Idabean's garden:Open for Comments,Suggestions

mrtulinAugust 28, 2013

A couple of weeks ago I gave a plaintive cry "I'm sick of my garden". The link below provides illustrations of what exactly I'm tired of, bored with.My brain feels disorganized when I look at it.
I had to use my tablet for a camera. I am a complete novice at it and photobucket. I'But there's enough to get the picture,albeit fuzzily at times.
I'm supressing the urge to give a list of explanations for the untidiness; let me just say you are getting an unedited,unphotoshopped view.All the explanations in the world won't change how it looks, so there wasn't much point in prettying it up!

Here is a link that might be useful:

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If this is your version of messy there is no help for me! It is beautiful and I hope someday mine looks half as good.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 9:48PM
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"untidy" is relative. The process has become "untidy" and my ability to edit and reorganize is limited.I can see what bothers me but can't devise a plan....not even a one step at a time plan. Sure, there aren't many weeds but this is not a garden unified by a vision.That's what I mean by "untidy" or messy

    Bookmark   August 28, 2013 at 10:51PM
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karin_mt(4 MT)

What a cool property and home you have! I really like it. You are a fortunate gardener!

OK, I do have some suggestions. I see what you are saying about "untidy." I think it has too many different kinds of plants. So your eye jumps about restlessly, looking for a place to land but not finding it. Instead, I can imagine drifts of the same plant, like 5 or 7 of them. I can also imagine smaller groups of the same plant (like 3 in each grouping) that are repeated throughout for continuity. This could help make the gardens more organized and soothing.

How to start? Aim for reducing the types of plants by 2/3, which means you'll have to evaluate really critically which few get to stay. Are you a notebook kind of person? If so you can make lists of candidates and sketches. Or if you are a "just do it" kind of person, you might be able to pick one area, identify the strongest players in that spot, and take out all the others. Then see what's left.

If you reduce the diversity, then there will still be room for special specimen plants, like a clematis or tree peony or something like that. They just can't all be specimens though.

But the layout of the beds, the paths, the bones, are all amazing! That is by far the hardest part, so you are not far from having something totally spectacular.

I hope that is helpful. I'll be looking forward to what others have to say!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 12:36AM
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Yeah... what Karin said... lol

I think its very nice. The garden space itself is very cool. I love how you have those pots/planters placed in the garden at some points. There were a few spots I totally know what you mean. Its full of beautiful plants but looking at it, it somehow doesn't feel quite like a "garden". There are plants in a defined space in the ground but its still not singing to you... just staring back at you with the same puzzled look (I speak from experience). I tend to have the same issue. How do I make this cohesive? I like Karin's suggestion of doing small groupings and repetition of plants throughout the garden. I'm trying to use different sages in a purple and yellow garden I'm setting up so there's some balance and repetition. I love the look of repetition but I almost instinctively want each plant to be different. I can't just pick a favorite and stick to it! Ha ha.

Don't get discouraged. Like Karin said, bones are great! The gardens are beautiful - I would just pick the specimens do you want to keep and replace the rest with repetition and a little more unity.

That's my two cents, for what its worth... do as I say, not as I do sort of thing...

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 6:26AM
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I think I'd rather sell my firstborn.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 9:33AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I see you have added fencing to give you more privacy for your patio. ItâÂÂs very attractive and substantial fencing and well placed. A great addition to your garden.

The discussion reminds me of the comparison that is often made between a garden designer and a garden collector. Someone who sees the larger picture and the other who sees the smallest detail. I think when you love plants and you have a small property, you can want more than you have room to accommodate comfortably. Having a small property, I understand that tendency.

I thought you might find this article helpful.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Plant Collector's Garden

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 9:53AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I see a garden of someone who loves plants and grows and maintains them well. What I'm not sure I see is the garden as a unified whole. One of the conclusions I came to after messing around being unsatisfied with my garden after the initial getting-the-plants-growing-well stage was that shape of the spaces - particularly the 'negative' spaces (i.e. the parts that are not planted - e.g. lawn, paths, patio etc.) mattered as much or more so than the shape of the garden beds. Think about Rouge's friend's garden layout - that garden looks as well in the winter picture when there are no plants at it does in the summer picture - because the space itself is a garden with substantial presence! Do you have a copy of your property survey that you can use to roughly sketch the overall layout of the garden so we can see it or some 'bird's eye' views when the plants are dormant?

