Oct 17 2005

confessions of a gardening know-nothing

Published by at 10:09 am under gardening

This weekend I really needed to finish my fall gardening. First of all, I don’t want to forget about my bulbs and then wonder like I did last spring, “Hmm, why aren’t my bulbs coming up?” only to find the bag of them still in the garage where I tossed them. I bought 2 bags of bulbs, 1 bag of 50 tulips, and 1 bag of 50 narcissus. I also still had a flat of pansies to go in. The other three flats of pansies I put in 2-3 weeks ago. Why didn’t I do the whole job then? Because I just love my impatiens, and I wanted the pansies to go where they already were.

Let me back up. To this spring.

I am a novice, know-nothing, BEGINNER gardener. I would say that this year is my first foray into the world of earth. Armed with my “Flower Gardening 1-2-3″ book from Home Depot and all the info on the internet, I took $80 bucks I made from my spring yard sale, and went to Lowes and went all willy nilly buying cool looking stuff.

Let’s see, in the annuals dept I bought purple petunias and pink impatiens. Then I bought a whole mess of perennials: 6 hostas, 3 daylilies, 1 purple butterfly bush, 2 columbines and 2 creeping phlox. With no plan whatsoever, I just planted them wherever I thought they’d look pretty. I have foundation plantings which consist of boxwoods, and evergreen shrubby thingees. Oh, I also have a tree next to our front walk, which despite having the worst infestation of japanese beetles ever KNOWN this summer, is the best looking tree on the block. Behind it is a bush which grows some dark berries of some sort, and there’s another tree off the corner of our house. That’s all the builder gave us.

So, determined to have a pretty yard at this house (the old house we threw down mulch when we felt like it and that was about it). I bought a truck full of plants, and then stopped by a local shop and arranged for 9 cubic yards of mulch to be dumped on the road in front of our house. Yes, NINE cubic yards. I don’t think I have to tell you, even though it will come at the end of the story, it was way way too much.

Anyway, now, some of these plants came from different outings, and were already in the ground before the other plants and mulch were purchased. Three hostas I grouped at the end of the house inside some surrounding boxwood shrubs. One I put right in front of our porch in between 2 boxwood shrubs, and the remaining 2 I put under the gorgeous, though water sucking tree near the entrance of our courtyard. The day lilies I had planted super willy nilly – just wherever I thought they’d look good, with no regard to spacing at all. I can’t remember where 2 of them were, but one was right behind the hosta in front of the porch — no way those two plants should have been in that spot, it was tiny. Anyway, so in those first planting experiences, I realized that underneath the 1/16″ of top soil and other 1/2″ of mulch our builder had so graciously put down, our natural Virginia soil was pretty much clay. Nasty, clumping clay that occasionally had a palette of BLUEishness (it’s a word) that led me to beleive that our builder had probably had the occasional bag of cement bust open in the area. Luckily, the clay compacted ground was releived with the ever-present stones, rocks, and Mt. Rainier, which when struck, had to be dug out of the beds. There were plenty of building materials found as well. Let’s just say, our soil sucks rocks. Literally.

So that was part of the reason I wanted so much mulch. I knew it was going to be more than we needed (though how much more, I had no idea), but it was OK, because I wanted to build these beds up as much as I could so that as the mulch broke down, it would become GOOD dirt, and plenty of it, and I wouldn’t have to try to dig through the cement that is our yard. So in the spring, James and I had a busy couple weekends putting down the mulch, planting all the plants, and then BAGGING up the mulch that we didn’t need and couldn’t give away.

And now here it is, fall – time to look over how everything did and try to assess what next year will be like. It’s funny how some plants were bought at the same time, planted in different spots, and one doubled in size while the other stayed the same. The hostas were like that. The three grouped together really took off, while the 2 under the tree stayed the same, and the other crowded in with the daylily did moderately well. I relocated those three to our isolated tree off the corner of the house, just planted them around the base. The mulch is piled up pretty high, so there should be good drainage for them. The daylilies that were scattered around willy nilly, I transplanted into a grouping together as well. Which leaves me looking at our boxwood shrubs. I just really don’t like them that much. Maybe if our builder had planted them in a row to give a more unified hedge feel, they’d be ok, but as they are, peppered around the beds, they don’t work for me. My first plan was to move some of them to fill in the gaps in front of the front porch, and I even moved one of them a week or two ago to that end, but as I contemplated finishing the job this past weekend, I wasn’t sure if I liked that plan either. Maybe I could just trash them all. Down with boxwoods! That’d be my motto. Then my neighbor Ricky suggested I move them to around our deck – he’s a smart man, that one. I think that’s what I’ll be doing in the spring. I swear, in the spring, I want to pull up everything and just give the ground a good rototilling to work some of the good broken down mulch into the cement-like clay, not to mention get the rocks up where I can just pick them up and toss them. I may do that (Or rather, I may get James to do it for me) in the spring.

Thinking forward to spring, I am going to not bother with petunias. They are lovely, but I don’t want to bother with any of that dead-heading. I am in love with impatiens. I’m thinking of having an all impatiens garden next year. Just have to make sure they’re well watered in the hot season, and they’re good to go.

I have been collecting seeds, though. Petunia seeds, impatiens seeds, daylilies, even the salvia that was in my hanging basket. I’ve read that impatiens never really breed very true, and the plant you get may be very different from the plant you had, when you’re dealing with seeds. Cuttings are the way to go with impatiens, and I’ve been doing a lot of cuttings. I even experimented with just taking a cutting, sticking it into a pot with potting soil, and keeping it well watered, and they’ve done fine. Bit droopy in the beginning, but they all came through. I plan on bringing them inside before the end of Oct (oh my god, where am I going to put all these? eek) and plant them again in the spring.

Anyway. I think I got quite a bit off track there — this past weekend, I finally pulled up the last of my impatiens, except for the few that were under the nice tree, which were fine, and planted the last of my pansies and about half of my bulbs. The problem with bulbs, is I’m still not quite sure what I’m going to do in the spring, so I’d hate to plant bulbs where I will eventually be planting something else. That’s just a waste of bulbs! So I limited myself to around both trees, and at the corner of the house where I knew I wasn’t going to be mucking around that much. I have a lot of bulbs left over, so… I guess I’ll see how forcing them works, even though they don’t bloom until mid-spring! (I’ve heard it works best with bulbs that bloom early spring.)

Anyway. I really need to make a plan and stick with it, methinks. That, and rent a rototiller in the spring. Oh yeah!

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