Saturday, May 3, 2014

More May Showers Bring May Flowers

Have you ever scanned gardening books and magazines and found beautiful displays and photos for garden areas such as entrances, patios, decks and containers? And then that magazine or book will provide you with a beautiful detailed diagram with the exact Latin names of flowers or plants and the number of plants to purchase to achieve the look? Well, in reality, if you chose to try to replicate it, there is a possibility that some of it may look similar to the diagram, but don't be too disappointed if it doesn't look anything like the picture.

For one thing, soils and climates are different, and plants, trees and shrubs react different in various areas of the country than what and where it is photographed. They might have used an area high in acidic soil, and the garden area you are interested in using has low acid soil, or it may be rocky or have lots of clay. It may be exposed to harsh road conditions such as snowplows, sand or ice in the winter. All in all, those photos and diagrams look great on paper and in photos, but don't set yourself up for failure. I've tried that a few times and even ordered the exact number and cultivar of plants only to have it fail on me. Now, I might refer to a diagram, but it's my diagram. A diagram that I created AFTER I planted my plants and it shows what is coming up and where. Then, I know if specific plants have failed to make an appearance.

Eastern Phoebe

Another problem with suggestions from magazines (other than the fact that I'm sure some of them are staged) is that some of the plants might not be suitable to your hardiness zone. Or even if it says they are that doesn't necessarily mean that they will thrive in your area or garden conditions. I know from past experience that it's not worth fighting with a plant to try to get it to survive in a certain area. An example of this is that I just love the scabiosas (pincushion flowers) and gaura, and have planted both of them several times in different areas on our property only to have them disappear the following spring. I guess if I want the scabiosas I'll just have to consider them an annual. And as far as the gauras are concerned, in certain areas of the country some species are considered noxious weeds. So sometimes garden failures like these are blessings in disguises.

The robin on her nest is pretty well camouflaged.

A lot of my plantings are just hit & miss. Either it's a hit and I love it and it is not too invasive, or it's a miss and it has missed out on having a happy place in my garden. I've lost a  lot of different varieties of shrubs and perennials for different reasons over the years, but you just move on and try something else.

One of my fellow gardening bloggers, Donna Abel Donabella, recently wrote a beautiful post on 'personal failure'. She writes beautifully and from the heart. She is very knowledgeable on wildflowers and a variety of other gardening subjects. Here is a link to one of her recent articles on  Doubling My Rate of Failure which I'm sure you will find very insightful.

A lovely spring scene from our friends' garden, Jan and Jim Tighe

"I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying." 
~Michael Jordan

Miniature Daffodils
Mulch. I thought that this would be a good time to bring up mulch. That's a dirty word. We all know it and "to mulch or not to mulch, that is the question". This is a good time of year to mulch your gardens. Mulching this time of year is good because your perennials are just starting to come up and it's easier to work the mulch in and around them before they get too big.  Mulch has a lot of benefits: it will retain moisture in the warm days of summer, it will keep the weeds down, help prevent soil erosion, and when it breaks down it will add nutrients to the soil. There are different types of mulch:  wood chips, bark nuggets, shredded bark, straw, pine needles, and shredded leaves. The finer the mulch the quicker it will break down. We usually use the shredded bark around our gardens. When applying mulch leave a little space around your plants. This time of year you also have to be careful when you apply it. I mean watch the weather: if they are calling for torrential downpours for the next few days you will probably want to wait or otherwise it will get washed away.

Also, I've read where cocoa shells is a great mulch to keep deer out of your garden, but the downside to this mulch is that it can be toxic to pets. On a side note, my father-in-law used to use this mulch and while I absolutely love any form of chocolate (my family can all attest to that), I could not stand the smell of the cocoa mulch, especially on a very hot and humid day.
Fiddle heads (from emerging ferns)

Some landfills offer free mulch. If you are interested in getting some check with your county landfills to see if they offer it and what the requirements are. You probably have to have your own vehicle to transport it, and they may or may not load it for you. If you do get mulch from your local landfill be careful because sometimes there might be a lot of weed seeds in it or even poison ivy that has been mulched. We have used this mulch in the past for our paths through the ground ivy in our back yard.

Avoid using new sawdust. Sawdust should be seasoned at least one year before it is used otherwise it will take nitrogen out of the ground around your plants and nothing will grow. It takes quite awhile for sawdust to break down. And some sawdust, like from walnut wood shavings, is toxic to plants.  Sawdust is better used in composting as "brown" material.

Another type of mulch is stones. There are different types and color of stones. If you use this type of mulch you will have to consider what type of plants you are using it around. You will not want to use it with plants that will need frequent dividing or where you like to plant annuals every year. The stone mulch will attract heat from the sun, and will dry out your soil. So if you have heat loving plants that like dry soils you're ok, but otherwise. . . you probably will want to consider some other type of mulch.

Here is a lovely 2:30 minute video on YouTube on The Beauty of Flowers by Vladimir Vorobyov. (Click on the arrow in the middle of the photo below to view it)

#Gardening  #Mulch  #Nature  #Photography #Blogger  #SpringFlowers

Thanks for stopping by, 
and hope you enjoyed your visit. 

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in the comment section below.


  1. Love,love,love this post! I totally agree re: gardening magazines.Sometimes I wonder who the authors REALLY are.I've always looked at gardening as an adventure.Or maybe as a great experiment.And I may steal your idea for a future post,re:Florida gardening,if you don't mind.

    1. Thank you Chris! I agree with you that gardening certainly is an adventure. You never know how it's going to turn out, and it changes from year to year. Also, I know of several magazines that have contests where you submit your gardening photos and they can use them as they like without giving the original gardener or photographer any credit whether you win the contest or not.
      Feel free to use any of my ideas! I know I've gotten a few from you as well.

    2. Sue,
      I enjoyed reading your blog and also your friend's blog about failure. As we both know gardening in the north can be challenging, but the joy of trying new things is such a great feeling. I have had as many failures as successes, but I do not regret any of the choices. Thanks again for sharing such great information.
      Do you know if you can get pine needles in the north? If so where?

    3. Hi Linda, You are right in that we've both had our share of challenges in the north country, and it's all the better when we try something new that surprises us and makes it. And like you, I don't regret any of the choices I made either. I have just the spot where you can get pine needles- come to my house and help yourself! We have tons for the taking.

  2. Thanks for sharing my blog are too kind. I really enjoyed your take on these diagrammed gardens and how we have to consider so much and still we fail. Great shots of flowers and that robin's nest!!

    We use wood mulch in front and side gardens and then nothing in back...we leave the leaves and plant debris to help, but I need to use grass and horsetail to mulch since we have so much horsetail. Love to get some pine mulch but no way to get it from you to me!

    1. Thank you Donna, for letting me share your post with my readers. It really fit in well with this theme.

      There are some years that we don't get around to putting down the mulch in all the garden areas, but then come July-August when the weeds start coming back up again I regret not doing it. I like the shredded mulch, but it would be nice if it lasted a little longer. Most of the time it doesn't even last the whole season.

  3. I've had the same problem with Scabiosa in CT.

    1. I thought it was just me, Cynthia. I don't know why they sell them around here as perennials. They should just sell them as annuals. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you Aaron, and thanks for sharing it on your page.