I agree that the plants need some grouping and arranging in masses - but I wouldn't edit the numbers down; rather, I'd group them in appropriate color masses, taking into account the placement and colors of the woody material. I think the variety in that approach is inherently more interesting than using masses of one plant, but can still produce the sense of unity you get with using masses of one plant. My 'pretty in pink' driveway north border is unified by the pink theme but the pink comes from a number of different plants, blooming over an extended period of time. So I think you just need to work out what you want/need where and then shuffle the deck :-)

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 10:22AM
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I actually like the "patchwork quilt" effect ;-)
Some of what you may be feeling is end of season / ready to be done with it syndrome.

If you all had as much Spring/early Summer rain as we did, the garden couldn't help but have exploded and be over grown. Now, because of that, it looks "messy" to your eye.

Some suggestions from your pic comments:

Take back your garden and remove and discard the: "I'm over it" & "I'm sick of it"

Get aggressive and thin out or trim off or cut back the: "overgrown"

Rethink and move or remove the: "not enough sun to bloom" & "gets too big"

Time for Fall clean up will be here soon. Next year will be different and you'll be glad to see your gardens again emerging in the Spring.


    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 10:48AM
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kimka(Zone 6B)

Rather than edit serverely down to just 1/3 to then create big drifts of a few plants, you could create a sense of unity by selecting one plant that has good contrast to a lot of your plants and plant it repeating a few times in an open swath throughout a side or area of the garden without worrying about repeats of anything else.

For example, I have Bowles Golden grass repeating about every 6 feet along one side of a wide very long perennial causual cottage garden. Its the only plant that repeats. But the introduction of the bright green/gold fountain gives a pattern that the eye subtlely picks up so it says I meant it to look like this,its not random.

This post was edited by kimka on Thu, Aug 29, 13 at 11:33

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 11:14AM
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karin_mt(4 MT)

"I think I'd rather sell my firstborn."

Umm, well yeah. You certainly don't have to like my suggestion, but it was meant as an earnest answer to your question. It's rather flip to be thoroughly dismissive after I took the time to compose a thoughtful response.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 12:00PM
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delete post

This post was edited by GreatPlains1 on Wed, Sep 4, 13 at 1:59

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 12:59PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi Idabean, agree with the others above ^^^ (Karin, David etc) on the point that you could use some more repetition, or a mass or two here or there, in the use of perennials to give the eyes some place to rest.

You have lots of nice woody plants and even some repetition on a few of those could help.

I also like the lattice you put up at the edge of the house! That's a nice addition.

Idabean held a spring swap a few years back Check out the link below to see a few pics I took of her garden during the swap - looks a bit different in the spring!

Here is a link that might be useful: Idabean's Swap

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 3:41PM
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Your "collecting gene" is nearly as strong as mine, the suggestions made by Karin will probably not work for you. Your "collector gene" will devour you from inside. Unless your property is big enough to divide it in two separate gardens: one "tidy and nice for people to watch" and the second part for your "collecting experimentations".

We started the way Karin described: repetitions of large patches of colours. In one season all major beds were done to perfection , extremely beautiful. People were stopping and watching. But then came the big question: WHAT NOW??? Is this the all fun that is destined for me in my life? How long can you admire the same pattern?
Now there is practically nothing left from the original "perfection". Now we have ever changing chaos. Some plants stay permanently, some come and go. Some patterns look quite well, some less well, and the latter ones are being constanty improved(or worsened). Then they need a make over .

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 3:45PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

just stop watering...

whatever dies .... dies.. move other stuff around thereafter ... or better yet.. just start sowing grass seed ....

by this method .... i have reduced my hosta collection ... by about 1000 hosta.... who needs the irritation....

its late august.. i am so sick.. for the third year in a row.. of dealing with my garden.. i am sorry.. but i cant really come to grips with YOU having MY poor attitude... i am thinking.. it might be time to give up the garden ...

you are either with me.. or against me ...


    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 4:25PM
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Well, I love it. I'm a certified landscape designer and I see what people are saying about the variety of plants, but I still love it. It doesn't look designed. I guess you could do more groupings of three or five or more, but you are a plant collector, and I see nothing wrong with that.

What I like is that in spite of all the different plants, you have lovely large conifers and ornamental trees, vertical elements and a very nice variety of textures. When I viewed the photos, my eyes didn't jump around. I wanted to wander through the garden. It has lots of areas that draw you further in to see what's up ahead. It's a bit like a Monet garden. Everywhere you look, there is something interesting.

