Saturday, June 21, 2014

Spring Lessons and Celebrating Summer

Tuesday evening I attended our local Master Gardeners' meeting and invited my good friend to join me.  I don't always go to the meetings, but the speaker this time was a well-known member of our local group talking about shade plants other than hostas, and her talks are always informative and interesting.   She's been in the horticulture industry for over 30, maybe 40 years--I'm too polite to ask her age:)  She's a member of the American Hosta Society, the Daylily Society, the Peony Society, and probably several others that I didn't catch.  Suffice it to say, she's an expert on so many gardening topics, and her own garden is magnificent.  During her introduction, she said that despite her experience, she learns something new every day about gardening.  Wow, I thought, if she's still learning new gardening tips, how much more must there be that I haven't learned!

Certainly, every season I learn something new from experiences in my own garden, and as part of Beth at Plant Postings' season meme "Lessons Learned,"  I'd like to share a few things I have learned this last spring.

"Tulip Hill" wasn't much of a hill this year--note the chewed off tulips in the center and to the far right.

1.  Rabbits and deer really are pests.  For years, I've been bragging how these two critters leave my garden alone.  I've empathized with fellow bloggers who have had to resort to all kinds of devices and techniques to keep them out of their gardens, often to no avail.  But I sat smugly at my computer and commented that the dogs and maybe the cats kept the deer and rabbits from sticking around long enough to munch on my plants. Obviously, it doesn't pay to be too smug, because this spring they found my garden, too, and I was not a happy gardener! 

A gorgeous double tulip--'Sunlover.'  You can see there should have been two blooms here, not one.

If I were a rabbit or deer, I'd go for something tasty-sounding, like this 'Sorbet.'  But they're not choosy diners.
I learned very quickly this spring that my garden isn't immune to these cute but destructive pests.  It's not going to stop me from planting more tulips this fall, but I've decided to plant only daffodils in the new shade garden addition, which is right along the deer's grazing path.  Why tempt them any more?

2. Winter questions have been answered. In my spring post on "Lessons Learned,"  I was still wondering about a few experiments I had tried and whether they would be successful.  I had babied two 'Encore' azaleas over the winter, encasing them in burlap cages in hopes they would survive what turned out to be one of the worst winters in twenty years.  As of a couple of weeks ago, I would have sadly reported that they didn't make it.  I was in a state of denial and refused to pull them out for a long time, despite their very corpse-like appearance.  But so many plants were slow to emerge this spring, and one morning I looked out at the sidewalk garden, and my hopes began to rise.  Could it be?  No, those weren't little weeds popping up--there were leaves growing at the bottom of each azalea!  I was so excited, I promptly took a photo with my phone and texted my best friend.  Call it what you will, sometimes it pays to be a procrastinator or an idealist who refuses to see reality.

A few small azalea leaves give me hope.
Another experiment I was still waiting on as spring began didn't have such positive results.  In my first attempt at planting bulbs in a container, I paid attention to the experts' advice for my zone 5b garden and swathed the pot of tulips in bubble wrap and kept it on my semi-sheltered back porch.  Some time in late March I decided the worst of winter had to be over, and I took off the bubble wrap and moved the pot onto the patio.  Unfortunately, soon after, we had a torrential rainstorm.  It wasn't until a few days later that I noticed there was two inches of water sitting on top of the pot.   I still don't know if the tulips would have made it through the winter, but I'm pretty sure they rotted away in all that muddy soil.  Oh well, lesson learned--I'm going to try this again next year and remember spring rains as well as winter storms.

My last question held over from spring wasn't really an experiment at all--the planting of a new little serviceberry last fall and wondering whether it would survive the winter . . . and Frank the pug's constant "watering" of it.  I'm happy to report it had lots of sweet little white blooms this spring and is now covered in red berries that the birds are eating as fast as they can.  I've wanted a serviceberry for a long time, so I'm so happy to see it doing well and eager to see it grow even larger in the coming years.  And Frank is happy, too, that he's not in trouble:)

3. Spring is the shortest season of the year in Illinois.  Or maybe it just seems that way.  But this year it certainly was true--winter didn't want to give in, and our last snowfall was in mid-April.  By early May temperatures soared, and it seemed as if we went straight into summer, giving us about two or three weeks of true spring.  Spring is also the busiest time in the garden for me, making the days fly by even faster.  Besides garden clean-up and planting containers and annuals in the garden, I  finally got around to a small expansion of the shade garden that I've been wanting to do for some time.  I wanted to thin out and divide many of the plants in the original crowded shade area, but between frequent rain showers and warmer temperatures that made everything grow a foot overnight, I didn't get nearly as much done as I had hoped.

