Garden slip-ups are, without a doubt, one of the easiest topics for me to write about since I have single-handedly made just about every blunder that a gardener possibly could. As I've mentioned in earlier blogs, I did not grow up in a gardening family; my love of perennials came unexpectedly out of left field. Without a mentor I learned to garden by the trial-and-error method. Some of my gardening ideas worked (luck), but many others were an epic fail. It was then that I borrowed books from the library. The gardening books helped me achieve a much better outcome. And why is it that we never read instructions until we screw up or can't figure something out? Human nature, I guess.
Here are a few of the things I've learned (the hard way):
Grateful living is happy living. Every year at this time I like to take time to reflect on things that made me smile or feel grateful over the past year. Here's my list:
Pictured above: Minneapolis sophisti-cat 'Sophie,' a shelter rescue who now lives the life of a princess
The human eye can distinguish between millions of different colors. Regardless of whether you are familiar with color theory or color wheels, most gardeners just know or feel when certain color combinations work together and other combinations don't. And much of that 'know-or-feel' has to do with personal preference. Some gardeners love the monochromatic look (all white flowers, for instance), while others may just plant pastels, or perhaps vibrant oranges, yellows and reds. Any of these looks can be very appealing. Your garden visitors may think it was pure luck that the colors, sizes and shapes all go together and look great. I'll admit there are moments of serendipity when perfectness just happens, but most of us gardeners work very hard to have our plants play nicely together.
Every summer I run around the garden picking blooms and comparing them with other blooms, trying to determine which color combos go together best. This is why I juggle plants around every fall; I keep trying to make what I think looks good, better. For this reason I keep detailed information about every plant that I grow, including each plant's size, bloom time (start-to-finish), bloom size, and color. So in addition to my personal preferences, I use data to help me make decisions. And herein lies the challenge...even when you have all of this information at your disposal, Mother Nature provides variances. You can make an educated guess about what you think should happen, but ultimately she holds the reins! That being said, Mother Nature never stops me from continually trying to get it right.
Pictured: Daylily 'Spacecoast Cherries and Cream' with its companion 'Echinacea Double Delight'
After a long winter, which continued through the month of April, gardening in Wisconsin proves to be an exercise in delayed gratification. And there's nothing whatsoever I can do -- Mother Nature has the reins. My job is to move the plants around, get rid of the weeds, add mulch, and wait. Looking around the garden, I see lots and lots of scapes, but hardly any flowers yet. Is it really the end of June? The *wait* part is getting harder and harder by the day. So it looks like delayed gratification isn't my only issue; add whining to the list!
Pictured is my old faithful 'Moonlit Masquerade,' one of only four daylilies blooming in my yard on June 24.
The great thing about growing daylilies is that no matter what your income level is, you can find one to fit your budget. There are so many exceptional daylilies available that you can purchase for $10 and under. And on the other end of the spectrum, there are trend-setting daylilies you can buy for up to $300. After a daylily has been out on the open market for a while, the purchase price gradually decreases over time as new cultivars are introduced each year.
When I was first bitten by the daylily bug my kiddos were in elementary school. At that time I remember feeling guilty that I spent more money than I should have on a daylily. Should I have bought school clothes instead? I ultimately decided that the new daylily made me a happier Mom. How's that for rationalization?
Although I'm still not in a place to afford triple-digit daylily prices, that doesn't dampen my enthusiasm by any means. I just have to wait a little longer to get what's on my wish list. As it stands right now, I am perfectly happy getting the seven and eight-year-old daylilies. As each year passes, hybridizers come up with more and more innovative, cutting-edge daylilies. Consequently, there is always yet another daylily that I must have -- it's a never-ending cycle.
Pictured: Daylily 'Signs and Wonders.' At the time I bought this pretty, it was my biggest splurge to date. Sorry? Not really.
It's one thing to have a flower garden, and quite another to keep it weed-free. Simplifying my garden over the last two years has saved me so much time and effort. Since I don't like clutter, I'm not sentimental about what I keep and what I don't keep. I made the decision to focus on my daylilies, because they are what I truly love. I only have a finite amount of time available to keep things looking nice so I made some changes. Here's what I did:
Removed the 40 foot long split-rail fence. Fences are weed magnets. What a back-breaker crawling under and around a fence trying to remove weeds. This never bothered me 20 years ago, but that was then and this is now. Ange helped me pull the fence posts out, fill up the holes with dirt, and haul the fence posts and rails away with our John Deere lawn tractor. Best decision ever! In addition, there is much more air flow for my daylilies which they have really responded to.
Goodbye Garden Phlox. Garden phlox are fragrant and pretty from a distance, but up close they were -- I'll just say 'not pretty.' Every year they got powdery mold and mildew. I was not willing to put in the time to get rid of the mold and mildew year-after-year. As they grew and spread they would get entangled with Creeping Charlie and crabgrass; then the ticks moved in.