Bottom line: This is a garden I'd like to spend time in, just nosing and wandering around. It's like a candy store!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 5:26PM
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I have to add something about untidy gardens. You have the kind of property that makes untidy work. My garden is untidy, on three acres in eastern Kansas. It is meant to be untidy, because there is no way to make it tidy any more than I can keep the house perpetually clean with two dogs under the age of 18 months.

This garden has taught me a very important lesson: Nature is random, it does what it wants, and it's an unholy amount of work for humans to tightly control it. Accepting imperfection is very freeing. I've surrendered to the randomness and to the mess -- to a point. If I didn't work at some sort of control, we would have three acres of barnyard grass and thistles.

The landscape design education I had never discussed how to deal with acreage. The art education I had 30 years before I studied horticulture did teach me to celebrate lovely messes. I majored in painting, and now I paint with plants.

So, you're coloring outside the lines. I suggest you don't change the garden until you get a handle on what you don't like about it -- and more importantly, WHY.

Like I said before, I really love it.

All those perfectly tidy gardens you see at French palaces? All bout control. Cottage gardens in the UK? That was people relinquishing control, at first becaue they had no choice, but they soon came to love the peasant style of gardening. Even the great castles of English Kings put in untidy cottage gardens, and I've visited some of those places. The untidy gardens were the most peaceful and the ones I felt most at home in.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 5:39PM
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Hi Idabean,

I felt compelled to respond to your post. After looking over your photos, I too, like MulchMama, wanted to roam through your garden and hear your stories about your treasures.I really like it! I suppose change is good for us,as Wieslaw mentioned. And Ken, isn't it easier giving up a human child than plants? LOL! Good luck! Keep us posted.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 7:27PM
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I'm not a landscape designer, and more of a plant collector. I think you are brave to put the photos up for us all to look at and comment on, many folks here who seem to really do design and are good at it. My first impression looking at your photos is I think "Ahhh!!! Trees!!!" I love that you have a garden in the woods. I don't know where you are, but it must be a nice place to garden, but difficult in its own way, like all of them.

I think the best advice here is to just decide what you are trying to accomplish, and then try to do it. If you are tired of the garden, then just don't water like Ken says, and that will give you a drastic change, especially if you live in a dry place like I do. If you want to serve as a plant database, then go for it. If you want to get in Sunset magazine, then do that. If you want to get rid of plants, but not really, then maybe you have friends who would take some off your hands, and then give you starts later if you change your mind. There's all kinds of places to go, you just have to decide which is right for you.

When I moved from my old house to my new one, I couldn't stand the idea of not having some of the plants that there were at my old house. I just about killed myself trying to get ten years of gardening done in one. Now I am seeing that I can't have everything, and I can't do it all so fast. I got rid of forty of the roses that were here to new homes, and now I don't have so much to do. (Roses were all that there were here) Also, this yard was heavily sprayed with something, and there were no bugs or worms in it, so I've been working to amend that. Anyway, I'm wandering. Gardens are never the same, and I really get bugged by gardens with seven of the same plant, when at least one of them always gets some kind of a setback or other so your control just goes out the window anyway. You've got to just roll with the punches and keep moving in the direction that you had planned with just the six and a half. Or one of each, or whatever floats your boat. Mostly I just wanted to say that I don't have all the plants and gardens that I had at the old house, and I didn't die, and I don't really pine. There's still lots going on here, and there's nothing that isn't negotiable.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 7:52PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I think when you ask for comments and suggestions, you have to consider that often what people will do when they look at any garden, is start rearranging it in their mind to look the way âÂÂtheyâ like it. ItâÂÂs just natural to do that. I agree with what MulchMama said, that the key is what you âÂÂlikeâ and âÂÂdonâÂÂt likeâ about the garden. In your first post you said you were âÂÂsuppressing the urge to give a list of explanations for the untidinessâÂÂ. I think that would have been more helpful to have that information, which essentially gives direction to what kind of suggestions will be helpful for you. You saidâ¦âÂÂI can see what bothers me but canâÂÂt devise a plan.â Maybe try to express what it is that is bothering you about it, and what it is you are trying to accomplish. When that is clearer for you, I think that will help you a lot. And it would help others to see how they can help you come up with a plan.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 8:12PM
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Gentle Readers and Commentors,
Thank you for your thoughtful replies, observations and suggestions. I do hear the same song being played, with some variations in the key. I recognize the truth! [there's a great hymn "How Can I Keep From Singing" and a line in it "I hear the truth, it ringeth"]
There are many ideas and it will take me awhile to digest them, so please don't be miffed if I don't respond with anything too substantive soon.
However, this evening, in my best pants and work shoes, I ripped out the iris that I dug up a few years ago at midnight from an ownerless corner on the street. The thrill of the chase was part of their continuing allure.
Karin, I am sorry I hurt your feelings..I was in a hurry and wanted to read everything before I left for work. I was already very my response was tart but there was a real bolus of truth in it. I really felt a sense of anticipated loss. This has nothing to do with you, your ideas (which are fine and your gardens show it) but the fact that I know nearly every plant intimately.
I look at plants like a mama inspecting her young: who has mildew, spent flowers, new buds, bugs: scorched leaves; which ones annoy me, disappoint me and never fail to please or delight me.And I know I need to let go of some...ok....maybe more than a few.....but as with our children, not without some ambivalence.
Wieslaw, perceptive person that he is, put a finger on something else. I am afraid of being bored with my garden. This is not rational; no one need defend "design" and I won't defend or explain the fear of being bored in the exact way he describes, and I can see going down the slippery slope to entropy as he describes.
Ken, If you can't stand whining, stop reading this. And having gotten rid of 1,000 hosta I see no reason for you to be a stop on the Magical Mystery Tour that's being planned. So There. (Do I really need to state I'm teasing you?)