Can you tell where I dug out hostas?  Nope, I didn't think so.  Oh well, there's always next year to finish this job.

4. Some plants are really happy in my garden, or Mother Nature knows best.  While I have killed more plants than I care to remember and have babied others along, disappointed in their reluctance to thrive, there are a few plants that just love it here and continue to multiply.

One of those plants is salvia.  I've had two 'May Night' Salvias in the sidewalk garden for nine years, and they have been faithful performers, if not especially eye-catching.  But a few years ago I planted a division from our MG garden in the Arbor Bed, and it has not only thrived, but has re-seeded all over the place.  I even dug up some stray plants this spring and gave some away to a friend and even (gasp!) threw a few others on the compost pile.  I keep intending to dig them all up and transplant them at the back of the garden, because they weren't part of the original planting scheme, but so far haven't accomplished that.  If I ever do transplant them all together, I could have my own Mini River of Salvia, ala the Lurie Garden:)

Another happy plant in my garden is the Purple Coneflower.  I've had a lot of trouble growing some natives from seeds or even seedlings, but not this beauty!  I'm not sure if purists would call Echinacea Purpurea a native plant, but it's close enough.  It always re-seeds in my garden, but this year it has outdone itself, spreading to various flowerbeds where it was never planted and covering most of the sidewalk bed.  Again, that wasn't part of the plan for the sidewalk bed, but I've given in to Nature's plan and leaving them alone, at least until after they have all finished blooming.  In another week or two I should have a buffet feast for the butterflies, bees, and finches!

Asiatic lily blooms and Salvia from the garden
Probably the most important lesson I've learned this spring is really a holdover from the awful winter--to enjoy each and every day, no matter the weather, and not "wish" them away.  As the delicate blooms and softer hues of spring give way to the raucous colors and exuberant blossoms of summer, I am vowing not to complain about the heat and humidity and wish for cooler days instead--I said I'm going to try:)  Early mornings and the hour or two before sunset are enjoyable times to be in the garden, I've found.  And when it simply gets too hot, I'll bring my blooms indoors!

Besides linking in with Plant Postings, I'm also linking in with Donna at Gardens Eye View  for her Seasonal Celebrations.  You can visit both for more looks at the past season with an eye toward the months ahead.


  1. Rose what a wonderful post. Lots you have learned I am still learning as well. We were lucky and had a spring this year but I couldn't enjoy it being laid up. So summer will have to be my season in the garden. I love that you are bringing the blooms in to enjoy if it gets too hot. You have inspired me to bring in more now too.

    Thanks so much for joining in to Seasonal Celebrations. And have a perfect summer in your beautiful garden...

  2. I was just thinking as I read your post about these pests of deer and rabbits that ruin our gardens. I think in our area that we really need to do something about the deer. They are overrunning us. As I thought about these things, I thought, how tulips are just not possible where I live because of the deer. At what point do we stop these deer to continue to run through our neighborhoods eating everything in sight while they pose danger to our dogs from disease and danger to us as we drive. Last night as we drove into our quiet little village, four doe sprinted out of nowhere and ran through the back lots once they had crossed over the street we live on. We were coming home in a brand new car. I thought for sure we would hit a deer or we would be hit even though we were only going 20 miles an hour. That is the end of my rant on these pests.

    Gardening is all about experimenting. I think it helps keep our minds engaged in creating and problem solving. Loved reading this.

  3. I've given up on Hostas as the slugs get to them before I can deal with them. Yours look so lovely.

    In spite of the set backs, you seem to be doing a good job.
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  4. Happy Summer Rose. Your post about spring is enlightening. One should not give up on plants too soon. I too have trouble with getting coneflowers growing. Isn't that weird? I don't deadhead them or anything. I thought they might be pests but no... That salvia doesn't do well in my garden either. I know what you mean about those pesky deer. I won't say a word. I have seen them in our neighborhood only once. One one of our new trees out front there appears to be a deer rub. UGH... I hope it isn't true but can't explain a rubbed off area any other way. Rabbits have been detrimental to my garden this year. They ate blooms of some plants and ate a new geranium down to the ground. Even with Annie patrolling the garden they dare come in for snacks. Grrrr I am not going to whine about the weather until it is really hot. Let's face it I will whine but I do appreciate the spring and summer more this year after that awful winter. You have a beautiful day for the MG tour Wish I was there.
    Pictures please.

  5. A great post - there's so much to learn, isn't there? That's too bad the rabbits and deer found your garden. That is no fun! I tried with tulips this year, and did get a good number that survived the first round of slaughter (after which I sprayed with pepper/egg spray), but I think from now on I'll stick with the daffodils.. Your serviceberry is so cute! I'm wondering if I have some serviceberry in our woods, as I am unfamiliar with some of the plants up here. I sure hope so!

