Sunday, June 19, 2011

Garden Mayhem!

I have moved many plants in anticipation of some new hardscaping (a patio and 2 pergolas).  This month the real mayhem commences as I clear out plants which are too much work, too fussy or just plain boring. Which plants stay and which ones go will be determined by several factors and, of course, the whim of the gardener.
The first ones to go will be those that rampage merrily through the garden, indifferent to the suffering of other, less enthusiastic vegetation and require entirely too much work to keep them from taking over. I don’t mind perennials that spread slowly for many years and then need dividing, like daylilies (Hemerocallis ssp.) or iris, but others can become genuine thugs. Reining in the herds of bee balm (Monarda didyma) will be the first order of business. This genus is in the mint family and spreads by underground runners; not as aggressively as true mints, like peppermint or spearmint, but too much for their current position. They have wonderful, strange flowers that are adored by hummingbirds and butterflies; the leaves smell like Earl Grey tea.

Monarda 'Jacob Kline'
 Several varieties, including ‘Jacob Kline’, a bright red, ‘Blue Stocking’, shorter and purple, and ‘Coral Reef’, a medium sized pink, will all be relocated to wilder areas of the garden where they can roam free and a few will be given away with proper warnings. While I adore their flowers, and these 3 are all wonderfully healthy, they have strangled 3 roses and a daylily and are threatening several iris. Fling! Out they go!
The flocks of garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) will also be thinned out this year. I have 4 large clumps of the tall, white phlox, ‘David’; they are drop-dead gorgeous, smell like heaven and bloom for almost two months. The leaves rarely get powdery mildew, a common fault in many otherwise beautiful phlox. Three of them are getting the shovel, along with a few other varieties. Why, you may ask?
 While phlox spreads outward somewhat from its roots, the real danger to the garden is its seeds. I have never encountered a more enthusiastic seeder. This plant is bent on world conquest and it’s gotten a good start in my garden! Seedlings are everywhere and they are not the easiest things to dig out. To be fair, if I had deadheaded the plants when the seeds were forming, I would not be in this pickle. These plants will also join the bee balm in the hinterlands where they may seed to their hearts’ content and I can still enjoy their large flowers and sweet scent.
The next victims will be the plants that are perpetually on the edge of death, but never quite die, and I haven’t had the heart to finish them before now. This mostly applies to roses, though a few other plants are also candidates for executive termination. At one point in my gardening career, I would not have considered removing a rose, no matter how pathetic, simply because . . . well, it’s a rose. I could actually grow roses – how could I get rid of one just because it’s a sad, pitiable little specimen?? Combine early enthusiasm and a mulish gardener and you get some really wretched greenery.
That the enthusiasm is now tempered with 10 years of fertilizing, feeding and spraying roses which are STILL on Death’s door. The scales have definitely tilted towards “too much work; not enough return”. I’ll need to stay stubborn on this one – roses are still hard for me to shovel prune, despite such lack-luster results. Sigh – fling.
Lastly are the ones that I simply find boring. Granted, not every plant in the garden needs to be a star – a well-designed garden should have areas of calm where no particular plant grabs your attention and the flora all flows together seamlessly. However, uninteresting plants take away from any area of the garden, calm or otherwise. In my case, the particular plants I have lost interest in are many daylilies I planted in the first throes of hemerocallis fever. A certain daylily farm in Missouri has fantastic prices, great sales and no compunction at all about capitalizing on a newly minted daylily-lover’s obsession. Bless them!
As a result, I bought every daylily that looked even vaguely interesting. Many lovely flowers now grace my garden but some turned out to be less than advertised. At one point, I was on a miniature flower kick and bought 5 different small, pink daylilies. Only one I actually ended up liking. Hopefully other people will be fond of the other 4. Out they go, too! Fling!
Life is too short to grow plants that don’t thrill you or make you work hard for no return. Next, I’ll discuss some of the new plants I’m adding that will both delight me and make gardening easier.
Stay stubborn!

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