Thanks everyone. I hope to post pictures of bare spots and growing compost heap.I'd have a fall swap, but I'm afraid someone one will leave me with plants.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 8:46PM
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PM I see what you mean. I wanted people to look with their eyes, not through mine.I can make a list as long as my arm of specific complaints. But I bet the answers to those boil down to same general categories: restful interludes and a focal point for each season not Monet in every season.
I think summer is my least favorite garden season. As a New Englander spring is a paramount tonic for the sensory soul. Fall, New england's best season and amazing trees and shrubs for color and texture.Nearly endless variety and beauty, with the shadow of winter at the edges.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 8:59PM
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Marie, Congrats on successfully posting your photos. I agree with you and others that the lack of a clear structure or organizing theme is the main issue. I am going to suggest a book called Design in the Plant Collector's Garden by Roger Turner. It may have some of the suggestions here, like having color repetition throughout a bed, or having an organizing structure like using hedges to create rooms and vistas, but it may have some other ways to organize your plants that wouldn't require eliminating the variety of plants you have, but instead reorganizing how you arrange them.

I also agree that if you no longer like a plant, get rid of it.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 9:20PM
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This post was edited by nhbabs on Thu, Aug 29, 13 at 22:17

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 9:21PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Idabean, I see, you wanted to know how others saw your garden without influencing them. That has merit too.

I also LOVE spring. Everything is so fresh and new and vigorous. This time of year, things are winding down and like survivors from the stresses of summer, they are looking a little battered.

I vacillate between putting my energy into making spring even better or 'fixing' late summer to be fresher and more attractive. In the end, when I've made attempts to have a better late summer, it really always boils down to the weather. Regardless of what I change, I can't change that. It's going to either be benevolent summer weather or not. This year, I'm resigned to cleaning up anything that I'm unhappy with as quickly as possible before I turn my attention to my spring bulb order. (g)

This post was edited by prairiemoon2 on Thu, Aug 29, 13 at 22:02

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 9:29PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Delete. Double Post.

This post was edited by prairiemoon2 on Thu, Aug 29, 13 at 21:33

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 9:30PM
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This post was edited by nhbabs on Thu, Aug 29, 13 at 22:19

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 9:43PM
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molie(z6 CT)

Up tonight --- can't sleep (don't you just HATE that?) --- and reading through this.

First of all let me say, "Wow!" You have done an amazing job of incorporating trees, shrubs, hardscape and individual "rooms" into an incredibly difficult yard of sloping woods. (I say that with sincere awe because my first home was deep in the woods --- required a huge amount of watering and fertilizing to compete with the trees.)

Then that got me to imagining all the work you must have to maintain these gardens!

