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Sunday, August 5, 2007

Garden Notes

Well, the heat's finally broken, so I went out and did some cleanup in the garden this morning. It occurs to me I haven't really posted anything about my garden yet, so here goes.

I rent, but my landlord is perfectly happy to let me putter about in the beds that were left here when he bought his house and moved away. (In addition, my downstairs neighbor is currently dealing with a newborn and a near two-year-old, so she's left any and all garden maintenance up to me.)

My backyard is quite shady. There's actually a bed back there, but other than a Solomon's Seal my mother liberated from the house I grew up in before she sold it, I haven't planted anything there, because once the trees fill in, there really isn't enough light to grow anything. In the spring, there are lily of the valley and muscari, but that's about it other than weeds, and the hostas in the deep shade at the foundation. So what I do do in the back is a selection of potted shade plants near the back stairway. They're able to get a couple of hours of sun in the afternoon, so do alright back there.

This potted collection has begun to rival my houseplant collection (actually, the begonia is on its third summer after overwintering indoors, and the oxalis, which is new this year, will be coming in for the winter as well). I've had to do a bit of repotting this year. My mother gave me a pulmonaria this Spring, which has quickly overgrown the initial pot I put it in. I put it in a new pot today, which will hopefully help its water retention issues. I also had to repot my Frances Williams hosta. It's the oldest of the three hostas here (four summers old). It was doing splendidly last year, and even bloomed for the first time last summer. However, this year, it barely sprouted at all. The soil was looking a smidge compacted (I do do a bit of tilling every Spring when the pots come out of the garage, but it clearly needed more than that), so I repoted it. Strangely, most of the root system was completely dead. Really strange, but it's in a new pot now, and seems happier.

I'm actually much more invested in my back garden, because I can control what's in it, and the shade controls the maintenance, but the main part of my garden is technically the side garden along our driveway.

This is my problem child garden. Because it's on the driveway, it's very often very hot (the southern exposure doesn't help that). In addition, there are a number of pre-existing plants that I have to work around (I'm not allowed to rip anything out that's already there). I actually like the coreopsis, but I'd happily cut out the ivy behind it. And I love the climbing rose (you can just barely see the trellis on the wall behind the white sign), even though it's well past the point where it can be easily pruned the way it should be.

My nemesis is the rugosa rose at the front of the bed. The first year I lived here, I discovered both a clematis and iris living in the middle of the mess. I've since mercilessly cut it back every year, but the labor is wearying. I'd happily put a flame-thrower to it if I could.

The iris in the front are at this point running into the hostas that border the front yard. These hostas are ancient. I tried to divide one of them one year, and nearly killed myself trying to just detach a small piece from the side of the crown. Again, I'd love to rip those out and transplant them elsewhere, but they're here to stay.

The other semi-annoying thing is the large number of daffodils in the side garden. They're lovely in the Spring, but the foliage takes forever to die down, and because I've tried to avoid putting anything into the ground that I wouldn't want to leave there if we had to move in the middle of the winter, I've yet to find something I could plant in there to cover the foliage while it's on its way out.

Anyhoo, this year, I planted a number of cosmos, but for some reason, half of them just grew up completely straight, and have refused to flower. This happened in my Dad's garden last year as well. I really have to figure out what's causing it. I ripped the effected half out today. I'll have to run by a couple greenhouses and see if there's anything I can put in a pot or two or three that will fill those holes.

I also broke down and bought some dahlias this year. I hadn't wanted to before, as I'd like to be able to overwinter the tubers, and I'm pretty sure my basement won't be a good a place to do that, but I found a couple of inexpensive ones this year, so decided I might as well give them a try. I'll attempt to overwinter, but won't be terribly upset if they don't make it. I really like the autumn fairy dahlia, which was the first one I bought, but the second to bloom.

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