Keeping a garden diary can be a lot of fun. This diary was begun in May 2002 as a way to share day-to-day gardening experiences with the readers of Gardener's Path. Enjoy!
Sorry for the lull. Things got busy, mostly with work and not gardening, so I haven't had time to fill you in. The garden proceedeth apace. Some of my perennials are so huge, I can barely believe it, particularly the valerian (4 ft), the feverfew (3 ft around) and the lysimachia (3.5 ft). When they say to space your perennials, they mean it. It looks like I'm going to have to move some things around this fall.
The wildflowers are still going strong, along with late lilacs and a shrub with small yellow single-rose like flowers and a heavenly fragrance. In fact, just stepping out the door is like stepping into a high-end flower shop. I'm especially enamoured of my dames rocket, which is equally fragrant and so beautiful strewn along the hillside out back. I have two colors, purple and a pinky-white, and they seem to be going strong despite the occasional pounding from the elements. I'm also really proud of my sage, which is huge this year and blooming for the first time. I've been trying to go easy on it but those succulent leaves are so good in tea, that I've been picking a bit more than I should. Actually, I've noticed that the leaves on everything this year are huge, probably because for the first time, they're in the ground instead of stuck in containers. Apparently, they like the dirt and probably the closer proximity with Mother Earth.
So I planted a bit of a woebegone shade garden of annuals with a few perennials. Finally, the coleus is in the ground, along with my native cardinal flower, a red, white and blue assortment of impatiens and lobelia, and some pink nicotiana and white allyssum. Everything looks a little straggly and orphaned (especially since it rained again last night), but I have no doubt things will grow in time. And on that note, I will depart, as time is something I have precious little of at the moment!
The most recent weather event has happened, as of yesterday morning. It was --- hail. Yup, 10 AM Sunday morning, the sky opened up again and mixed in with the downpour was 1/4 inch hail. Fortunately, it was brief. But after that, I'm not going to wonder any more about the weather. It's whatever the weather gods feel like sending us.
Although this is perhaps not the place for a political remark, it is after all a diary, and a Garden diary at that, so I thought I'd fill you in on the latest in US policy toward Global Warming. After all, global warming is expected to cause migrations and extinctions in the plant world and that affects us gardeners. So here it is. Enjoy!
"In a stark shift for the Bush administration, the United States has sent a climate report to the United Nations detailing specific and far-reaching effects that it says global warming will inflict ... . In the report, the administration for the first time mostly blames ... the burning of fossil fuels that send heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But while the report says the United States will be substantially changed in the next few decades -- 'very likely' seeing the disruption of snow-fed water supplies, more stifling heat waves and the permanent disappearance of Rocky Mountain meadows and coastal marshes, for example -- it ... recommends adapting to inevitable changes." [emphasis mine] Source: New York Times, June 3, 2002
This is starting to sound like the weather diary, and not the garden diary after all, but given the wild weather we've had lately, it's hard not to get caught up in it. Friday started off hot and sunny, but by midafternoon, it became apparent that we were in for more stormy weather. The thunderheads built until 3, when the first of two violent thunderstorms swept through our area, knocking out power and dousing us with more torrential rain. We watched it all from the safety of our porch, our view only partially obscured by the curtain of rain pouring off the roof. Fortunately, the city got power back on before the next round, which occurred about two hours later. Because I am clever, I decided to plant some more annual flower seeds in one of my flower beds about an hour before the storm. I figured it would be a good time to sow since the rain would undoubtedly moisten the soil and perhaps the electricity from the lightning would 'activate' the life essence of my seeds... Or at least, that's what I told myself.
This morning was a bit cooler and very sunny, giving my poor beaten-down plants at least a chance to recover. Some are beyond repair, including the phlox and the wallflowers, which were flattened. But everything else looks ok, for the time being. This afternoon, we had a new weather event, as 40+ mile an hour winds blew in from the west, giving the taller plants a new challenge to face. The irises chose to face this challenge lying down, which was perhaps their only option, but not so nice for the poor gardener who had waited all spring for them to bloom.
The month of May has been truly bizarre from a weather perspective. As a gardener, it's hard to know just what to do. Although our weather up here has been somewhat capricious all year, this month has been extraordinary. Unseasonably cold, then prematurely hot, humid then dry, with everything from violent thundershowers to late snow rounding out the month's flaky weather patterns (I hesitate to call them 'patterns' but that's what the weatherman calls them, and who am I to quibble with conventional jargon?). In any event, I shudder to think what will be next. A hurricane perhaps?
The farmer's market was fun as always, and I happily gathered market pack annuals for my 'shade' bed. These included some very cute pale pink nicotiana, a 6 pack of coleus stuffed with at least a dozen different plants, some red and white impatiens, and lobelia and alyssum to tuck into some of the bigger tubs. I haven't planted them out yet, but I look forward to doing that tomorrow--if the weather holds...
Memorial Day was such a pretty, quiet day that gardening seemed to be an irresistable draw and so that's what I did. I managed to get the columbine and pulmonaria in the ground, where they look very pretty together. After that, I planted all the rest of my annuals. If we get another frost now, I don't know what I can do about it. I'm guessing that we won't, so in went the torenia and coleus in the shade bed, and the basil in the sun bed. Then it was seed time, since only a few of the ones I planted in early May came up. So I planted more sweet peas, godetia, a couple dragon's head, some more borage, a patch of asters and malcolmia, and a whole lot of chamomile. It remains to be seen whether anything can come up in that heavy soil, but again, we shall see. Seeds don't last forever, and I'd rather try them and fail, than have them just get old and stale waiting around for perfect conditions. Some of the seeds I've planted are 3 and 4 years old, so I planted a lot since I can't guarantee viability.