Ideabean, could it be that as the summer winds down and gardens begin to look tired, that you are also a bit tired of it all? Like Ken, PM2 & others have said, we can get a little disgusted at this point in the year. The lush new growth of spring and early summer, with the appearance of old friends you've planted plus new surprises, has become a sea of deadheading and browning.

Maybe you just need to take some time off? Sit on that patio --- with a cup of tea ----or a bit of the grape --- and just look. Maybe with a notebook and camera in hand? Focus on just a few spots that annoy you the most and take pictures of those. Jot down some notes about what you like -- or maybe don't like--- in these area. Plan what you'd like to do next spring. Eliminate things that bore you? Consolidate? Maybe you want to see more of the elements that you really love in your garden?

Mostly don't do any planting --- any weeding --- anything! Just ponder and look. Watch the garden as it goes to sleep again.
This has been a pretty tough year for gardens.


    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 4:24AM
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I like Molie's approach. Five years with our garden and this is the first year I have enjoyed it more than worked in it -- and gardening in Kansas is extremely difficult.

That said, Ip robably work as hard on it in late July and early August as any other time of the year. We had a cool couple weeks where I was able to shear things back, deadhead, give one last feed to many things, and spruce it all up for a glorious September/October finale. We typically don't have to do fall cleanup until November here. I'm not about to let it get all ratty and leave it like that for two months.

Now things are reblooming: salvias, daisies, some butterfly weed (many were left for the butterflies), and many of my self-sowing annuals are just reaching peak right now. Some have reseeded and there are new babies coming up. Thismakes for a nice environment as the fall bloomers start to show: boltonias, pitcher sage, sedums, asters and guara.

That's how I prevent the late summer doldrums here.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 8:25AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

That is a very good point Molie and MulchMama, and one that applies for me. I would love to do more of what you do MulchMama, but I see where the problem is for me...late July and early August are more often than not, the hottest part of the summer and my tolerance for heat is very low. Whatever needs doing has to be done early in the morning and that just about covers the basics. I did get more of the 'sprucing up' done this year because of that cooler couple of weeks, which is unusual for us. Most years, I might get to a little deadheading and keep up with the watering and that's about it. Anything more than that has to wait for cooler weather in September, hopefully. And I've talked to a number of gardeners who also have trouble with the heat, too.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 9:58AM
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Oh hey, I have terrible problems with the heat -- I absolutely hate it! And in summer months, Kansas is pure hell. As I get older, it totally saps my energy real quick. But I hate sitting on the patio or in the porch looking at two back acres of dead spent blooms. The shastas are the worst, and I have lots of those.

I had to devise quick-and-dirty ways to do my garden chores. I no longer cut things back stem by stem. I use a big hand shear. Whack! Whack! Into the compost bins!!

I also did something pretty smart, IMO. I planted many large perennials like peonies and daylilies, with nothing in front of them. I can mow right over them with the lawn tractor. About four weeks ago I mowed over a long section of daylilies that were done. I looked like a crazed fiend driving up the berm and mowing down my garden. I kept running over and over the trimmings and blew them all back into the berm for mulch.

A week later, the foliage was up, and today they look neat, tidy, and a nice companion to the fall plants that are about to bloom.

I come up with as many shortcuts as I can, believe me.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 2:43PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I now also cut down daisies - and other things - completely when they start to fade. It's really not worth trying to eke out a second bloom period from most of them. Fresh new foliage from the base is a much more attractive and easier option in most cases.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 2:52PM
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delete post

This post was edited by GreatPlains1 on Wed, Sep 4, 13 at 2:00

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 5:49PM
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Campanula UK Z8

Just chuck out a few of the ones you are bored with and buy something new- only needs to be a couple of plants to reinvigorate your thinking. I find that it is all about thinking, researching, sowing, growing, admiring, then waving bye-bye because I have done that now and want to try something else. Of course, you will not have a unified, harmonious garden but you will have lots of lovely things to look at and there will be something gorgeous every week of the year. I think it might be possible to have it both ways -and sometimes, I have even come close to having loads of fascinating plants which actually assort well with each other....but then what. Are we finished? What are we going to do then?
Think of your garden as an evolving drama rather than a work of art - you are merely having an intermission between acts. Never mind looking at the whole thing - just keep having little treats and experiences - grow something you have never heard of, try something like grafting, inosculation (this is really cool for a woody plant grower) take up orchids, a whole new genus, investigate carnivorous plants, streptocarpus......It's clear to me that you are a collector with a butterfly brain so hey, this will pass (and faster than it might for those deep-thinking planning types). I think Debs also put her finger on it - we have been working ourselves into a frenzy and now, it is the end of august and we are a bit knackered but know we could stretch it out for another couple of months.....but do we have to? Maybe have a little break and amaze yourself that everything still survives (that's pretty much what I did after feeling a bit low and bored)....or take up drinking (the garden looks great through the bottom of a glass in an alcoholic haze). Start in on the seed catalogues early.
Oh yeah, the garden looks pretty good to me eyes but it is different, I know, when you are seeing it every day. Still the dissatisfaction is more in your mind than in earthy reality because it has a lot going for it, imo.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 5:58PM
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molie(z6 CT)

