Spring 2014 in My Garden: A Retrospective

Iris and Peonies

First off, let me say that calling it “my garden” is a double misnomer, as it’s not so much a garden per se as it is a collection of flowerbeds — and, if it is anyone’s garden, it’s still Sonia’s. At least, it is until I know everything that’s in every bed and perhaps rearrange things to my liking.

That said, I’m doing my best with my limited time and resources to make it my own.

Last year, I hesitated to do anything to the beds, not knowing until things bloomed (or went to seed) which were flowers and which were weeds. Our former lawn care guy took me on a tour of the beds, identified most of the plants, and gave me a few pointers on caring for some of them, but it wasn’t entirely comprehensive. I ended up with giant weeds (or, more correctly, unidentified and presumably native plants) and a maypop vine that was pretty enough, but overgrew my beds and made things look like an unkempt jungle.

Bee On Maypop Vine

I knew going into this spring that there was no way I would have have enough time to get everything done that needed to be done. I prioritized the best that I could, knowing what things looked like by mid-summer last year, and tried to allot time to get to most of it. At first I had thought that I could sic our new lawn care guy on some of it, but a lot of what I did was part planned, part triage — I’d get outside to do one thing, then see another thing (or two or three) that really needed addressing.

This is kind of a brain dump for me to remember what I did when this spring, and what still needs to be done this summer, and as a reference for me next year, as well. So, I do apologize for the massive amount of information in this one post… but, then again, I don’t. 🙂

I have seven distinct main beds and two highly neglected ones to tend:

  1. The front fence. The most visible to the public. Daffodils, forsythia, dwarf flowering almond, peonies, poppies, irises, clematis, roses, yarrow, lilies, hydrangeas, lambs ear, and Rose of Sharon, roughly in order of blooming. This is one of the beds that also got overrun by the Maypop vine last year.
  2. The south front fence (aka the fence by the neighbor’s yard). Also quite visible to the public, and to anyone coming down our driveway. Daffodils, hyacinths, peonies, irises, roses, yucca, clematis, hostas. I tried to eliminate the goldenrod last year, as it wasn’t attractive for most of its growing season, but it may return this year.
  3. The north fence (aka the peony bed). A few daffodils and grape hyacinths, but mostly peonies. And tall weeds, if I’m not careful.
  4. In front of the garage. This space has a lot of potential to be a small but structured garden area with paths and seating… someday. Hyacinths, alliums, lilies, roses, heather, dogwood, hydrangeas.
  5. In front of the house (both living room and office). Pachysandra, one peony, foxgloves, roses, Rose of Sharon, hydrangeas.
  6. Behind the house (by the kitchen windows). This bed is the first to wake in the spring. Hyacinths, daffodils (and other narcissus), peony, tree peony, alliums, one hosta, clematis, Japanese maple, hollyhocks, and chives that I haven’t been able to eradicate.
  7. The south fence in the back. Hostas, chives, Russian sage, butterfly weed, chrysanthemum, and a few other random perennials.
  8. The back fence. Highly neglected bed #1. Lacecap hydrangea, several stands of switch grass, a flowering vine of some sort, a pokeberry and a raspberry bush (both hacked to the ground last Fall, so now I’m not sure which is which).
  9. The north fence in the back. Highly neglected bed #2. A peony, more switch grass, hydrangea (both mophead and paniculata), some columbines, and a bunch of other random stuff.

These are each their own distinct flower beds, and I feel like I need to treat each of them as a unit, but they’re not necessarily a cohesive unit all together (hence, not a “garden” as much as a collection of beds).

So far, here’s what I’ve done this year:

  • March 24: Pruned the forsythia (for dead wood and runners, mainly)
  • April 11: Pruned the tree peony and the clematis in the kitchen flower bed
  • April 19: Pruned the hydrangeas by the sunroom (dead wood)
  • April 24: Applied Preen, hit weeds with Round-Up, pruned the clematis on the house and on the south front fence, pruned the Dortmund climbing rose
  • April 27: Started staking the peonies on the north fence (and one on the front fence), marked bulbs with colored golf tees
  • May 3: Finished staking the peonies by tying them up with twine. Left some unstaked as an experiment. Pulled the pachysandra away from the two roses in front of the office window.
  • May 10: Pruned roses on south fence. Pruned roses in front of office window. Pulled out wooden trellis and chicken wire. Put coffee grounds on Tamora and Reine des Violettes. Weeded around Tamora. (I think she’s fully dead, but I’ll give her a chance until June. —Edit: New growth came up from below the soil line. Probably suckers, and I’ll probably have a nice Dr. Huey instead of my Tamora, but I’ll keep it.)
  • May 14: Put coffee grounds on Heritage rose.
  • May 17: Put coffee grounds on unnamed rose by office window. Pruned Heritage rose. Started weeding front fence. Identified immediate need for mulch along front fence.
  • May 26: Alfalfa tea to all roses! 5 gallons worth. Coffee grounds on Dortmund. Pulled weeds along front fence and unearthed two more roses that got hacked down in the fall.
  • May 31: Coffee grounds on two small front fence roses and Dortmund. Maypop patrol. Got Rose of Sharon sapling through the fence the right way and put clematis on a support instead of on the sapling. Adjusted peony support twine higher.

Spring Color on the Front Fence

So, what are my plans for summer in the garden? Mainly weed and maypop patrol. I intend to transplant one maypop vine into a large container, perhaps with a trellis — they’re very pretty, but I’m not interested in letting their roots spread everywhere and take over all my beds.

I have some Grass-B-Gon coming to me from Amazon (yeah, my “carbon footprint” is embarrassing), so I’ll be able to clear out the front fence of encroaching grasses without breaking my back. After that, I may put down another layer of Preen and invest in some mulch from the greenhouse down the street.

I need to yank a bunch of giant weeds (we’re talking 3+ feet tall) from the front south fence. Proof that the Preen did something, I guess, is that none of these tall weeds have popped up anywhere I treated. I still have trouble telling what’s weeds and what’s some stealth plant of Sonia’s that I don’t want to destroy. The giant weeds do bear a resemblance to lilies before they bloom — unfortunately, all my real, actual lilies have been EATEN BY DEER this year WTF.

We’re entering the maintenance phase of the garden — weeds, vines, deadheading, and fertilizing (which is a new addition to the regimen as of this year). And pruning out the dead wood from the several plants that experienced winter die-back after the Polar Vortex Winter From Hell.

Also, the summer is a good time for me to contemplate which plants, if any, I want to attempt to move in the Fall. I have a few poorly-placed and overrun hydrangeas, peonies, and hostas that could use a change of scenery. I don’t even want to consider any new additions or purchases yet… although I do need to figure out where my new holly plant lives. Thanks for the present, Sheryl!

She gave me one of her holly offshoots, which reminds me: I do plan to dig up a bunch of honeysuckle and Rose of Sharon saplings that are trying to take hold. There’s nothing stopping me from planting some shrubs in pots and putting them by the front door, or by the sunroom, or giving them away. All I need are pots….

I do look forward to the time I get to spend tinkering with my plants. I try to go out every Saturday while my husband gets my son down for Quiet Time, and I take a personal day every now and then to do some hard-core gardening. It can be meditative, and mind-clearing, and it feels good to see some improvement after a couple hours outside pruning or weeding or whatnot.

Thanks, Sonia.

Peonies

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