The State of the Garden

I knew when we moved here this garden would be an all-consuming project. The first three years were non-stop project work. Now, our fourth year in, we are not working on projects as much as we are working on maintenance, and that is all-consuming until the plants knit together and smother the weed layer. And while the garden has come a long way, I'm nowhere near achieving the vision I have. This summer has frustrated me somewhat. I can almost imagine what the immature shrubs and trees will look like, but they're not there yet. Garden beds feel messy and disconnected. The typical frustration of a gardener who is a collector trying to reconcile the need for calm and harmony with the collector in me. I'm getting there. Feeling downtrodden this week, I went through the garden with camera in hand looking for vignettes that make me happy. Here is what I found.


Schisozylis coccinea 'Oregon Sunset' with an unknown crocosmia. I like hot pink and orange together for some reason.


Rudbeckia or black-eyed Susan in the meadow surrounded by grasses and asters.


This unusual little plant is Bigelowia nuttalli.


Agapanthus inapertus 'Nigrescens' with a sleeping bumble bee.


Stipa gigantea with prostrate rosemary at their feet along the edge of the labyrinth garden.


The cardoons are a disappointment this year. The blooms were small and the foliage below died completely. Another died all together. I cleaned up the dead foliage on the two remaining and they at least have a sculptural aura now instead of just messy.


 In the labyrinth, I am making a few changes, taking out the yellows of Coreopsis 'Moonbeam' (not pictured and to be moved to a better location) and looking for an orange coreopsis to replace it or some other drought-tolerant, short, true orange flowering plant. I will wait until late fall so I don't have to water as much down here. In the meantime, the Sedum 'Matrona' has started to bloom, echoing the pinks of the penstemon and echinacea.


In the foreground is Ceanothus gloriosus 'Pt. Reyes', finally filling in, with a view towards two beds of ornamental grasses.


Asters, grasses and a stray Verbena bonariensis mingle in the meadow. 


More rudbeckias, these are in the labyrinth garden. The one in the foreground is a dwarf variety, Rudbeckia 'Little Gold Star', noticeably smaller than the species behind it.


Edge of the gravel garden that I am mostly happy with, although the sedums are poised to take over. They have completely smothered any indication of the rock wall in which they were planted.


Echinacea 'White Swan' has been a reliable echinacea for me, faithfully blooming every year for many, many years. These came with me from the old garden. They also produced a couple volunteers, a few of which reverted back to pink petals.


The amazingly ornamental rose hips of Rosa glauca. I adore this rose.


A view of the gravel path off the driveway into the heart of the garden in dim morning light.


More of the gravel garden.


A few of the arctostaphylos are large enough now to be able to be pruned up a bit to expose their beautiful bark and offer a see-through to plants beyond. I have a few more I will do this to this fall, but most I will wait another year. Pictured is Arctostaphylos 'Saint Helena'. 


Agasatache 'Apricot Sunrise' has gotten quite large and has almost flopped open. A few stems have broken off due to its large size.


The northern edge of the labyrinth garden. Those white-flowered sedums are S. 'Stardust'. They were grown from throw-away cuttings at work. I literally pulled a bunch of old leaves and stems out of the trash and stuck them all over this area. About four took and grew really well.


Autumn blooming Leucojum autumnale.


Atriplex halimus and Panicum 'Cloud Nine' against the house.


 Achillea ptarmica 'Angel's Breath' is a refreshing change from the usual flat-head yarrow we are used to. It looks right at home at the edge of the meadow.


The edge of the labyrinth with hebe, salvia and grasses.

While I want to improve what I have (that is primarily not pictured in these photographs), it is an ongoing challenge for any gardener. I suppose it's a case of the late-summer garden blues when some things just don't tend to look their best. Okay. Okay I accept that, but in my mind, there's always room for improvement for this garden. I carry on with projects brewing in my mind, replacing plants that are not performing or are dying, adding others that are hardier and add some element of balance to the whole. So on that note, I'll keep on gardening until the day I die. Long live the gardeners of the world!

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens, as always thank you SO much for reading and commenting, we love knowing you are out there and hearing what you are up to . . . that there is life out there beyond our little bit of land. Happy gardening one and all!

Comments

  1. Though my favourite time of year in the garden it can be a tough one with a lot of stuff looking tired. I too feel dissatisfied with areas of my garden as it seems more chaos than garden. However, a visitor recently declared it magical and inspiring. As an outside visitor I would say the same about your garden. Alas, we are our own worst critics.

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    1. We are our own worst critics. Thank you for the reminder. That is another challenge for gardeners...accepting what is - whatever "flaws" we obsess over. Thank you, luv2garden. :)

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  2. Yes, late summer is a challenge under all circumstances especially as fingers begin to itch to plunge into fall projects it's way to early to tackle. But your garden is still a marvel. I can't believe it's already in its 4th year!

