Taking Stock in the Garden

June 24, 2014

You win some you lose some.

I’ve been focussing too much lately on where I am losing (I beat the woodchuck in my veg garden, only to have a bunny from hell move in). I also had a solenoid in the sprinkler break and I realized too late to save some sun-singed plants in that section.  I’ve also been considering writing a ‘bring out your dead’ style post – this past winter was brutal and my list of lost plants is easily twice as many as any year in memory…I could go on with my laments….

But instead, today I’m choosing to focus on the positive and as I looked around the garden — I realize that many of my biggest success were entirely unexpected, accidental, or the result of a hurried and thoughtless decisions. Figures.

Garden by rochelle greayer

My favorite part of the garden right now is what I call the finger bed (so-called because it is shaped like an obviously giant finger).  I love grasses of all sorts and set out to create a great mix of them in this bed.  My intention has not turned out so great — I have a lot of grasses that can often all look too similar to be interesting.  But my boring overuse of grasses has been saved with some of my haphazard thoughtless planting choices.   candy oh roses, miscanthus, and dappled willow by rochelle greayer

Proven winners sent me a couple of Candy Oh! roses a few years ago to try out…and when they arrived this bed was brand new and empty. Lacking a plan and generally needing to fill space, I plopped them in.  I have to admit, I wasn’t enthusiastic about them at the time – back then I was still in my ‘I hate roses’ phase (from which I have mostly recovered).  I look at them now and I can’t imagine how dreadfully boring this garden would be without them.  Oh, and that Hakuro Nishiki Dappled willow was a plant I bought sight unseen through the local conservation plant sale – and I hated them (I had bought three!) when they arrived.  Garish and ugly were the thoughts in my head. Now I think bright and beautiful….just what is needed to break things up, offset the red flowers, and balance out all the dark brown and black buildings and tall pines around here.  What do I know? – I’m just a garden designer….

Candy Oh roses

I can however pat myself on the back for one thing (that worked way better than I expected).  Last year these roses were decimated by Japanese beetles.  They turned into ugly skeleton bushes in a matter of a week.  I also had a terrible infestation of grubs and moles.  These are all related of course (moles eat grubs, grubs kill grass and become beetles,  – if no grubs, then no beetles, and no moles).  I bought a huge box of milky spore powder early this spring and spread it accordingly.  It is clearly working.  The squishy mole ridden grass has gone away and you can see there isn’t a Japanese beetle in sight (look at those pretty healthy leaves!).  Score one for the gardener.

dianthus black adder and geranium rozanne by rochelle greayer

I noticed another happy accident that I am going to have to help along.  Is it me or do Geranium ‘Rozanne’ look really great with dianthus black adder?  They aren’t really mixed at the moment….but I am really loving the light purple and inky near black so I am going to have to give those dianthus seed heads a good shake around the geranium.  I suspect some silver leaves might really make things sing….We will see how this looks next year….

How about you — got any unexpected or accidental winners?

images by rochelle greayer

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Proven Winners.  I am not an employee of Proven Winners and all opinions are my own. See the other posts in this series



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  1. rosekraft says:

    Sorry to be off topic, but I left this message on an earlier post about Geranium maderense and wasn’t sure if you had received it….
    I am lucky enough to live 5 minutes away from Strybing Arboretum here in SF so at least once every couple of weeks I have the opportunity to peruse their small plant kiosk for unusual tidbits.
    Today they had a 4″ pot of Geranium maderense, and for some reason I had total recall of this post, and your commitment to find and grow this plant.
    If you would be so kind as to email a physical mailing address I would be more than happy to package the plant up – of course I bought it – and send it off to you.
    As gardeners I think we can all relate to the obsessive pursuit of our current “unicorn plant” – it’s been a good year already as I was able to score a Luculia gratissima a few months ago.

  2. The winters and summers have been changing over the past five years at an accelerating rate so it is hard for the plants in my garden to adapt to the swings; I too have had more losses in the last couple of years than in the past 20 years. Having said that, the plants that are doing well are doing really well; gardening is certainly about change..

  3. commonweeder says:

    I lost my 2013 planted roses, but the wisteria I thought was deader’n a biscuit has had a miraculous recovery. I am a proponent of milky spore disease! Lots of roses – no (well almost no) Japanese beetles.

  4. Petra says:

    I am also a big fan of grasses, but I know that if you mix them together, the result might be just a big chaos (what happened to me as well)… Well, there is not so much happening in my garden right now so I cannot talk about winners, but what made me happy this month is, that I finally finished my small rock garden and also bought some new plants to make our house nicer after all the renovations. The first ones were a Peace lily and a Madagascar Jewel (inspiration from here, I had no idea about which indoor plants are the best for our house, hopefully it was a good choice). So for now I am just relaxing and planning the next steps, there is still a lot to do… 🙂

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