  6. Donna, Thank you for hosting this--your Seasonal Celebration post for summer was so inspiring. I should have included more about summer, but summer means coneflowers and daylilies to me, both of which are just opening up!

    Sally, The deer population really has gotten out of control, whether you're a gardener or not. A friend of mine has had two accidents caused by deer in the last 6 months, resulting in serious damage to their car both times. I also think gardening helps to keep one young.

    Maggie, I would say the slugs haven't been too much of a problem for me, but I used to say the same thing about deer and rabbits. But the hostas have done very well for me.

    Lisa, It always intrigues me how one plant can do so well in someone's garden and not in another. Beckie gave me some false sunflowers several years ago, warning me about how they had overrun her garden--and of course, they all died for me:) Didn't take as many photos of the Garden Walk this time; I don't know why, but I did post a couple on Facebook. It was exceptional this year!

    Indie, Fortunately, the deer didn't get to as many of my tulips as I first feared. Serviceberry is a great tree/large shrub and could very well be growing wild in your woods.

  7. Gardeners are always learning and always teaching.
    Your hosta bed looks amazing. So lush. Seems you have quite a few experiments going and successes!

  8. Oh rose I hope I won't dissapoint you telling how happy I would be when deers were visiting my garden. It must be great. I love your photo of the Hosta's. And every year we learn more about gardening. This year I decided not to spray my garden. The leas don't do the roses any harm but the funghi does. A lot of my roses are without any leaf at the moment. I don't think I made the right discision not to spray. On a special roseworkshop I was learned that getting fungi has everything to do with the place you plant a rose. And I have to say that a lot of my roses are growing on a for a rose impossible place. Thats the problem when you have to garden on a poststamp size garden, you plant as much as possible.(lol)
    Have a wonderful day Rose.

  9. I love your comment "a talk on shade plants that didn't include hostas". LOL. There's so much more to shade gardening, funny how hostas always take up the focus. Like you I'm realizing this year just how short spring can be. So much to do and so little time before the ground is too dry and the days are too hot.

  10. We've had so much rain, everything has been flowering wonderfully. Well, except I didn't get any flowers from my clematis this year --but maybe it was due to the winter. At least it has leaves and didn't die! My redbud tree has leaves only on the bottom branches. I'm afraid it may not recover, but I'll leave it to see how it does next summer. Your shade garden inspired me when I first read of it, and the two I've created are doing fairly well --one with mostly hostas, but the other has geraniums and coral bells as well. Both of them are on the small side, but I love all the shades of green :-)

  11. Those hosta are so so beautiful.

    George is the biggest pest in our garden! But we forgive him.

    Yes, I think I must learn which plants do well and concentrate on those and not try to force the ones that really don't like my garden to grow.

  12. Your garden looks beautiful! I can't believe your hosta patch looks so healthy, we have far too many slugs and snails that would decimate a patch even that big!

  13. What a lovely collection. I love those small azalea leaves, so fine and delicate.

  14. Hi Rose! The blooms are lovely, and I love your hosta garden.
    I appreciate so much your last words! Life is n o w, and future is just our t h o u g h t s.
    Enjoy your summer!

  15. Your lessons posted today well apply to the gardens here a little more North of your area and along Lake Michigan. The one that amazes me this year is that it has taken so long for some of the plants to emerge. I have bushes (lots of them) that are still forming their leaves. Really a slow time up here this year. JC

  16. I would love a river of May Knight. They are a plant that does that type of massing well. You are lucky they love your garden. Here, some years they don't perform well.

  17. Excellent lessons, Rose! I'm working on the wrap-up now. Back from Door County, where we mostly had beautiful (but cool) weather. Glad to be back in the "south" where summer really feels like summer. I really need to work on your last lesson. ;-)

  18. Hi Rose,

    We live and learn indeed. You know my opinion of rabbits :)

    Two of the plants that thrive in your garden, salvia and coneflower, are two that I struggle with. I have given up on coneflowers but still plant salvia each year. I love them.

    We all complain about the weather, don't we? I try to take it a day at a time but sometimes it just catches me out and makes me grumpy :)

  19. These flowers are so beautiful! But in my opinion look nicer in the garden than in a vase :)

  20. Gardener on Sherlock Street, Even though my shade garden is overcrowded, I do love it. The hostas are really doing well.

    Marijke, I always enjoyed seeing deer going through our yard in the early morning and late evening, too. They're such beautiful animals. But I'm not so happy when they decide my garden is their dining room!

