Marathon Gardening Ilona Erwin Jul 18, 2004 No Comment

Gardening , when it once catches a place in your heart, is a lifetime pursuit. It takes you through phases, and conforms to the metamorphism of your life. As all good organisms do. If you are long in a garden, or inherit someone elses efforts, sooner or later you may find the need to renovate. Renovation has some challenges.
As any old house aficionado knows, it is usually easier to start new than to redo. But there is a certain character and venerability in  taking  an overgrown and weedy, but once-worthy garden, and giving it a fresh license to flourish. I decided a couple years ago to do this for my front border.
The front border was my first garden project at this property. It was the recipient of all my high-flying dreams of English garden borders. If the land could laugh, I am sure it laughed at me. The simple woman and her dreams..... soon to find the wisdom of blooming where one is planted means finding the resources of wind and and prairie and making... a! I mean a meadow-like prairie border.
For that is what my front border, now into the second year of renovating, most resembles. I am now about halfway through the process, with the right flank and the center section newly weeded, dug, divided, and replenished. It looks a little raw, and I see that in my desire to have my plants actually live, I have interspersed prairie denizens in a mixed planting.  This was also a result of wanting color through the hot summer months instead of the burst of June and the doldrums for an extended struggle through July/August heat, humidity, and drought.
So, now I have liatris blooming through the Rudbeckia, and side comments of platycodon and daylilies, backed by a good red monarda. Physotegia is holding up the right background with larger planting of the platycodons (white and blue), with new neighbors of echinacea taking hold. The feverfew is now fading, but held the garden together in the transition of  Junes' fairy coloring to robust reds and golds of midsummer.  I found some of my struggling coreopsis and replanted it in the middle section with the black-eyed susans. It did well there before.  The front has campanula 'Blue Clips', a new shorter platycodon, lambs ears, and Eupatorium coelestinum.
Remaining work is the far left section.  I started, but then got distracted, and with the present onset of real summer weather I'm going at the work a bit more slowly. And unless you have unlimited energy and a very strong back, renovation is not something to tackle with a sprinting spirit. Most of us have other obligations in tandem and wish to save many of the good plants in those weedy overgrown plots. Like an old house, at some point it would not be worth saving.... but some of us get a cetain satisfaction out of restoring old, but still good, stuff.  I could elaborate on this trait! But I don't want to encourage myself.... not in that direction anyway!  Clutter-addicts know what I am talking about.
This brings me to one of the opportunities of renovation: not everything should be saved. Sometimes things, plants or combinations of them, just didn't work, now is the time to scrap them and give the garden a new look. Update!
I'll record what I think the successes were farther into the season. I know the new anemone japonicas will take  this year to get settled, but nestled between the contorted hazel and the buddleia I am hoping they will like their new place and complement the well-established Honorine Jobert anemones on the other side of the garden.  That will create a more pink/white scheme for fall. I have been pulling out all my asters, so I have to see if I left enough for a good fall show.
One last thing..... I have been mulching everything. The good idea for an under-mulch is newspaper. This breaks down well and smothers weeds in the meantime. I don't use the shiny colored ink ads, only the newprint portion. The bad idea was using plastic underneath. Not good. Too many problems with it to bother going into, just be warned, if you are thinking about using plastic under your organic mulch, don't go there.

by Ilona Erwin

A gardener, blogger, writer, who has been blogging here since 2004, and writing for my website, Ilona's Garden since 1998.

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