Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Rethinking my garden

Last summer I was asked to submit some of my photos to a publishing house working on several new gardening books. The list of desired pictures was quite specific, so I went back through my entire photo library to see if I already had some of the shots they were looking for.

'New Dawn' arched over the front porch

My library goes back to 2001 when we were living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. During my walk down Memory Lane, I revisited lots of pictures of the cottage garden I’d created while living there. I had forgotten how lovely it was.

The Pond Garden

Front walkway garden

After looking through all those photos, I felt a bit sad thinking about the garden I’d been working on in the North Carolina mountains since 2010. I was suddenly struck with the realization that whatever I’ve been doing here has not been a success. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

Boaters on the Little Choptank oohed and aahed over our hydrangeas

It started off well enough. My husband Chris took cuttings of the hardy ‘Nikko Blue’ hydrangeas that lined the back of our Maryland home. Boaters passing by on the river behind us called us “the blue house” because of the proliferation of blue blooms they could see from the water.

The cuttings rooted beautifully, and we planted them all along the foundation our “new” house here. (We tore out the cheap, ugly bushes the previous owner had put in and started from scratch.) Then I added roses and perennials like I had done on the Eastern Shore.

Centranthus was a great companion for my roses in MD

My first clue that things were not going well was the discovery that the Centranthus ruber and alba that grew like weeds in Maryland did not thrive here. I tried planting them six different times before giving up. Phlox, coreopsis and other old favorites never made it past one season. Still, I soldiered on thinking all would come together eventually.

Some of the roses did well and some just sulked. The big successes were the catmints, daylilies, Shasta daisies and a couple of dahlias. And to my surprise, the hydrangeas went from strength to strength and started taking over.

The best the garden looked was in 2013 when the roses seemed to be happy and some of the perennials blended in quite nicely. Then things started to happen. For example, we had to dig up part of the garden to repair a section of the driveway held up by boulders that was crumbling. We put all the plants in pots and some of them never recovered.

My mountain garden in happier times

Several of the roses that looked so good in 2013 started to regress. Before long I had a bunch of bushes with a single, pitiful cane. New perennials I put in did not do squat. And the lamiums I planted on advice of a local friend started to become a nuisance.

Time to put on my thinking cap and try again.

So, the first thing I am going to do is test the soil again to make sure we have no new issues there. I’ll keep the roses and other plants that have worked and get rid of the poor performers. Then I will look for new ideas for a mountain garden in Zone 6b according to the new 2012 map. (Apparently, we used to be Zone 7a in the olden days.) Your suggestions are very welcome. 

Clematis works in the NC garden, unlike in MD

I have been looking at some of the cottage gardens on Pinterest and see a few things I’d like to pursue. Low-growing dark green ornamental grasses mixed with salvia and lamb's ears, for example.

Of course, we all know a garden is always a work in progress. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how mine is progressing!


Beth at PlantPostings said...

Yes, a garden is a work in progress for sure. I'm sure your gardens in both locations are amazing, but I know what you mean. Beautiful photos, Lynn!

Sweet Home and Garden Carolina said...

Gardening is the slowest of the performing arts, Lynn ! Plus you have many challenges in your mountain garden just as I do here in the N.C. piedmont where deer, rabbits, drought, floods, etc. are in abundance. I've been testing plantings for a few years now. I would highly recommend salvia greggi ( Autumn Sage ) which blooms from Summer through-out Autumn and sometimes remains green during mild Winters, dder , rabbit and drought resistant, sedges for wet, shady areas, Aster oblongifolius 'Raydon's Favorite' , a popular and beautiful long-blooming violet-blue perennial, euphorbias for dry areas, hellebores for shade, all cultivars of viburnums, witchhazel, anise shrub, rhododendon 'rosebay', a beautiful native, ferns, dogwood, calycanthus, buckeye and sumac to name a few. I've been developing my current garden for several years now and sometimes I think I'm not making progress but then I go back and look at the "before " and "after " pics and see the big difference.

Lynn Hunt said...

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement! I know with some changes my mountain garden will improve! Hope so anyway.

Lynn Hunt said...

Thank you so much for the recommendations. I know you have been working on that garden for a long while and I appreciate knowing what has worked for you. I have put most of your suggestions on my list. The salvia will definitely work and I have some asters growing wild on on the mound so I know 'Raydons Favorite' will be happy with the roses. Take care and thanks again!

Sunil Patel said...

Hello Lynn, you have to be brave and strong to realise and admit that things haven't gone according to plan, but from that comes the freedom to re-assess and re-evaluate and re-new. Your old garden looked beautiful but it sounds like using it as a base for your mountain garden isn't working because the environment is so different. There will be many other plants that will thrive in those conditions so while there may be some painful "goodbye's" to plants that won't make it, I'm sure you'll find plenty of new favourites.

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

I understand your dilemma. My sunny areas are declining and the love of a few roses isn't really realistic. Deer and rabbits and voles are another challenge. Ugh, with all the elements Mother Nature throws at us, I wonder how we can garden.
All that being said, I have had some nice results with the various Clethra alnifolia...my favorite for fragrance is Vanilla Spice. Handles full to dappled shade with minimal watering and more sun if you can water (or have a moist area). Oakleaf hydrangeas shine in my woods as long as the voles leave them alone.
Keep plugging away- I know comparing a former garden to a new place isn't easy.

Pam/Digging said...

Gardening is a continual process of adjustment, reevaluation, and pulling up dead plants and trying something else - ha! Happily we gardeners realize it's all about the journey, right?

Lisa Wagner said...

Oh, my- you went from a coastal situation to a very much mountain one -totally different. It’s all about learning what works for your elevation in WNC.

Lynn Hunt said...

Sunil, I know you are right. I need to let go of the old which as you wisely say, will free me up to make new discoveries. It is going to be quite fun, I hope. I will keep you posted my friend.

Lynn Hunt said...

Janet, I'm sorry to hear your sunny areas are disappearing and you may have to give up the thought of roses. Thank you for the Clethra recommendation! I will check it out. In the meantime, there are two very nice roses I grew in partial shade in MD - 'Lyda Rose' and 'Teasing Georgia'. Both are available at Roses Unlimited. But the deer and voles would probably love them, too. Ugh. We gardeners soldier on!

Lynn Hunt said...

Pam, your thoughts are spot on. Thank you for the encouragement. As I said to Janet, we soldier on! Hopefully along the way, I'll discover some new plants that will surprise me and become favorites.

Lynn Hunt said...

I am learning Lisa! Sometimes it is the hard way :)

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