The wheel of the gardening year has turned a notch as we pass from the fresh days of late spring to the warmth of early summer. Now the roses are opening, and the fat lily buds are ready to burst. A wonderful time! Wonderful, but as I tour the garden I have to face that some of it has gotten away from me and needs rehabilitation. Gardens can slide to rack and ruin quickly! My aim this summer is to identify areas that need TLC, and to show the befores and afters here.
So first of all, here is the little segment of the garden that needs rehab, and it needs it bad.
I almost can’t catalog all the problems here, but just for starters there are weeds, and the dusty branches of an unkempt lilac bush brushing the ground, as well as a horrible columbine suffering from leaf miner, and a couple of plants (a sedum and butterfly weed) that were fine when they were planted (years ago), but are now struggling under the lilac bush. Also, we had our roof worked on late last fall, and there are shreds of roofing shingles, nails, and bits of wood littering the ground. And, there are patches of unattractive bare earth, and a pretty little daylily with shiny leaves (Minnie Pearl) is hemmed in by overgrown hostas and is trying to break free. So I have my work cut out for me. First, I weed. And weed.
Better remove this squirrel! What was I thinking of ?
I yanked out the sad columbine. Just weeks ago, it was glorious, but columbines can go down hill quickly. The white wiggly lines on the leaf shows where the leaf minor has tunneled. This columbine may have already self seeded, and may come back. If not, there is columbine elsewhere in the garden.
How do you know what to yank out and what to leave? Here’s a rule of thumb that never fails: Yank out what is ugly. (Except for the withering foliage of spring bulbs.) Also, I always think in odd numbers. There are three textures here: the waves of the hostas, the ruffles of the heuchera, and the spikes of the daylily.
Then I removed the butterfly weed and the sedum, to be planted elsewhere. Butterfly weed has a fleshy, brittle taproot, and it’s almost impossible to dig the plant out without breaking the root. So it may come back.
I dug up the three hosta groups (Hosta ‘Patriot’) and repositioned them to cover up bare earth and to look more harmonious. Then I brought over and planted a light-colored hosta from another area of the garden, to center the group and to bring light to a dark corner.
A pretty little perennial geranium had popped up at the front of the bed, and was weaving through the daylily. “Weaving” can be good or it can look messy. Swallowing hard, because it is very pretty, I pulled out the geranium, which I will plant elsewhere.
Pruning some of the low-hanging dusty branches of the lilac improved its appearance immediately. Then I spread some mushroom compost around the plants themselves, and some black mulch to cover the rear of the border and the ground under the lilac bush. (Woody mulch isn’t good for perennials and annuals, and can rob them of nitrogen as it degrades.) I also added a little stepping stone (hard to see in this picture) so I could step into the bed for maintenance. Lastly, I planted some bedding begonias. This planting is a bit stark now, because it’s new, so the begonias added a bit of fluff. Phew! This won’t win the garden award of the year, but, for the cost of a bag of mulch ($4.99) and three begonias ($3.00), and rearranging what I already had, the area looks much better, and is easy care. By the way, I wouldn’t do any of this during hot, droughty weather. We are going through a rainy spell right now, and the soil is moist, making it a good time to rehab.