As has become usual for me, the night after I planted all those seeds and seedlings, we had another wild weather event. In short, we were awakened at 3:15 AM by an incredible downpour along with thunder and lightning such as I haven't experienced in years. It felt a bit like being in a war zone, with the crashing and rumbling of thunder around us, and lightning flashing on all sides. The rain kept up at the torrential level for maybe an hour before tapering off. I finally fell asleep again to the sound of the first morning birds, who were probably wondering what hit them. To my amazement, the fragile new plant starts were not nearly squashed, although who knows what happened to the seeds. I hope they didn't all wash away. I've heard it said that this is an El Nino year. So far, I can believe it.
The last few days have been perfectly beautiful, in sharp contrast to the previous weeks. All of nature seems to have perked up with the sun, from the birds and the bugs to the chipmunks and the squirrels. My time in the garden allows me to really enjoy the miracle of the season, the air humming with insects and alive wih the calls of the birds. Being near a woodland, we have battalions of blue jays, cadres of cardinals, as well as a mixed flock of mourning doves, goldfinches, robins, sparrows, and starlings. None of them seem to mind me being around. Our chipmunk is back, and has been boldly patrolling the yard with his cheeks stuffed with whatever it is he eats. I hope he's alert. Usually, the mere sight of me weeding is enough to bring the neighbor cat, who I call Snootchie, strolling down from the hillside from her bird-watching outpost to see what I'm doing out there and to have her little head scratched. Eden could not have been more peaceful or harmonious, or so it seems.
You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned the garden itself. That is because it is in its awkward phase. Not that nice things aren't happening. The wallflower, for instance, that I planted from seed last summer, is now huge and covered with fragrant yellow and bronze blossoms. The lady's mantle is enormous, the lysimachia tall and handsome, and the sage (another seed-grown specimen) almost ready to bloom for the first time. Since the perennials aren't quite there yet, and the annuals are still a little spare, I'm really glad the wildflowers are there to lend a hand. We still have loads of blooming periwinkle and white and purple violets dotting the hillside, while the celandine adds a touch of color to the 'morning sun' bed. Best of all, the dames rocket is getting big rather suddenly, and should be blooming soon. Even the odd dandelion looks cheeky and festive, sticking up in odd spots wherever it's decided to grow. As you might have guessed, I like wildflowers, and always let them have their way. Our lawn is mostly weeds, but so much more interesting to look at than real lawns, with its tiny groves of purple flowering ground ivy, bugle, speedwell, and other frequently despised plants. I let it all grow, except for the competitive weeds in my flower beds, which I remove as soon as they get big enough to be troublesome.
I got a couple new plants at the farmer's market on Saturday. I can't tell which I like better, the native columbine with it's orangy-red spurred flowers or the more exotic pulmonaria which I've coveted for it's sheer weirdness in other people's gardens. I'm building a shade bed, slowly because I'm a little out of my element here. I'm afraid it's going to be a rather mixed bag, with everything from miniature pansies for the sunnier side to tuberous begonias and coleus for the really shady back corners. I wish I'd started some forget-me-nots this year, but you can't have everything. In any event, this plot is starting to take shape. By June, I should have everything in the ground, and then, as with any garden, we'll have to see.
The garden seems to have mostly recovered from the recent snow, and in fact, you'd hardly know that anything happened. Everything seems to have bounced back pretty well, with the exception of the irreparably broken. But now there's a new calamity, if you can call it that. I had planted a number of bulbs -- purple/rose dahlias, red and white glads, and a whole batch of anemones -- up on Solar Hill in what I thought was my garden plot. My upstairs neighbor, who is much enamored of her organic gardener boyfriend, has been letting him garden her plot up on the hill, which is adjacent to mine. But they decided they needed more room for his grand experiment, and so, as she explained to me sheepishly last night, they had annexed my spot without asking me. Did they dig up all my beautiful bulbs, I asked? Yes, she said.
I was crushed. Couldn't even talk to her. Don't want to talk to her now. But I realize that this, of course, is the way of the world. If you want to keep something, you better be there looking after it, or you can be quite sure that someone else will covet what you have and make off with it. It's how people are. Or so I think in my bitterness. But I've made peace with the incident, and in future, I will confine my gardening efforts to such patches of earth over which I have direct control and supervision. That way, when I plant exotic and expensive bulbs, I know that I have at least a chance of seeing them into maturity.
Calamity! A freak late May snowstorm has wreaked havoc on the perennials. Yes, it's true. We went to bed Friday night in 50 degree temps and woke up Saturday to discover that a torrential rainstorm overnight had turned to heavy, wet spring snow by early morning. We awoke to the eerie sound of silence interspersed by occasional drips. Glancing out the window, it looked at first as if rain was still coming down but we soon realized that the heavy silent rain was actually snow, and it had accumulated an inch or more already. I went out to inspect the damage.
It was quiet but drippy and the back garden was strangely altered as the verdant green grass under the trees contrasted with the pure white snow of the open areas. The trees were laden and the lilac bent down to the ground along with all the other shrubs, and alas, my giant valerian plant whose inch-thick main flower stalk was not just bent but broken. The feverfew was similarly abused, as were the phlox and lobelia. There was not much to say. I gathered up the valerian bud and put it in a vase on the porch where perhaps it will still open. But the plant itself has been smited and while it will recover, it will never again be the massive presence it once was. So it is with gardening.
That afternoon, we took a walk around town to survey the damage elsewhere. Although devastating to new growth and overgrown shrubs alike, the spring flowers did look beautiful in the melting snow. And by late afternoon, it had cleared and warmed considerably. For the rest of the week, we have only warmer temps and increased sunshine, all of which should go along way toward balming the garden's various wounds.