Campanula, that was my suggestion too --- a bit of fermented something swirling around in a beautiful glass does add something to the garden's appearance!
I also love your slant on this time of year--- a kind of intermission between acts.

It's true, you know, that a garden is never done and that a true gardener is never satisfied. Not because we're perfectionists but because most gardeners are amazed by the "what's new?" in horticulture and invigorated by the power plants hold over us. Years ago I read a fascinating book, Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire, that discussed how plants have evolved to tantalize and pleasure us humans so that we will insure their continuance.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 8:07PM
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During the summer I usually have a vodka and tonic in hand as I wander "the back 40" shedding layers of the work day.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2013 at 11:27PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Marie, having been to your garden a number of times, I'll give you my opinion. I love it! Also being a collector, I really enjoy wandering around your garden with you and seeing all the variety of interesting plants you have, including trees and shrubs. It's sometimes hard to find gardens that have many shrubs and trees, and I think the structure of your garden with them helps hold it together.

When we have limited gardening space it can be hard to step back and decide to plant drifts of the same plants. Maybe up your long walkway from the driveway you can do some repeating colors of heuchera along the wall. That might lead a person up the path. While at the same time scattered throughout you can still have your neat little shade plants. I'm in the same exact boat as you where I have so many different things and I'm trying to somehow unify it all. My DH keeps telling me "more is less" and thinks I should do more with masses. But OH! The plant material I would miss out on! LOL!

I do think that your structures, slopes, trees and shrubs, patio, arbors, etc...all lend your garden to having separate little areas to observe the garden. The only long borders I think of in your garden are the path from the driveway and the back wall that you're starting to change. Maybe grouping plants in those 2 borders will give just enough unity to the garden and the smaller "rooms" can remain for the single collectible plants.

In the area that you've expanded into with all the trees and shrubs, again I think your tree choices will help unify that large area, but perhaps group some smaller shrubs together and then do some masses of perennials. That's a larger area that you see more from a distance from many parts of your garden, so it might be good to have more repeating patterns there.

I guess my point is, in the larger areas where you have the room for repeats it will help unify the look because it will be longer vistas. But, in the more intimate areas like near your patio, I think you can keep it more random with everything you like since it is being viewed up close where one can appreciate each individual plant.

I don't know if this helps or if I'm even making sense at this point! I look forward to seeing your garden again soon! It really is one of my favorites. Where else will I see a 'Pink Chimes' Styrax? That's what I like so much about your garden. You have some really nice, different plant material.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 10:17AM
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I confess, I have been known to pour me a tall, cool spirit beverage and drive slowly around the property on the John Deere. I have to avoid the bumpy septic field though -- booze spills out all over the place.

Last summer, I made a "redneck swimming pool" out of our big Brinley garden dumpcart. I cleaned it out really well, filled it with water and then invited the kids from next door to put on their swimsuits, grab their waterguns and come over for a surprise (their mom approved).

Then I drove them all over our property and theirs, splishety-splashety, kids squealing all the way. It was a riot. Now I want someone to do that for me, but my husband wouldn't be caught dead.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 2:10PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

MM, love that story!! How fun!

Marie, I just had another thought. You could always try to do some drifts here and there of annuals to keep some flow.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 4:10PM
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Susan, we really do think alike.Driving home about a half hour ago, I thought zinnias! I've never had room for zinnias.

My progress:
iris, Hulk the Hydrangea,old astilbe, about 10 huge clumps of daylilies, rudbeckia, thalictrum,
To Come:
giant h.guacamole, golden rods

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 4:18PM
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Zinnias are my go-to annual. I have big drifts of them from packets of seed. Very very easy. And the goldfinches are loving them right now.