    Marguerite, Mary Ann, the speaker, is an expert on and lover of hostas, so I think she made her topic a little tongue-in-cheek. I love hostas, so to me, they're still the backbone of a shade garden. And of course, hydrangeas--I must have hydrangeas! I'm so far behind this year that I might still be mulching in October:)

    Cassi, When I first started gardening, gardening in the shade wasn't my favorite, other than a place to plant hydrangeas. But I've come to love it more and more--it's a cool spot in the summer, and unlike flowering perennials that bloom for a short time, shade plants look good all summer.

  21. After 17 years of gardening on this corner of Katy, I'm still surprised by the lessons I have to learn over and over and over again!

  22. Fine tips indeed! I like how you are working with nature instead of fighting her. The squirrels won the strawberry and tulip battles in our yard. No one eats daffs. Your garden is lovely.

  23. Your shade garden is just incredible! Wowzers! Rabbits destroyed many of my plants last year. They ate them to the point they just couldn't recover. I rabbit-proofed my garden this spring and so far it seems to be working but anything outside the fence is fair game. They ignore the salvia in my front so hopefully your beautiful plants will be safe, too.

  24. You've learned so much Rose. I agree the spring is very short time here as well. We had cold April and now we are in cold June too.I love your tulips, they are stunning. The bouquet on your table is very pretty.
    Have a nice day!

  25. Liz, Ha, ha:) Sophie tends to lumber through the garden, too, but surprisingly, she hasn't done much damage. Finding out what works in your own garden is a lesson that takes time, but a valuable one.

    Suburbia, We do have slugs, but I've been lucky so far that they haven't done too much damage here.

    Haddock, I am hoping more azalea leaves appear, or these might not make it after all.

    Tatyana, Every season I vow to live more in the moment--it's hard for me, but I'm working on it!

    Gardens, Thanks for stopping by! Yes, we had so many plants that were slow to emerge this year. Several plants I thought were dead were still "napping."

    Donna, I don't know why these particular Salvia have re-seeded so much, but I'll take them. I just need to corral them all to make that mass planting I've always wanted.

    PlantPostings, Hope you had a great vacation in Door County! That's such a beautiful area, though I haven't been there in years.

    Cheryl, I do understand your frustration with rabbits now. I've seen a cute little bunny out front this week--he'd better stay out of my shade garden! It's taken me awhile, but I've finally learned that some of the plants I fall in love with on other people's blogs just don't do well here; learning what works in one's own garden is a valuable lesson. It's been hard not to complain about the heat here:)

    Wirginia, I agree--I find it hard to cut flowers; I'd much rather see them in my garden!

  26. Unfortunately, my purple cone cone flower developed yellow aster disease and I had to pull out all of them this year. Some lessons, like that one, are very hard to learn. Your last lesson is the most important one though! P. x

  27. Dear Rose .. I absolutely love your shade garden ,crowded and HAPPY! No room for weeds is the way to look at it : )
    Yes .. this past winter did in a few of my plants as well .. but the shocker was my Royal Purple smoke bush/tree .. we thought only "half" of it lived but to our great surprise it is pushing out leaves on what I thought was the dead half of it .. patience counts, thank god I didn't get hubby to saw what I thought were dead limbs off.
    Now .. you know you have to get Julia Child rose .. not all those "carefree" breeds are as great as they say .. no scent which is a ridiculous trait to breed in a rose even for the ability to be hardier ? what is the point I say!
    I am happy so far with how the garden is progressing .. even though I am waiting forever for the landscaping to happen. Plus? we were dropped right into the heat and humidity of summer yesterday .. it went up to 30 Celsius ... and that is horrible.
    I just have to deal with it .. Spring is always too short, especially this year.
    I also say that .. I learn something all the time about plants and gardening ... if you don't then there is something not quite right about you as a gardener! hahaha
    Joy : )
    PS .. you have the touch girl !

  28. Cindy, Most of the lessons I learn are ones I have to re-learn every year, too!

    Sarah, My garden is pretty wild. I tell everyone that I'm letting Nature have her way:) Seriously, it's much easier to plant what works well here, rather than try to baby exotic plants.

    Casa, Other than the tulips and the occasional veggie, I haven't had too much trouble with rabbits. But I've seen a few young ones prowling around lately--time to let the dogs have a run:)

    Nadezda, We went straight into summer here--it's been pretty hot ever since mid-May.

  29. Pam, The yellow aster disease has plagued some local gardeners as well. But I haven't had much trouble with it, knock on wood.

    Joy, You're right--no room for weeds in my shade garden! I'm spreading mulch right now, and there isn't even room for that:) Will have to think about 'Julia'; I've heard so many good things about it. It's hot here, too--I can't work much past 10 AM in the morning.

  30. Gardening can teach us so much about life! All great lessons. Durned wildlife...


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