I almost had one of those moments this past week.
Those moments that usually hit every month or so.
Those moments that make me want to give up, throw in the trowel and take up an easier hobby like knitting.
I walked outside and looked at:
1)The peony blooms that should have been there (thank you deer):
2)The small puddles that never seem to dissipate:
3)And an overall lack of blooms for this time of year.
I felt myself starting to get pissed off.
Why do I pour my heart and soul into this "hobby" only to get wickedly frustrated? Is it all worth it? Couldn't I focus on something else that was more rewarding, both mentally and financially?
I want to be able to walk in to the nursery and think that every plant there is an option. But I know that is a pipe dream. Butterfly bush? Not with your drainage. How about that Sambucus? Deer will destroy it. That Salvia is sweet, right? Ain't going to work and you know it.
I was about to have a mini-meltdown when I caught myself and stopped. Hmmmmm ... maybe that ever elusive adult maturity had finally arrived? I AM going to be 40 in three weeks.
I took a deep breath and all of my past gardening ventures passed before my eye (just a bit of hyperbole for effect here). The voices in my head screamed, "Think about how far you have come you dope" and "How much have you learned in the past decade alone?" and "Stop your bitching and keep pushing on".
As I reflect back on how I've had to deal with rough growing conditions out in the garden and what it has taught me, I figured it was the perfect blog post topic. So let's do this:
The embracing of native plants
I'm not going to lie, I've only started focusing on the use of native plants within the past few years. When you have a somewhat limited choice of plants because of your conditions, logic points to using those plants that currently thrive in your region. Pretty obvious stuff; just took this blockhead a few years to realize it.
As an example, when shopping for a new tree last spring, I approached it intelligently and logically and ended up choosing the native and moisture loving Serviceberry. And I've been thrilled with it's multi-seasonal interest already:
Another native that has survived wet feet and has been ignored by the deer is Joe Pye Weed:
As I've mentioned in the past, it has become a regular ritual for me the past few years to scour the local native plant sales for plants that fit my conditions and I've learned about plants I never would have heard of before. Which leads me to my next point.
Forced research and education
For those of you lucky to have great soil and no critters, it must be great to plant shop and not have to think too much about it. I've learned over the years that I cannot do that. I never trust what the plant tags have to say. I get myself all educated on-line to know the truth about plants. Can they survive wet feet in winter? Are they able to withstand non stop sun throughout the year? Are they REALLY deer proof?
This "forced education" has loaded my head with great info that I can carry with me wherever I go. I even find myself offering up advice to other shoppers at the nursery or to friends and family. No more blind and naive plant shopping for this guy.
Creating an environment where wildlife can thrive
This has everything to do with native plantings and I can attest to the fact that as soon as I
Admittedly, I am twisting the definition of micro-climate a bit here but stick with me.
As certain plants have failed to thrive for me over the years, I have moved them to new locations as a desperate attempt to keep them alive and to justify the money I've spent on them.
As I did this, I discovered that certain areas of my yard had soil that drained better than others so I could take advantage of that.
I also found areas that were more difficult for the deer to penetrate so I could successfully grow some plants that deer typically chow down on.
And some times, the same plant was affected by both of the factors above. Like with my Sedum 'Autumn Fire':
I am located in zone 6B but have found more sheltered areas in the yard where I can overwinter plants that are supposed to only survive to zone 7. Again, this was discovered through trial and error and failure of plants to survive my conditions. My Carex 'Cappuccino' is a perfect example:
Appreciation when a plant does thrive
It isn't fun bringing home beautiful plants only to watch them suffer and die once they have been put in the ground. It can be demoralizing. But when a plant loves its conditions and grows like mad, you learn to truly appreciate that moment.
The discovery of ornamental grasses
Ornamental grasses were made to live in my yard. They are tough as nails and the deer always ignore them. As I've come to rely on them as the backbone of my garden, I've also realized just how many unique and versatile cultivars there are:
Appreciation of foliage
By addressing the deer and the poorly draining soil, I've created a garden that is based mostly on foliage. Plants that fit into that criteria (ornamental grasses) are generally foliage driven. And that is OK.
Gardens designed mostly by leaf shape and size look good longer and have more depth. While I love flowers as much as the next guy, it is the shape, color and texture of foliage I am after:
So, in conclusion, while I may have cursed my way through gardening over the years and complained like a baby along the way, I wouldn't have changed a thing. It has taught me more than I ever would have imagined and has allowed me to truly appreciate all that I've got.
Sounds like a lesson that applies to all walks of life, huh?