Also, try impatiens balsamica (Garden Balsam, touch-Me-Not). Again -- dead easy from seed and absolutely stunning, a real showstopper in my garden right now. They self-sow like crazy, though, so be warned.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 8:47PM
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Here's what I've identified I want to keep, so far
sedums: autumn joy,matrona, autumn charm, some low ones whose names I forgot
Penstemon Dark Towers
Heucheras: Sweet Tea, different purples;Brownies which is my favorite....doesn't mind heat,resilient,big
Perilla (great plant, wonderful purple, comes into its own in early August)
My grass clumps
On probation: phlox David,iris Gerald Darby; some gorgeous purple Japanese Iris (see how it blooms next year, not having gotten the water it is reputed to need this year)
New astilbe:cotton candy have to give it a year anyway

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 9:26PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Marie, if you pick out zinnia seeds I can start a flat for you this spring to give them a head start.

David's on probation here too. I have a ton of it but it does get mildewed where I have it (lots of shade but still a lot of flower). Going to move it to a sunnier locale to see how that goes.

Does your perilla reseed readily?

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 11:12AM
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Thyme, I've grown zinnias most of my life, and I have much better results with plants that are direct sown than those I start in flats.

The ones that come up from seed dropped by the plants or sown by me on the ground always germinate later, but they catch up to the ones in flats very quickly, and they require no establishment period. They just do so much better. In fact, I no longer start annuals indoors. They just do better getting their start where they will live out their lives. Less work, too.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 11:31AM
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Thyme, I've grown zinnias most of my life, and I have much better results with plants that are direct sown than those I start in flats.

The ones that come up from seed dropped by the plants or sown by me on the ground always germinate later, but they catch up to the ones in flats very quickly, and they require no establishment period. They just do so much better. In fact, I no longer start annuals indoors. They just do better getting their start where they will live out their lives. Less work, too.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 11:32AM
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perilla reseeds which is th source of my each year. It is easily pulled out as a small seedling or later. Also very easily transplanted when it is even 8 or 10 inches tall. Move it into a group of 5 or 6 , water for 2 or 3 days and you have, nearly in an instant, a deep purple accent.
I pinch it back for bushiness throughout the season. Then, late in the season, I let it go to seed for next year's crop.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 11:38AM
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Got out the Hulk Hydrangea (Nigra) yesterday. Huge root system and it took dh at least a half hour and a lot of back to do it.

I really really want to get out the misplaced hosta today.

You really can't tell anything is gone, despite there being 30 less plants. I'm beginning to feel like I can breathe better with a little more space there. BeIing an introspective sort, as I remove things, I'm beginning to see how they got there in the first place...getting a glimmer of what my thought 'process' was.Self discipline and long term planning is def. not my strong suit.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 2:00PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Ida, your garden is lovely, it's a place to wander continually and see interesting and lovely plants. But I also hear you loud and clear as I have a similar situation.
Here is what I think is the answer, move all plants that are the same into one area. ALL hostas go next to each other. etc.
As far as large shrubs, obviously many can't be moved, but some can if pruned down, particularly deciduous ones.

The idea of repeat plants to harmonize the garden, doesn't work well when the area is large and meandering. So, forget the 5-7 plant rule, put a hundred hostas in one single area if you have them and all next to each other without other plants in between.
It's the same principle used in home decorating: group like with like to create more visual impact. I. e. a hundred candlesticks all gathered together on one table.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 2:39PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

How do you like the Gerald Darby iris? It's one of my wish list plants but I can't seem to find it from my usual sources...
I like the annuals idea, this year I've pulled out a bunch of too-large clumps of iris, and zinnias are one of the annuals that are holding place until other stuff fills in. I bought a couple seed packs of single color types and feel like that works better for matching and also avoiding the hodgepodge look.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 7:19PM
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Right, last year I nearly drove two hours to buy it. Nan Ondra, of Hayfield blog, raved about it. I found it at a little roadside stand where a homeowner sells her own divisions. I was very surprised.
Unfortunately, it did not do much for me. It didn't bloom and the base of the leaves didn't look very purple in spring and sure didn't develop color as the season went on.
I'll transplant it this fall to a sunnier spot. I hope it performs better next year. If you can remember check in with me next year. I could send you a division.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 9:53PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Thanks for the offer!
I wonder if maybe the spring was too hot too fast? I just re-read the Hayefield post and moved this iris up a couple more spots on the want list, it really sounds nice. I wonder what's up? The pictures I've seen are very distinct with dark leaves and flower stems, but it does green out when temperatures rise.

