Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Beginner's Reflection of the Past Year

I have only been gardening for 11 months.  Some people would say that I am "gardener", a "green-thumb" or a "rosarian."  I cringe at the concept.  I suppose from a layman's perspective it would appear that I am, but nothing could be further from the truth.  There have been weeks that I watered for HOURS DAILY.  I am certain that if I had done things right, that would not have been I have learned some things that I wanted to share.  

Annuals- Some people do not have the luxury of 15 acres to play with like I do.  But if you are a beginner like me, annuals are a great way to get your feet wet for a variety of reasons.

  1. They give instant gratification.
  2. They give you an indicator of what the soil conditions are.  I want to caveat that what might be good for one plant might not be good for another however, they do give you an idea.
  3. They give you an idea of how colors look or sizes or how colors look together.
  4. Finally, it's a non-committal way of getting an instant garden and if you mess up, no worries, there is always next year.
I have areas that I think can be spectacular but I know I am not knowledgeable enough to a great job so I plant non-committal plants.  Moreover, if I plant a perennial and it didn't work, I don't have to fool with moving it later (as I have).
Some sunflowers did very poorly but some  sunflowers planted here did very, very well.

Some did okay.

This was a bad spot to plant flowers but Mexican sunflowers were really good at growing in a very sandy, hot, dry spot.  This just happens to be a plant that works well here.

This was a spot I am glad I planted annuals....It was beautiful and I got to see what heights and colors I liked but I also determined that I wanted a different concept here....good things their annuals.

There is more than one way to skin a cat.  I, probably, did what most beginners do.  I like this plant and it would look great in that spot.  So, I am going to dig a hole and put that plant in that spot.  If you have read anything, you know in the back of your mind that you need to test the soil, and compost, double dig, put in a rain gauge, irrigate it, put a border, bring in an alarm system, spray it, fertilize it, threaten congress not to ban the item..yeah, I am getting silly....  the novice in me goes, "it's a plant!"  They grow in the wild without any help from anyone.  Well, I think it's somewhere in the middle.  You have to ask why you want the plant there?  Are you wanting to have something pretty to look at or do you really think THAT plant right there!  It might, very well, do great there.  I have had that happen.  HOWEVER, I have a lot of instances were it did not.  I have planted things in places that I knew full well that the plant would struggle.  As a result, I have made mother nature my daily enemy.  Do you like the plant or do you like the spot?  Let's take the plant first.  If you really like the plant (like roses) what do you like it for?  To cut, to see, for it to be a part of the landscape for others to see?  First determine, why you like the plant and what you want to do with it.  If it's to cut, find a better spot (if the one you are looking doesn't work).  To see....what are your options, as part of the landscape?   You are, probably, saying all of the above.  Well, you have a couple of options...dig a hole and plant could work. What if it's not a great spot?  Well, (remember I am a novice so I may very well be absolutely wrong) you might want to change the environment i.e. amending soil or a bed to make it work.)  I have learned that if I am bent on it being there and I know that it won't fare well...that I am going to be doing a lot of work to make it work.  Do what you want, but bear in mind, you may have to work to pay the price of what you want.  What if it is just the spot?  Will another plant work there....maybe the spot is too hot, cold, shady or sunny or perhaps another landscape feature? What if you put pole in and had hanging plants instead.  If you want something pretty in the spot, think "outside the box."  What's an easier way to get what I want?  I have learned that front end work makes all the difference.  The last year I had a beautiful garden but I was burnt out by the fall.  This year, I was determined not to work as hard so that I could do the gardening things I enjoy....I am not as disciplined as I sound.  However, I am putting in an irrigation system because I just didn't like watering that much when I want to take the time taking care of the individual plants.

This was the drive split before my house...I am all about things looking natural but they were unruly and hard to maintain...I just wanted it pretty and the flower eventually hid my I opted to put something else there...

Now, its pretty and I don't have to fool with plants...I didn't put in fish just to replace one problem with another.

And now, I can see my Savannah bird girl without distraction ..

Watering-   I do not have this concept down at all...I did learn that flowers are like pregnant women.  They are attempting to make a baby (ie flowers so they can seed) and as a result they need the resources to do this.  I watered a lot more than I thought I needed but not initially.  When I water twice as much, I was showered in flowers.  I have yet to know what the correct amount is but I know that initially it wasn't enough.

Feeding- I will be the first one to admit that I overfed my plants..or did I?  I am not an expert in this area either but I will say that Bayer 3-1 rose food was the best invention ever.  The first time I used it, my plants came to life.  Plants are just like any other creature on earth (in an elemental sense).  It wants to first survive and then procreate.  If it's under stress, it is struggling to survive.  You wouldn't want to become pregnant if food was an issue, right?  Once the survival needs are met, the next step is to procreate.  To you and I, a flower is something to enjoy but a flowering plant is attempting to make a it needs the resources to do so.  This means food if its not getting it from the soil.

