Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Beauty of Established Plants and Adapting My Garden

Beebalm 'Jacob Cline', blue ceramic grouper looking on.
 Grouper has been "looking on" for over ten years now.  He has seen plants come and seen plants go.  In the Long Border, a plant really has to be on the top of its game to put on any sort of show.  There is just too much competition from other plants seeking advantageous sunlight and nutrients.  This year, this has also kept the weeds from over-running the garden.

I realize this year many of the plants in my garden are over ten years old.  This is an established garden, with an experienced gardener.  I have some bare patches this years, which I also know is unusual.  And it is time to change it up, and make it an easier garden to care for.

As summer has progressed, I am able to raise my injured hip (and leg with foot) high enough to get to the top of my shovel, which had always been my go-to tool in the garden, even for planting a smallish perennial.  While I am able to lift and place, applying any sort of pressure to extract a tough weed or move a woody well-rooted shrub-- it's just not happening.  In well composted, well-worked soil, no problem; but gardeners have all faced the particularly tenacious weed or shrub.  This week, a burdock, at my brother's showed me my place.  I am still not "well".  I may never be 100 percent again.  I may always walk with a cane.  Mowing my lawn may always be mind-numbing.  Dragging the watering hose may always be a struggle.

Hydrangea 'Quickfire'

Native pagoda dogwood, I love the woodland feel this plant evokes.

Hosta 'Blue Mouse Ears' in its pine needle "mulched" bed.
Many years I carefully remove the pine needles and mulch with medium sized pine nuggets.  It is more elegant, more toward the idea of a display garden.  Pine needles can be messy, but they are free and there is no labor involved, dropping as they do from my pine above the hosta bed.  Sometimes when sweeping off the walk, I brush or swipe them off the larger hostas.
'Red Jade' crabapple
Carefully trimming out the water sprouts from the top of the crabapple so the amazing form of my weeping crabapple stays contained was doable, even with my less than good reaching abilities.  But taking things down so I don't have to climb a step ladder using my cane to trim larger specimens or removing them entirely is something I may have to come to terms with.  In my area finding a skilled pruner is not an easy task.  Tree trimmers lop off limbs and tops leaving shrubs and trees misshapened in their confined spaces.  It is not a tasks a particular gardener can easily outsource.

I also realize throwing money at my garden may be part of my solution.  Buying lighter hoses, installing a semi-automatic watering system, hiring my lawn mowing done.  These are things I may need to do.  Not this year, with not working for over six months, though.

Time, this growing season, has also been at a premium.  I have been taking classes, albeit online, to retrain myself for a career which does not place quite so much of an onus on my mobility.  I also taught summer school, which I was excited to do.  Physically, it stretched my limits.  It also put limits on the time I could devote to gardening.

My best tool this year, is turning out to be a portable, lightweight, fold-able garden bench.  I can prune and weed while seated.  I can also pick it up and scoot along while weeding.  Its construction also makes it stable when I am tipping far forward to grab at weeds at arm's length.  And it supports my weight when I need a nearby chair, because I must rest now.

So changes in my garden?

More hydrangea, some of which require little or no pruning or trimming, but really put out the flowers. Hydrangea like 'Quickfire' and "'Unique', or 'Limelight'.  More plants that form nice ground shading clumps which will keep weeds at a standstill.  More liliums, they seem to be thriving under these harsh weather conditions.  I will be letting my pine continue to mulch my hosta garden, but fertilizing and watering it a bit more so both have the nutrients they need.

Next year I will have fewer containers unless they are hooked up to a watering system so I can water by timer or the twist of a faucet.  I will continue to add clematis of the sort which need no pruning or a one-time follow-up in the spring.

Changes, hopefully for the better.

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