Sunday, May 2, 2010

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I love teaching about gardening, especially at The Older Adult Learning Center of our local university. But I am ashamed to admit I do not always practice what I preach in my community gardening programs. I feel it is time I fessed up. They say that confession is good for the soul, so here are some of my gardening sins. I will first state what I teach, and then tell what I actually do:

  • Give each plant the conditions it needs to thrive. We often describe this as putting "the right plant in the right place." However, I seem convinced I can defy Mother Nature. That is why I planted the two spirea (in the picture above) in the shade garden. I wanted to introduce a shrub with light colored leaves, as I thought I had too much dark green there.  I know very well that spirea needs full sun, and the shade garden is ... well, shady. The shrubs looked great when I took this photo (this morning), but I am afraid they will have very few blooms. I'm glad to say the climbing hydrangea on the fence behind the spirea, and the deadnettle in front, are doing very well because THEY have the conditions they need. Likewise, the bleeding heart (below) is very happy this year, since I moved it from deep shade to the part shade it prefers.

    • Rotate your crops. I am pleased to say I do this faithfully with my vegetables. I have a four-year rotation system that ensures diseases are not passed on from year to year. Unfortunately, I do not always remember this with my annual flowers. I planted zinnias around my wall fountain (in the picture below) every year for several years, resulting in zinnia leaf spot disease each time. Now I find new places for them each year. Choosing more disease-resistant varieties helps, too.

    •  Label plants when you put them in the ground. This is important for its location as well as its name. When there is no marker, I sometimes forget in the spring and have been known to pull out new growth thinking it is a weed. In the summer, when someone is admiring the plant, I am saved embarrassment by having its name right there. The old memory is not what it was.

    I think this is Hermerocalis "Chicago Apache", but there is no marker ,,,,

    ... and is this Hermerocalis "Chorus Line?"

    • Don't buy by impulse!  The consequence can be great, but it can also be a disaster, such as the obedient plant that is spreading profusely and taking over my world!  But who could resist this cute Chinese celandine poppy?...

    Fortunately, I found a great spot for it and it works ....

    • Clean and sharpen your gardening tools every year. I have this on the Fall Tasks list for my students, and I tell them if not accomplished then, it must be done in the spring. Oops! I just butchered a rose bush with blunt cross-secateurs. Fortunately, HH came to my rescue with a new pair.
    • Put peony supports in place before the plant grows too tall. Hurray, I did not miss the window of opportunity this year ....

    • Get a soil test. You can purchase a kit at your local Extension office (ours are $9 each) and the resulting information is invaluable. So why don't I do this? I will quickly change the subject ... please call it "soil" not "dirt." This is an American foible that I am sometimes guilty of myself. Remember ... Soil is the substance you grow plants in; dirt is the substance behind my refrigerator.

    This is by no means the end of my list, but I think I have incriminated myself enough, and have probably lost all credibility with my students. 

    In conclusion, here are some new bloom in my garden, today:

    Bridal veil spirea

    Sweet shrub

    Lily of the Valley

    Wishing you a very happy May!

    ~~ I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited! 
    In return, I will leave a comment on your blog.


    1. Well, I'm glad you confessed. LOL
      I wonder if my Bleeding Heart is in too much shade also. It always blooms so much later than other peoples including the neighbor across the street. Guess it's time for a move.
      Enjoyed your post!

    2. Oh Pam, this is my favorite saying! Your tips are so helpful, especially the one about not buying on impulse. I try not to do this one :-)

    3. WOW What a greast Blog. So happy I found yoy.. I will return as I too am a gardner in Maine..'


    4. Excuse my ignorance - is sweet shrub what it is, or just in passing? Lovely chocolate burgundy buds. And the flower?

    5. Oh dear, there are many things there which I do as you do but not as you teach. I love your Lily of the Valley. I keep promising myself that I will get some, but I haven't yet.

    6. Yes, I do try rotation.., but now, I am trying to put several type of plants on the bed, and shift them around for the next growing season. ~bangchik

    7. Oh Pam, I am guilty of so many of those, the impulse buy, the failure to rotate annuals, cleaning and sharpening tools. The list goes on and on. I just get in a hurry sometimes and forget. :) Loved your post. Made me think a lot.~~Dee

    8. Rain Gardener - I would try moving the Bleeding Heart if it doesn't like the spot it is in.

      Noelle - I'm glad I'm not the only one who uses this saying!

      Yvonne - Thanks! I hope you visit often.

      Diana - Sweetshrub is the common name for Calycanthus floridus. It is sometimes called Carolina Allspice. The buds open into fragrant flowers from late spring into summer. They retain their chocolate, burgundy color. The foliage is also fragrant when crushed. I love this shrub.

      Jo - I wished we lived near, as I have many lilies-of-the-valley to share.

      Dee - glad you enjoyed this post. I love your blog.

      Everyone - thanks for your great comments!

    9. Well, you might not always do it right, but the results are still beautiful!

    10. Pam,
      So great to have you visit. I am jealous that you live on a farm with that much space for gardening. But my wonderful Husband would feel abandoned I am sure.Your dos and don'ts are super.Something to aim for.To answer your question. I should have said moving the Monarda. Yes, it is glorious and one could watch the hummingbird movie all day long at peak blossom. What I am doing is putting in another flowering shrub perhaps Hydrangea or something that would cover up the fence a wee bit earlier in spring, have any ideas? Zone 4 here! This Monarda is Jacob Klein and I have it everywhere for contrast and wildlife. A certain show stopper. Have a great day. Meg

    11. I break the rules too. And planting the same things in the same spot year after year is one of my vices. I will have to work on that.

      Good tips!


    12. Bangchik - sorry I missed you in my comments above! Glad you visited.

      MsRobin - Mother Nature can be very forgiving, don't you think?

      Meg - Welcome to my blog! There are several hydrangeas that work in your zone, such as 'Pink Diamond'. However, I find them a bit slow growing if you want to hide a fence. In addition, maybe you could put a clematis on a trellis up your fence. Good luck with this project.

      Rosey - One thing I have discovered from this post is that we all break the rules!

      Everyone - thanks again for visiting!

    13. Hi Pam, lovely blog and great tips, thank you, how wonderful that you have so much land to play with! Greetings from the Czech Republic!

    14. I'll admit it: I am a garden hypocrite. Especially about the impulse puchase thing but there are other areas in which I say one thing and do quite another. Thanks for explaining the difference between dirt and soil;)

      Christine in Alaska

    15. Hi Pam... all great advice. I'm guilty of trying things in places that I shouldn't, but if the plant survives, I move it in due time. It's fun to push nature's envelope once in a while.

    16. Pamela, I am enjoying looking at your blog and this advice is excellent!

      Something I would really like to know, is what is the best thing to write on those garden markers you show? Permanent marker or carbon pencil or what? I just bought quite a supply of the markers, but want to write on them with the best thing!

      I love the English gardens as well!

      Diane from Ontario