Deadheading and pruning-  As mentioned in the last paragraph, a flower's job is to make seed.  If you remove spent blooms, it says hey!  I didn't make seeds...I need to make another flower.  I discover that cutting plants also makes them go into high gear.  Unfortunately, I did this at the wrong time.  A co-worker of my husbands gave me a full rose plant with flowers on it.  It didn't have water all day and it was late fall.  My logic says that it can't be pregnant and try to survive at the same time..  I commenced to cutting off all the flowers and cutting down the bush.  In doing so, it attempted to rejuvenate in the dead of winter.  I am not convinced I was wrong in getting rid of the flowers, but perhaps, I would not have cut down the stalks...because now it's attempting to rejuvenate fast...if this were spring, I would say it was the right thing to do...but since it's winter....I am not sure if it was a good idea...that being said...plants rejuvenate when you cut them..but I don't recommend it when they are trying to go dormant.  The rose bush is doing fine, though.

Ornamental trees and other slow growing perennials-  How long do you plan on being in the place where you are placing the plants?  Are you not sure?  Are you planning on up sizing or downsizing?  Are you going to have less time in the future?  I plan on being in my home till I die.  I am not yet forty so that leaves me a good 50 years.  There is a cemetery next door where I intend on being haunt my gardens ( or my husband's new wife if I die first ....heheheheh).  That being said, I have opted for things that are beautiful that don't require much maintenance.  I planted dogwoods, saucer, azaleas, bradford pears, and name a few.  A lot of these are slow growing and once, planted, you are a bit committed.  However, since I plan on being here forever, I wanted beautiful flowers that required little maintenance and a lot of beauty with patience....just bear in mind, you can be committed...and space it for it's mature size....don't think, oh I'll just prune it if it gets too big...we all get busy or our priorities don't plant them in front of windows or other places that could be an issue later.  The upside is that if you abandon gardening, they will still be there.
The camellias have been low maintenance but are in bloom at New Year's.

Evergreen shrubs-  Flowers are wonderful, but it's a wonderful concept to have a back drop.  I planted roughly 20 junipers that I made into arches....The idea is to have a wall of junipers with walkways through them that I can place statuettes in the future.  They are a great backdrop, look great in the winter, compartmentalize large areas, and give a sense of "I meant this to be here."

This may not be your style but I love the idea.

Seasonality-  I hate (or anywehre), we have no snow.  So everything looks dead....When you plant, when is it in bloom?  Does it bloom just one time of year, all year or just in summer (or what have you)?  First, if you love color and miss the color you had, I LOVE rye's amazing what something I ignored all year suddenly has my attention.  Also, depending on your zone there are many things that will grow at different times of the year...a lot of my ornamental shrubs (ie dogwoods, azealeas, iris, lillies, daffodils) will bloom in early spring and although I don't have the all the colors when I was dripping flowers, everything still looks alive.
I am a beginner so I had no idea flowers grow in winter, this is a left over from a wildflower bed that has grown on my own with zero help from me.

Rye grass makes things look alive

The hyrdas aren't as pretty as November but the grass is much greener than ever before...I have actually had to mow.

Infrastructure-   This is my word for "having your cake and eating it, too.   I "fell" into gardening.  My first plants I believe were Encore Azaleas.  The front of the house had overgrown trees and once I removed the underbrush the house looked "naked"  so on Jan. 20, 2011...eleven months after this post ( a little more) I planted some.  I went on to plant Endless Summer Hydrangeas. When I planted the hydras I thought I planted sticks in the ground.  I posted these on Facebook.  My mother said," you need to make it a bed or you are going to have problems." I'm gracing 40 but I am still a mother's child so I, reflexively argued with her.  She was right.  I made it a bed.  I went on further to put a irrigation system and a water timer....If I had to name one time saving tool that is awesome, it's a water timer .  If the bed's maintenance was at a 10, it went down to a 3.  Not only did the bed look more attractive, the irrigation system  made it almost maintenance free.  It was prettier and the irrigation system and timer made it so where I didn't have to worry about it very much.  Let me be a child and say the irrigation system was my idea (smile).  I had a lot of  time on my hands and lost 25 lbs., so it was wonderful to water and mow, etc for most of the day.  That being said, I would like to have a beautiful garden without watering so much.   Right now, I am planning an irrigation system.  I loved taking care of my plants but I got burnt out.   I have 24 roses going in the ground that people have told me to plant.  I am not quick to do this now.  I know that I love them and I want a touch more planning so I can spend more time admiring them and less time giving them life sustaining ingredients.  Right now, those roses are in my greenhouse.  I am putting in bed and irrigation systems..  Am I going to get a plant and put it in the ground...probably but centralizing plants with similar water needs saves a whole lot of headache if you are doing it on the scale that I am.
Encores azalea shortly after I put them in the ground and my first plants

The sticks I was convinced I put in the ground before the bed

My flower beds after I put the "bed" in

Dark mulch is prettier but hotter down the irrigation systems were a  "god send" for them.