Here is a link that might be useful: iris link

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 10:35PM
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molie(z6 CT)

Catching up here on this post and I must say that I laughed out loud at MulchMama's mobile pool! You definitely must be a neighborhood favorite :)

I'm glad this rolled into a discussion of zinnias --- one of my favorite annuals ---because this year I tried my first ever attempt at sowing on flats and it was a big failure. Not one survived. I figured there was something wrong with my technique so it was good to hear that this is so tricky. I was almost resigned to purchasing 6-packs next year but will try direct sowing instead.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 10:28AM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Molie, sorry to hear zinnias didn't work for you. I have the opposite problem. When I've tried to DS I never have any luck. Either the critters eat the seeds, OR more likely I forget I sowed seeds and say "oh, what a nice empty space in the garden" and plunk down a perennial!! I start them inside under lights so that I have real plants to plant since I apparently can't remember what I do in the garden from one moment to the next! LOL!!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 11:54AM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

Zinnias you say! I love zinnias!

I have 2 beds about a total of 30 feet in length which are planted in all zinnias. I DS the seeds in a couple of rows near the front of the bed and mark the rows with a couple of sticks. When they're up and have a couple sets of leaves, I transplant throughout the bed. Contrary to the notion zinnias should not be transplanted, that's bull's ears. They transplant very well when they're still small and don't have an extensive root system. Doing the row thing also makes it much easier to keep track of the little babes.


    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 1:10PM
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Kevin - when do your direct-sown zinnias start blooming? I love zinnias, and want more next year, but don't like to spend $ on annuals when I don't have to.

Idabean - When I first read your post, before looking at the pictures, I thought "wow, I can SO relate to this!" After I looked at the pictures, all I could think was that there's a very simple solution - come to my house! After seeing my version of "my brain feels disorganized when I look at it," you'd go home, run through your garden with arms in the air screaming "I love you - you're beautiful," stopping only to kiss the ground once in a while.

That being said, I am working on my own reorganization. In addition to the great suggestions you already have, I'll add one more. If something like the huge rose is bothering you, but you're not 100% sure you want to (or have time to) dig it out, give it a hard prune. Do it now, even if it's not an ideal time. The space will open up and you can decide if you'd miss it (and its size was the real issue) or if it's "good riddance."

Also, I just made a list of the annuals, perennials, shrubs, and vines that bring me joy, along with their bloom times. It helped me objectively evaluate what i really value in my garden (in a very positive way), and what doesn't really thrill me so much. I'll be giving away or composting more of the latter, and freeing up space for more of what makes me smile.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 4:41PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Ruth, you made me laugh out loud! Thank you!


    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 6:06PM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

Ruth - They usually start blooming in July, but I suppose I could sow them a bit earlier. I usually keep putting it off until mid May or so which is kind of late, but I keep thinking the ground is too cold to do so which it probably isn't.


    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 6:58PM
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I'm looking forward to a zinnia binge next spring.
Continuing to clear out. Digging compost into the soil where' theres empty space now. W]
More ground visible;still a long way to go. because from m-f I only get to work from a half hour to an hour and half. I hate how early the sun is setting.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 10:13AM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

idabean - That's a perfect way of describing it - a zinnia binge.
Generally, I'm kind of a perennial guy. Most annuals just don't do that much for me, but when it comes to zinnias - well, that's a different story.

Sometimes I feel like I should do perennials or native plants or something in my Blvd. gardens, but it's kind of my 1 indulgence with annuals and it really isn't much of an indulgence $$ wise because a couple of packets of seed, directly sown does the job. And each year, I get to try some new zinnias, some different color combos. It's great fun.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 1:25PM
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I did not miss the suggestion to make a sketch of the garden, but haven't had the time.I've been t00 busy digging up plants.I also want to post pictures after some of big clumps are out and there's some earth showing.
The shrubs are staying, I hope most of the grasses will too, as they are so difficult to dig up.
I keep finding orphan plants: a Happy Returns lost in the iris, I think I found a clematis recta that had disappeared years ago.\
I like the idea of a "Lost and Found" thread. But maybe that's covered by "Plants that surprised you by coming back" that's current.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 5:43PM
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