Tag Archives: failures

Like Frankie said “I did it my way”

When we first moved into our home back in 2004, it was a complete blank slate in terms of plant life. There wasn’t a tree or shrub to be found. I was excited and beyond terrified at the same time. The options were limitless which unfortunately meant my stress level was also limitless.

Where the hell was I to begin?

Do I become the local drug kingpin and sell narcotics outside the country store and then take that money to buy mature trees?  It was tempting but I wasn’t up to putting the family in danger (although after the success of Walter White on Breaking Bad I may want to hop into my time machine and rethink this one).   

Do I hire a local landscape architect?  My pride wouldn’t allow it.

Do I chunk it off a section at a time and develop a tight plan?  Remind me again what is this term “plan” you speak of?

As expected, I just started buying shrubs and perennials I liked (ignoring my new conditions) and then tried to make them fit based on my whims for that day. In fact, this was the modus operandi for a few years and shockingly, this didn’t work out so well.

As a result, I finally made a concerted effort to consult my many thousands of garden/landscape books and surfed the interwebs determined to come up with a plan. I can remember taking notes on “foundation shrubs” while on the graveyard-feeding shift with my newly born daughter. I was all in and ready to do this the “right” way.  

The first targeted area was the foundation planting at the front of my home. Like a good landscaping scholar, I purchased and planted some wonderfully generic evergreens and had my “bones” filled in. Next, I identified some smaller shrubs that could be placed in front of said “bones”. Finally, I made plans to fill in the remaining voids with sensible annuals for color in the spring/summer. Boo ya!

When all was said and done, I had me my first “garden” at the new home … and holy shit was it awful. I couldn’t believe that I allowed myself to follow such a plan. If I remember correctly, it was around the early summer in 2006 when I realized I needed to start over. Time to do what I like, the so called rules be damned.

I was going to put in deciduous shrubs that exposed the foundation in winter and didn’t care.

I was going to load up on perennials and allow the seedheads and messy foliage to stay on all winter.

I was going to add in ornamental grasses and accept their stubs in spring before the new growth would emerge.

And I did just that … with a number of stops and starts along the way of course . But the important thing was I was going to do what I liked.

Fortunately, I do not have photos of the “early days” of the front bed so my reputation may hold up a bit more than it should. But I do have a photo from a few years ago of my attempt at “doing it my way”:

Not a bad start but nowhere near my final vision.

Now we fast forward to the last year or so where I can honestly say I am finally happy with the results.   

Late spring:

Mid-summer:

Winter:

And from a different angle:

Late spring:

Early fall:

And yet another angle.

Mid-summer:

Mid-fall:

Can I still tweak some things? Absolutely. In fact, I have come up with some ideas just as I am posting this.

I enjoy the constant changing of the shrubs/perennials/grasses throughout the spring/summer/fall and the winter interest is sufficient enough to allow me to make it through those long cold and dark months of December, January and February.

Many other areas in my landscape are nowhere near where I want them to be but it only took me nine years to get the front as I wanted it so we should be good to go around 2049.      

Two plants I am struggling with

My review of this past season’s plant pics continues, and today I am focusing on two plants that I have found to be maddening the last few years. 
In theory, both of these plants should thrive in my wet, clay soil and both have proven to be deer resistant. But, for reasons unknown, they have yet to perform to my modest expectations. And by modest, I’m talking one successful, clean bloom that I can ogle at, even for a day.   
First off, we have Chelone glabra or as I like to call it, White turtlehead. I purchased a bunch of these at a native plant sale a few years back banking on the fact that I could stick them in the ground and forget about them.
Well, not so much.
Each year to date, this native perennial looks healthy all through the late spring and into summer and I get all sorts of fired up when the numerous buds begin to form:         
Only to have it all fall apart literally, overnight:  

It has gone down this same path every year and I am still no closer to determining why. I had been keeping these in full sun so to mix it up a bit, I moved a few to a more “partial shade” area last fall. We’ll see if that has any impact.

Plant #2 is an ornamental grass that excited me like no other when I first read about it. The leaf color on Panicum (Switch Grass) ‘Ruby Ribbons’ looked fantastic and I figured “Hey, it’s a swtich grass, those always work for me.”

To date, the leaf color has been phenomenal as promised:  

But it has never really bloomed in three years and hasn’t reached a height taller than maybe 18 inches. I had moved it a bit early on so I’m sure that played a role in it, but I have left it alone for two years now.

Here’s hoping year three is the lucky one.

Anyone have any feedback on either of these? I’m willing to try anything.

John