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    1. Oh, the fall projects! I didn't mention it but YOU ARE SO RIGHT. I'm waiting anxiously to get going on moving plants that aren't happy but must wait for a better time of year. I know...year 4 - hard to believe!

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  3. I'm in awe of how much you've accomplished in such a short time! As for an orange coreopsis, I've been happy with 'Crazy Cayenne'. The first picture on the Walters Gardens website is pretty much how it looks for me; the other two pictures look redder than I've experienced.

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    1. Carol, that orange 'Crazy Cayenne' is exactly what I"m looking for, thank you so much! It looks like Walters Gardens are wholesale only but I'll keep my eyes open. Thank you thank you!!

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    2. You can mail order it from Bluestone Perennials

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  4. So much is doing well like the arctos and that Rosa glauca.
    Smaller scale stuff might need tinkering but, wow, those grasses and hebes, sedums, echinaceas and rudbeckias -- so many plants clearly love it here. Amazing progress in a very short time.

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    1. Thank you Denise, a good reminder indeed. Four years is not long in the life of a garden, me thinks. Yours is gorgeous as always, an inspiration for me, for sure.

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  5. Your garden is remarkable even during the slowing of the growing year. It is good that you brought all of this goodness to the fore. You must see that you are making a spectacular garden. I can sure tell you I have places I can't stand to look at and must make some changes. Gardeners are never satisfied beyond a day or two. ;) Try to enjoy your garden. Just think like those sedums taking over the rocks, so much is growing so well.

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    1. Lisa, you are so right. I know, enjoy the garden! I will. I think I'll even take a nap out there today somewhere in a shady spot. Must think like the sedums ;)

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  6. Oh dear, you need to look at the "before" pictures - quickly now, and then let out that anxious breath you are holding on to of your currently imperfect garden. I found you when you were first starting this garden and am in awe of how quickly it has come together, knitting a beautiful picture in reality in spite of competing with that picture in your mind. I think that that perhaps the true purpose of weeds is to keep us humble.

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    1. Aw, thank you Barbara. I will ponder the "before" photos.

      Humble is good. I will keep that in mind today as I weed away. Thank you thank you :)

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  7. If I had to pick a favorite I'm not sure I could chose between the photos with the Ceanothus gloriosus 'Pt. Reyes', Rosa glauca or the Arctostaphylos 'Saint Helena'...all gorgeous vignettes!

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    1. Thank you Danger. They are pretty, aren't they? :)

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  8. It sure looks lovely to me. I love, love, love Rosa glauca. Can't find it for sale anywhere, although, I don't think it would like my garden!

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    1. Oh, Rosa glauca...you stole my heart! If you decide it would like your garden (in a pot? maybe not...but we can dream!), I occasionally have seedlings I can send you. Sometimes we have it at work (Joy Creek Nursery), although we are out right now. Just say the word.

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  9. I hear you, Tamara, I really, really do. I LOVE that you share this phase, as it's the truth about gardens, plants, the gardener, and Nature that we actually have so little control over anyway.

    Interestingly, I think there IS something about a 4-year-old garden that is different than year three. From my experience organizing garden tours all those years, it seemed clear that year 3 was the sweet spot. A kind of perfect year. No idea if it applies in your case (your photos this week are beautiful). Just a thought.

    Another somewhat random thing popped into my head (again not shown in your blog above)--but it's a trick that helped me on overwhelmed days, especially when our huge garden was younger:

    The "tidy up the edges" trick. The idea: run a mower along all the edges and call it good. (Bed edges, paths, etc.) That little bit of showing the clean lines again, helped feel an order to the chaos. Good for down days.

    Apologies if you already know that trick!

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    1. Alyse, I love your comments. It's interesting that you see that pattern too, in the 4th year things "change"...based on our garden, I agree.

      It's frustrating in many ways, one of which that I have not talked about here are the moles. They are undermining all the hard work in the newly established shade garden and veggie garden - they are literally uprooting every single plant and if I don't go and squish down the hundreds of feet of tunnels, the plants' roots would be sitting in air and die. Seriously. I"m on a mission, if anyone has ideas besides traps to get the moles (which we have but are terrible at), we're all ears.

      The tidy up the edges trick is well received! Good advice, indeed.

      No apologies needed, Alyse - I am so happy to have your experienced advice and observations! Any day! And DO come by for some veggies, ok? Send me a message when you are around (on Facebook).

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  10. "The typical frustration of a gardener who is a collector trying to reconcile the need for calm and harmony with the collector in me."

    That line of yours really sums up the tension I feel when visiting a nursery. I want to collect new plants but I don't want my relatively small backyard to look like Noah's Ark.

    The tall grasses, Echinacea, and Rudbeckia give your garden an airy, magical feel. Love it.

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  11. What an amazing transformation from when you first started. Just beautiful.

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