the girls posing..nice to put faces to the the names I am familiar with!Wishing you a wonderful New Year and Happy gardening in the Spring!
    I'm heading for our annual Arizona hiatus this weekend! See you from the sunny desert soon!
    hugs Anna

  21. Dear Rose, I loved this visit to your 2011 garden ... beautiful! My new year resolution is to rework beds instead of creating new ones, also. Wishing you a happy new year! P. x

  22. I'm impressed with the details in this post Rose! Your memory is better than mine. I imagine that journal must have helped. I have one, but don't seem to be disciplined enough to use it regularly.

    Your post did remind me of all the crazy ups and downs with the weather last year. Summer's heat wave was more oppressive and protracted than any summer I can remember, with the possible exception of the summer of 1976 (when I was also pregnant with my first-born.) I especially remembered the insane wind on the lake when I was almost at Navy Pier for the garden show. I've never experienced wind like that before. It was literally lifting me off my feet, and walking against it, I really wasn't sure if I'd be able to make it to the entrance doors. It was two steps forward, one back. It was freaky, even kind of scary. I'm glad I finally made it, and it was great fun hanging out with such a fantastic group of women.

    I thoroughly enjoyed your year in review. So many wonderful photos illustrating your garden year made it that much more of a pleasure to read.

  23. Rose girl are you still having to hear that tune (Winchester cathedral) in your head ? LOL
    I did not keep up with my notes for last year and I did not make summary notes on problems and what to do for this year .. every year I swear I will do the summary when it is fresh in my mind .. darn .. nothing stays fresh in my mind, I think because my brain is too hot? LOL .. I plant everything way too close and like you I will have to do some major adjusting .. so you are NOT alone girl!
    Loved the pictures and dialog !
    Joy : )
    PS we still don't have anything near our normal snow fall so I am afraid this coming season is going to be VERY dry .. eeekkk !

  24. Happy New Year Rose,
    Your 2011 was a great gardening year....
    I enjoyed seeing your gardens in every season.
    My experience has been as I change so does my garden. 2012 is the year to simplify!
    Sherry who misses the butterflies

  25. Your arbor bed looks gorgeous Rose. Regarding the hydrangeas, since we (down South anyway) are supposed to be in for another droughty year, I've been recommending gardeners hold off on planting anymore of them for this year. Just too much work and water for now. So don't feel bad! Happy new year!

  26. Love the year in review. I will need to reread your post again....and take notes!!

  27. Hi Rose, Belated Happy New Year! (I am slowly getting back into the swing of things after the holidays.)
    One of the benefits of blogging is keeping a record of the garden from season to season and year to year. 2011 definitely had its challenges, the long drought for many of us figuring principally among them. I hope this year the weather will have less extremes, although the mild start to the winter seems to suggest otherwise. I worry that a really hot summer is sure to follow. Only time will tell. I look forward to seeing your garden emerge in spring 2012.

  28. Sage Butterfly, It's seems like I've created a new flowerbed each of the past few years; I'm looking forward to tweaking and maintaining those this year, instead of adding something new.

    Nature Girl, Thank you for the good wishes--I wish I were joining you in Arizona this winter! Enjoy!

    Pam, I love a blank slate, but as tempting as it is, I'm going to try to improve what I have instead of starting another new project this year.

    Linda, I spent a lot of time skimming my old blog posts--without those, I'd never remember all that happened last year! I do remember that weird weather in March last year and how you walked all the way to Navy Pier in that awful wind. Taking a taxi the next day was so much better:)

    Joy, I had forgotten "Winchester Cathedral" till now--thanks:) I started out so well last year with my garden journal, and then I don't know what happened. I should add that to my resolutions for this year. No snow here either--I should change my header because that was a one-day wonder.

    Sherry, I find it hard to simplify in the garden, but more and more I'm thinking about low-maintenance as I plan and plant. Happy new Gardening Year to you, too!

    Jean, Happy New Year! I just love hydrangeas, but they do require constant watering, especially the past two summers. I do hope this year is not like the last two.

    Janet, I'm not sure what others can learn here, but it sure helps me to remember what worked and what didn't, not to mention those promises I made to the garden and didn't keep:)

    Jennifer, This was a good way for me to remember the past year. I'm hoping for more rain this summer, too, though right now I wouldn't mind a little snow.

  29. A lovely recap, Rose. Yes, indeed wishing you too Happy Gardening and a Healthy New Year!

  30. Wow Rose, Wish I had the self discipline to sit down and really think about everything that's happened garden-wise in this crazy year. As your photos show, it's been a lovely year chez Prairie Rose, even if it is a bit crowded here and there :)

  31. Hello, Rose. Happy 2012 to you.

    I'm still in awe of the poppies you grew from seed. They are about the prettiest blooms ever!

    Although all of the women in the Garden Show photo are lovely, I'm especially impressed with the one named Yours Truly. There's something special about her.

    There is no rhyme or reason or planning that goes into my gardening. I refer to my style as chaotic gardening. Best of luck to you with that future perfect garden:)


  32. I just love recap posts and yours is great and I'm with you 100% for it being such a good scrapbook for the blogger. I wouldv'e done one too but it might have been depressing and I promised not to ever post depressing stuff. Ha! I loved looking at your garden through the months and wow can't wait for this year. I'm thinking no changes are needed at your place. What a big frontyard!

    On the dogs and cat and the bunny. The dogs are awful awful awful. They are barred from the frontyard because our new lab always barks and tries to dig out our bunny. Lady is is co-conspiritor so they both get in trouble. Occasionally one at a time is okay but they can be bad bad bad together. But they also gang up on the kitty. Poor cat! The cat and the bunny get along fabulously though. Happy New Year to you!

  33. So nice to see flowers at this time of year! What a great year 2011 was for you in your garden!

    My favourite was your spring garden and the crocuses.

  34. Hi Rose, wow, you've got some good-looking friends, lol! :) I love the idea of reviewing your year in the garden as a way to remember what to do next (well, this) year! I've always kept a jotted-down list of plants I want to eventually try, but I tend to keep ideas for garden changes in my head. Which, as time passes, because decreasingly ineffective. Gonna start jotting down notes--I have plans to expand the veggie bed and remove some perennial woodland sunflowers with annual sunflowers with seeds for wildlife (in Buckthorn Alley). Eep. Happy new year and thanks for sticking with my blog even though I've been so negligent!!


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