Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What Worked and What Didn't In My 2016 Gardens

On this snowy day, I'm spending an enjoyable few hours browsing photographs of my 2016 gardens. I need to decide what to keep, what to change, and any new projects for the next garden year. I've consulted my journal, which is invaluable, to see where my gardens were and where they need to go, but photographs are even more helpful. As the idiom says, 'A picture is a thousand words.' Here's a partial list of what worked and what didn't:

1. Glorious April daffodils
The Daffodil Walk that takes visitors to the front porch was glorious. Unfortunately, by June it was a mess; the perennial geraniums I planted in each bed failed to hide the bedraggled, dying daffodil leaves. As a result, I probably cut the daffodil leaves back too soon, so I'll have a weaker crop next spring. I'm thinking of adding petunias. They wont be tall enough to hide the dying leaves but maybe their bright colors will detract from them. I grow petunias in window boxes but not in the ground. I was motivated by a blog posting written by my friend Karen who blogs at Quarry Garden Stained Glass. Her petunias are stunning every year as you will see if you click on the link here. I am going to follow Karen's advice, buy seed and give it a try.

The Daffodil Walk

2.  May Blossoms on the Weeping Cherry.
The weeping cherry I planted in honor/memory of my mother thickened out and bloomed beautifully last year. I need to do some judicial pruning before the end of March while the tree is dormant.

May blossoms on Snow fountain cherry Prunus x 'Snofozam'

3. The Cottage Garden in June
I believe June is my favorite month in my garden: roses, peonies, viburnum, mock orange all bloom profusely. (Compare the next photo taken in June with the first picture above taken today. This is why I enjoy browsing my albums at this time of year.) I'm not so fond of the downtime occurring end-of-June/beginning-of-July when less is blooming. At that point,  giant allium 'Globemaster' fill the void ... they always work.

Roses, peonies and alliums
Allium -- always a success

4. Fourth of July: Red, White and Blue Garden
I can't take much credit for the glorious July Fourth display in the Picket-fence Garden (my grandson calls this garden Strawberry Fields.) The delphiniums self-seeded to make the show work. I wonder what 2017 will bring to this spot.

Bee Balm Monarda 'Jacob Cline,' Larkspur Delphinium 'Bellamosum,' and Yarrow Achillea 'The Pearl.'

In the same bed the plant I thought was goat's beard began to give off a disgusting, rotten-meat odor. Research showed I had planted fleece flower not goat's beard. It had to go. I made changes in the fall that you can read about here.

Fleece flower Persicaria polymorpha -- STINKS.

5. The Shade Garden in July 
 In early summer, the Shade Garden came into its own with a mix of foliage plants of various greens and multiple textures. I loved my shade garden and named it Serenity. Notice the past tense. When we had to remove the very large, dangerous silver maple tree, the shade garden became bathed in sunlight while receiving minimal shade from the catalpa tree. Hostas scorched and ferns disappeared.

Early summer in the shade garden before we removed the tree.
Some of these foliage plants were trampled by the workmen and others were sun-damaged
The silver maple had shaded the southern end of the Shade Garden

I am thinking of relocating the hostas, ferns, brunnera and helebores from the southern end of the (former) shade garden and planting a moon garden with sun/part shade plants there. I've already planted a 'Pee Gee' hydrangea and I'm considering 'Summer Snowflake' viburnum, lambs ears, montauk daisy, snow in summer and allium 'Mount Everest.' In the fall I may plant some white crocuses. A moon garden would be tranquil and I could keep the name Serenity. It's exciting to plan a new garden, but I'm still feeling sick at losing shade.

6. The Kitchen Garden
The kitchen garden provided a steady supply of produce all summer and fall. There was a glut of cucumbers resulting in a cache of freezer pickles. Today there are several jars of pickled red beets in the jelly cupboard. We have pounds of onions still to be eaten. We left parsnips in the ground to enjoy when it thaws. This was a good year for herbs, too, in the garden trug on the patio. I will sow tried and true seed varieties again this year.

A productive kitchen garden

A part-failure in the kitchen garden was the sunflower -- I forget which variety. The blossoms were gorgeous, then each stem began to fall over. I thought it was caused by the weight of the sparrows eating the seeds. My dear friend Katharine told me she believed the damage was caused by a stem borer. Looking inside a stem, I found she was right. Thank you, Katharine. H.H. burned the plant and removed the soil from the raised box so the infestation doesn't remain over winter. I have yet to decide what I will plant there this year.

Beautiful sunflower blossoms; deadly stem borer
Sunflower Stem Borer (internet photo)

7. Container Plantings, August/September
 The five widow boxes along the tractor shed worked. I over-filled them with petunias that spilled over effectively. The petunias covered the bacoba, so I wont plant it next time.

