Pausing For Breath
Gardening is something you do inside your head as much as out in your garden. Sometimes you need to look at an established bed and mentally rearrange the plants. You need to decide to pull the plug on an unsatisfactory performer. And you need to imagine potential replacements, newly planted and in a few seasons.
Late fall and winter provide the perfect time to engage in this mental gardening. Spring is a frenzy of planting and clean-up, a time to execute what you’ve been pondering. Summer is when I am mesmerized by the sheer mass of flowers and grasses, and it’s too damn hot anyway. Summer is when you forget the existence of that 3′ perennial with the gorgeous flowers because it is surrounded by the 5′ perennials.
In fall things slow down and cool down. You can start to prep for the following year. And gradually, as fall transitions to winter, the garden is laid bare again, revealing things you forgot or never noticed. As this process unfolds once again, here are some thoughts that occur to me.
Ease out the Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaritica). Woodland Phlox is guilty of false advertising as far as I’m concerned. Yes, the blue spring flowers are awfully nice. But the leaves poop out by mid-summer, leaving patches of bare ground. Basically this plant might as well be a spring ephemeral. Plus it’s been awarded the prestigious Most Delicious Perennial Award by Rabbit Gourmet magazine.
And yes, I’ve got it growing in the right conditions: part shade with good moisture.
I’m not going to pull out the Woodland Phlox, but I am going to set it up in competition with others that have a better record of maintaining their foliage through the season. If the Phlox manages to hang on, fine. If it gets shaded out, too bad.
I’ve already planted a white Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘alba’) in one spot. Elsewhere I’m thinking of hardy Geraniums, maybe ‘Biokovo’ or ‘Tschelda’. And in another spot I may just let the Great Merrybells (Uvularia grandiflora) patch gradually take over the Phlox territory, filling in with Violas as the Uvularia make their slow but steady advance.
Move ‘David’ and ‘Northwind’ into the light. I’ve got two Phlox paniculata ‘David’ whose gleaming white flowers are pretty much hidden, mostly by Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). These should be moved to the sidewalk bed.
Also, there’s a young clump of ‘Northwind’ Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) which is located behind several tall plants and is not getting quite its share of the light. I’m going to move it to the west side of the ‘Gateway’ Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum subsp. maculatum).
Replace Some of the New England Aster With Big Bluestem? Not completely sure about this, but I am hankering after ‘Red October’, a new variety of Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii). The name alone makes it almost irresistable.
And I’ve got to say, New England Aster (Symphoricarpos novae-angliae) has been one of my least satisfactory asters. It’s nice but so tall and lanky, and the floral display does not seem commensurate with the space taken. Plus I have two big clumps, do I really need both?
When does your mental gardening kick into high gear? Are you, like me, already obsessed with plans for spring?
This post is written in cooperation with Beth’s ‘Lessons Learned’ meme at Plant Postings, as well Donna’s Seasonal Celebrations on Garden’s Eye View. Both are delightful sites, go ahead and take a peek.