Ditto to Bee Balm. I know hummingbirds and butterflies love them, but unfortunately I don't. They have tender shallow little roots that constantly got tangled up with weeds. I got tired of re-planting them each time I weeded and accidentally pulled them out. They got powdery mold and mildew too , even in full sun.
The flowers in the above two photos are long gone. Last summer was the first time that weeding was easily doable. And I thought my garden was still beautiful, even without the fence, the phlox and the bee balm.
Persistence is a trait that those of us who garden are very well-versed in. There's not much about a garden that doesn't involve hard core persistence. You may love flowers. You may imagine having flowers. You may have motivation. But in the end, it's persistence that does all the hard work.
Since I learned to garden by the trial and error method, I've had countless failures along the way. My thumb doesn't always glow green. Far from it! But I do find that with continued effort I can eventually achieve the end product I imagined, or pretty darn close to it.
“Success is not the absence of failure; it's the persistence through failure.” ~ Aisha Tyler
Persistence will be rewarded. My flowers thank me every year. And it is beyond exciting when the blooms arrive!
Pictured: Daylily 'Andy Candy'
I've learned that it's the small things that are important in life, as is living gratefully. Since the year is winding down, I took a look back and came up with ten moments of 2017 that made me feel grateful. Here they are:
Pictured: My fashionista-granddaughter's feet/shoes. She can 'up-style' absolutely anything!
Now that the cold weather has arrived in Wisconsin, my ability to imagine is the only garden activity that is going on. And I can do 'imagine.' I'm well into my favorite activity of list-making to keep track of what needs to happen in my garden during 2018. After all, you've got to have a plan before you can make things happen. I'm sure many, if not all of you gardeners have a similar mindset.
Here's what I've come up with so far:
Pictured: A close-up of the double daylily 'Buckeye Barnstormer'
Over the years I've grown some of my own daylily seedlings. And to be honest, most of them were disappointingly pedestrian. One thing for sure, it gave me a glimpse of the scope involved in hybridizing an award-winning daylily -- all the hours of research, pollinating, seed collecting, planting, weeding and evaluating. What a methodical, detailed labor of love it is.
So I'm that person who does nothing more than grow, enjoy, and appreciate the daylilies. How wonderful for me, that I can simply pick out a daylily--any size, color, or shape--whatever my heart desires. I can simply purchase, plant, and behold the beauty. It can't get any easier than that. I'm glad there are so many hybridizers out there doing all of the really hard work; call me grateful!
Pictured: Daylily 'Raspberry Goosebumps'
Logically, I know plant performance boils down to what zone you live in, weather/temperature, soil quality, fertilizer, water, and exposure to sun. In addition there are differences between evergreen, semi-evergreen, and dormant daylilies. But honestly, there are days I could swear a few of my daylilies have attitudes. The adage "bloom where you are planted" holds true for the vast majority of my plants, but there are definitely some holdouts. I can transplant one daylily and it joyfully continues to bloom away, seemingly unaffected by the change. I can do the same with another, and it will be sensitive, pout for a year and maybe even forego blooming entirely, just to let me know that it is not happy with the change.
Just as attitude is important in the workplace, it is in my garden is as well. I like to keep my daylily family well-adjusted, happy, and all working toward the same mission -- unbridled bloom!
Pictured is 'Betty Woods,' a dormant, diploid double. She is most certainly beautiful, but despite her multiple awards Betty was a poster child for an indifferent attitude in my garden. After years of temperamental behavior she was adopted by my friend Becky. I am happy to report that she appears to be much happier in Becky's garden. Oddly enough, sometimes that's all it takes.
As much as gardening makes me happy, there are a few things I find somewhat annoying.
Here's my top ten:
Pictured: Daylily 'Green Mystique' inundated with Japanese beetles
Peak bloom is over in Wisconsin, even though some of my late daylilies are still blooming. For whatever reason, my garden never seems to grow exactly the way I planned or imagined it to. As hard as I try, there are always those areas that need to be fixed. Sound familiar? As the season winds down, I have started my list for fall transplanting and dividing. It's my annual attempt to make my flower garden look even better next year. Those of you who garden know how painstaking the decisions can be. Especially when you are dealing with the ever-present trifecta of size, color, and bloom time being different for each individual plant. In addition, there are so many variations in soil and location (even within my own yard) that can impact the plant's growth, not to mention weather and temperature!
Questions I have asked myself:
I rest assured knowing that Mother Nature always gives me a second (third, and fourth) chance to get it right. So as long as I'm able, I'll just keep on trying...thanks Mom!
Pictured: Daylily 'Carnival in Mexico'
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