Havoc in the flower garden

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Black-eyed Susans

I like to garden; I do, but mostly, I just dabble. Sort of a grown-up’s version of playing in the dirt.

I’ve wanted flowers in my yard since I bought this house. I had visions of fragrant, flowering vines, bushes with gorgeous blooms, summer perfume that filled the air as I walked outside.

That was more than a decade ago, and it didn’t take long to realize that most flowers are kind of allergic to shade. Their stalks turn yellow; they refuse to bloom, and they die. Early on, I dug up a front flower bed (shaded by a huge oak tree and a few spindly pecan trees, added some potting soil, and planted a variety of flowers. Some mildewed, some rotted, and others refused to grow. All died. It didn’t matter that they basked in a few hours of hot, evening sun. It was just too little, too late.

I bought a bush. A pieris japonica, which I planted close to the front door. It is a slow-grower, but it thrived, apparently not minding an abundance of shade, and eventually, I bought two more. They now take up most of that flower bed. This summer, I had to trim them back a little.

The other front flower bed – nearly all shade, all the time – was trickier. I planted a hydrangea. It protested. I moved it out back, where it eventually died. I tried a rhododendron. I moved it around, tried to make it happy, but it refused to grow, or bloom, or do anything nice that plants and bushes are supposed to do. A few years ago, I looked up shade plants online, and I found a cute little dirt-hugging one called heuchera.

I took a chance on one. It was appealing; had a nice umbrella shape and a pretty bronze color, but just sort of sat there for two years. Then, BOOM. It got huge. And bloomed. So I bought two more, from a local high school plant sale. These two are a pretty green color, and they are thriving, too. So that flower bed is doing well.

Seasoned gardeners will tell you that there are no mistakes in gardening. That you can always pull something up and start over if it doesn’t work. And that’s true. Just this week I realized that my newest flower bed down by the mailbox – the one in the sun, with flowers that actually bloom – is planted all wrong.

I tried to follow the directions: plant this one x amount of inches from the next; this one will get xx inches high, etc. But a few of the flowers have exceeded expectations.

The Indian feathers turned out to be delightfully whimsical, but I planted them in front, and they are stealing the show from my black-eyed Susans.

The black-eyed Susans apparently don’t like that, and have leaned over into the Indian feathers, giving neither plant enough breathing room.

My coreopsis, which I thought was going to be nice and willowy, instead ended up short and stout. It’s in the middle of the bed, so you can’t see it unless you’re right on top of it.

My finicky low-lying gardenia, which I have moved all over the place, should be in the front, not the back, and there’s a huge something crowding out my rosemary, which is finally doing well. I haven’t pulled this mystery plant up, in hopes it is a sunflower.

My newest flower garden is quite attractive, but in all the wrong places, sort of like a child playing dress-up in clothes that don’t quite fit. I watered it again tonight, and thought about where I should move what, but with “real feel” temps already in the low 100s, I think I should let things be. There will be time this fall to do some rearranging. It may be a little crowded, but I’ve finally got some flowers. And, that makes me smile.

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