Supertunia 'Bordeaux', Supertunia 'Flamingo', purple fountain grass, (bacoba hidden.)

The four containers of canna lilies on the patio were stunning. However, I'm not sure the tropical look is right for my cottage garden -- what do you think? The canna corms are over-wintering in the basement. What should I do this year? Any advice, dear friends?

8. Plant Markers
One of my favorite successes was the beautiful hand-painted plant markers my friends at Bryant Park made. I'll be purchasing more of them for my 2017 garden.

 9. Bulb Forcing in October/November
Amaryllis 'Picottee' is the last of the bulbs to bloom. Don't you love its delicate white petals edged in red? My amaryllis project was definitely a success. I'm going to try to keep them for next year.

Amaryllis Hippeastrum 'Ferrari'
Amaryllis 'Picotee' and Amaryllis 'Clown'

That's a brief summary of some of my year's successes and failures plus some ideas for my 2017 gardens. What changes are you planning for the new gardening season? Or, if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, what changes are you making now?

Pamela x

I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited! I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. Hmmm, I didn't know that sunflowers could have a borer problem. Mine were also very floppy this year, and I thought I had overwatered early on. Will have to keep my eyes peeled.

    1. They weren't just floppy, Robin, but the stems broke off. Very discouraging. x

  2. I enjoyed this post! One of my favorite parts of having a garden blog is the ability to look back and figure out what changes to make. Constant tinkering is the joy of gardening, I guess! :)

  3. Oh how I love looking at seasonal contrast photos! I love the weeping cherry, lovely form. I'll be interested in seeing how you prune this tree; I have a malus 'Louisa' which also weeps, but I'm afraid my pruning talents need a bit of work. I hope you enjoy the petunias, what color are you thinking of? I detest the declining bulb foliage, too. I have a plethora of canna bulbs myself, but not as pretty as yours. I am having a hard time deciding on the placement of mine, too. I can't wait to see the changes this coming season in your lovely garden.

    1. I'm thinking of red petunias, Karen, to coordinate with the red door. Congratulations again on the Wisconsin Gardening magazine feature of your beautiful garden. x

    2. Red petunias will be lovely with the door! Thank you, Pam!

  4. I agree with you about daffodil foliage. I grow most of mine in the lawn now. I can cope with a few patches of longer grass far better than I can put up with the foliage in the border. I do use Geranium to cover the foliage of Iris reticulata, and that works a treat. I popped over to Karen's blog - I haven't been there before, so I followed her and zoomed in on those glorious Petunia! I loved seeing your tractor shed window boxes again. They were wonderful!

  5. I have some of the same problems you do. I adore daffodils and grow large masses of them, but then end up with lots of sad looking greenery at some point. I know some people grow them with daylilies to hide them, but I'm not quite as a fan of daylilies, and they spread too vigorously for me. Karen's petunias are an inspiration, that's for sure! How sad you lost your shade garden! What a pretty name for one, too. What type of onions do you plant? I grew my first onions last year, though they didn't get as large as I wanted due to our extreme drought.

  6. What a great post, I think blogs are good for looking back and seeing what the garden was looking like at a particular time of year. Such a shame about your shade garden but it will be good if you're able to rescue some of the plants and make a new garden with them. The sunflowers look fabulous, I haven't heard of this borer problem before. I cut down on vegetable growing considerably last year and I'm cutting back even more this year, just a couple of tomato plants in the greenhouse and perhaps a couple of containers of potatoes and that's it.

  7. Your beautiful garden has always had successes. I love the window boxes and agree allium is always welcome for me too.

  8. I love your garden! I found your site looking up eastern pa birds and I'm glad I did. We bought a house in Bethlehem last spring and a lot of the shrubs are wrong for full sun so I'm doing a complete overhaul. We moved from zone 7 it's nice to see so many of the things I like doing well in your garden. Gives me hope.

    1. Welcome to my blog, Melios. I hope you come back often.

  9. A snowy day is the perfect time to think of the garden past and contemplate the season ahead. I think one of the joys of gardening that it is a work in progress, and even when everything is done and "perfect", there is always that new addition that is so exciting. You have some nice new additions. The Weeping Cherry tree will bring you much joy and the Alliums are wonderful too. I added some to my garden three years ago and love them! Enjoy your planning. Spring is almost here!

  10. I look forward to the Kirstenbosch Plant Sale in March.
    Need to work on a little list, for the gaps in a little garden.

    I still think the cannas are a grace note, a little quirk of fun, in your garden.

  11. It's a great idea to review your garden over a long period. I especially like the winter and summer shots.

  12. I found bag worm cocoons on a shrub and a few trees.