Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pleasant surprises

I think one of the things that is most addictive about gardening is the blend of the predictable and unpredictable. I can pretty well rely on daffodils coming up and blooming every spring; on the yew near our front door trying to grow big enough to block the path and my half-heartedly pruning it back, on maple seedlings coming up everywhere (including the gutters if said gutters weren't recently cleaned); and on some of the plants I bought in previous years having sadly departed.

My expectations are set fairly low when it comes to perennials actually being perennial. This probably has a lot to do with my first attempt at a garden in our yard: back by the shed, there's a very shaded spot in which I envisioned a mostly-native woodland garden - lush ferns, spring ephemerals, hostas and so on. What I failed to realize is that woodland soil is not what we have in that spot. Instead of a rich leaf-litter-derived humus, we have thick orangish clay back there, drained of nutrients (and moisture, in summer) by the shallow roots of trees. Now, I did amend the soil when I first started planting things back there, but not nearly enough. The net result is that 2/3 of the things I put there haven't made it, and of the ones that have lived, some of them are just hanging on rather than thriving and blooming.

But last fall after most of the plants were dormant, I put a thick layer of leaf mold and compost over the area, and by now it has mostly been broken down and worm-eaten into the soil. The plants that are left appreciate it, and for the first time since it was put there in 2008, the dwarf crested iris (Iris cristata) has a flower bud - I'm finally going to see what it looks like in bloom.

Elsewhere in the garden, I thought I'd lost the native Turk's Cap lily I planted last year because I didn't see anything there when the oriental lilies were already 2 or 3 inches tall. But in the process of weeding, I found that for one thing, I'd been looking in the wrong spot, and for another, it simply was later to emerge: as I was pulling out wild strawberry and wild garlic, I found not one but six (!) stubby little lily shoots coming up.

The two monardas I've planted have come back and are just waiting for warmer weather to make them grow big. The lavendar has some new sprigs of green, though not very many - it's probably in a location too wet for it. Physostegia seems to have self-sown, or spread underground, or both, and is coming up all over the place (I discovered after I bought it that it has this tendency). Intriguingly, the Dusty Miller that is supposedly an annual managed to survive the wicked winter, and is making new growth. I had no idea it could do that; I'm glad I didn't pull it out to "tidy up" at the end of the season last year.

I promise, I promise, I'll try to get some photos taken and put them here soon!

1 comment:

Sparkling Squirrel said...

Despite (or more likely because of)the large quantities of snow, plant-wise it wasn't a tough winter here. Our rosemary didn't die left outside, and out butterfly bush didn't die back at all.
Last year the rosemary was toast and the butterfly bushes died to the ground.
Anyway, my dusty miller also overwintered. Hooray for garden surprises.