I put the irrigation systems in....they took off
It was more attractive and prettier to have the bed, water timer and irrigation systems.   

Focal Points-  Ever look at pretty garden pictures on Pinterest or some other website.   There is, always, something you are looking at.   I intended to plant a ton of flowers that brought beauty to the place but I discovered I (in some cases more than other) created something called focal points.  Sometimes less IS more.  If you plant a ton of flower it's pretty but becomes marginalized.  After reading a lot, I discovered some people mentioned focal points.  I realized that the prettiest places in my gardens were ones that drew the eye to you.  You don't have to plant a hundred flowers to have a beautiful scenery.  You just need something to draw the eye.  The following are examples....I am not suggesting they are great but when I put things in place, I didn't realize this concept...but I walk my gardens a lot.  Where does the eye draw you?

In this case, my eye is drawn towards the fountain spitter

In this picture, my eye is drawn towards the path

Now my eye is drawn the to path that leads to the bench

In this picture, my eye notices the hanging lantern

In this picture, my eye is drawn to the tree

In the drive towards my house, my eye is drawn to the lantern.

Another lantern...I am not saying to hang a ton of lanterns, but what is the eye drawn to?

You tell me?  The hammock?

The planter

You see a bunch of stuff..but the eye is searching

The tree

The wildflowers on the what I see in this.

This starts to get busy...but if you are driving you see the lantern

The tree and the rocks

This is a high lantern that def draws the eye

This gets busy again but I see the lanterns and the mums (the roses on the other side seem ignored)  however my eye is being led.  I think this is too colorful for my preference.

I am not an expert on any of this, but I can say that with focal points ....less can be more.

Tropicals-  I believe I read on Roses and Other Gardening Joys  blog something called "pushing the zone"  I may have read it somewhere else but I think I read it there.  My mother gave me a ton of plants for my new garden, where I dug a whole and put it in the ground, having no idea what it was...much to my suprise some of them were beautiful.  When other people starting visiting my gardens..,.they mention that it won't survive the winter....hibiscus, plumeria, cassia, bougainvilleas...whether they survive it or not I am not sure.  It has been a mild winter and I have the luxury of a 12 x 24 greenhouse (my husband built for me as a Xmas present).  However, that being may want to find out how it handles the winter before making it a permanent part of your landscape.  You may have to treat it as an annual or fill up your greenhouse, or cover it.

I didn't know what this was my husband built it for me over my stawberries..but I believe it's called a cold frame.
I put visqueen ( I meaning my husband...he is soooo awesome isn't he...too bad ladies..he's taken) around it and  it is covered when it freezes
My green house filled up quickly with plants I got on roses! and other things that I am not sure belonged in here.
Plumeria...I planted it in the wrong spot in the first place so it never bloomed and it lost its leaves in the green house but I think its still alive.Volunteer Plants-   As mentioned before I live on 15 acres.  I have the pleasure of having plants the I call (plants I don't have to.... with).  These are the wild indigenous plants like beauty berry, magnolia trees, and camellias that have flown over from next door. I, also, planted plants that invasive like grape hyacinth, liliesMexican petunias, and cashmere bouquet...  these plants are invasive ( a lot of them).  If you are like me you appreciate any flowers that you don't have to mess with the fact that you didn't have to plant new ones.....I say this now because I have a lot of acres to cover...however, in the future...I can see that they might be a pain but for now..they really work for me...and if they are a pain in the least it's a flower and not an ugly weed, right?  I, also, planted a lot of wildflowers which I am sure will haunt me in the future.
The Mexican heather is in on the corner of the bed and had a ton of babies...these grew fast and crowded out my azaleas...I pulled them up and stored them in the greenhouse....the bees LOVE them and they had tons of "babies"

Mexican petunia...super hardy plant behind it is wild goldenrod.

Cashmere bouquet...sometimes called Mexican hydrangea is VERy invasive

Tons of Yaupon Holly on the property

Bad photo but tons of Beauty berry on the property that make excellent cuttings for arrangement

Grooming-  If you haven't followed this blog, I mentioned that the property, where I live, used to be an illegal dump site.  I "fell" into gardening cleaning it up.  The house is beautiful (not my style) but its really pretty when it's clean.  I am not saying I am filthy but I am not a neat freak.  I think a landscape falls into this category   Cleaning up all the debris off the property, trimming the underbrush of the trees blocking views of the house, creek, driveway, was probably made the most impact of the changes I made.  Even if you don't have an awesome botanical garden, mowed grass, trimmed hedges, pulled weeds (and a clean house) makes all the difference in the world.

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