Thursday, April 24, 2008

The First Year They Sleep. . .

. . . the second year they creep, the third year they leap!

I don't remember when or where I heard or read this quote, which was referring to perennials. Other than most of the hostas and one geranium brought here from my beloved Georgian (sold after I married my husband,) most of the plants in my garden are three years old and younger.

Gardening in dry shade, dappled sun, and part sun while competing with the roots of 40-year-old maples, I've had more failures than I care to recall. The geranium I brought here is nowhere near the size a four-year-old would have been in any previous garden. The plants that have survived are slower to establish, and grow more slowly.

In the past two years especially, I've gotten smarter about what plants will survive, and even hopefully thrive in dry shade. I still can't resist plants like astilbes, which thrive in moist, shady and part-sun areas. Those, I site near each other and near the patio so I can watch them carefully and water them more liberally. Fortunately the patio area is less maple root-riddled as well.

In more far-reaching areas, I shoot for drought-tolerant plants. The garden as a whole still gets more frequent irrigation than past gardens. Although I still sometimes have guilt pangs for not being more water-conservative, this is how I have to garden in dry shade. I hope to ease some of that guilt by installing rain barrels. I need to make them budgetary priorities. With the size of the garden, the limited budget, and the high failure rate, like many plants I lust after, rain barrels haven't become a reality yet. I realize that as things get established, less watering will be required. Still, competing with the maple roots, this garden will always need irrigation to supplement the rain, primarily in July and August.

I sold the Georgian in February 2006. . . FEBRUARY!!! A gardener should never move in February, at least not in this climate. I had to leave my garden behind without taking pieces of it with me. Every other time I've moved, it was during the growing season. Divisions from my garden were the first things I'd moved. This time with the exception of the hostas and geranium, I started from scratch. I brought them here 4 years ago, but I've divided the hostas so many times, they aren't the size of 4-year-olds.

I've been very patient until now.

So c'mon 3-year-olds, START LEAPING! You toddlers and terrible twos, I can be patient a while longer. But you three-year-olds, consider yourselves on notice. I expect big things from you this year. Don't dissapoint me, or I'll. . . I'll. . . I'll put you on time out! So there!


  1. I've moved twice in winter and had to leave my gardens behind. It was painful! I'm pretty determined not to do that again, though we never do know what life will throw at us :)

    This will be my big year for "creeping" though I wish the "leaping" would come much sooner!

    Have you tried sweet woodruff in your dry shade? I just read about it a couple weeks ago. Apparently it thrives there. Not knowing this, last year I planted a piece from my mother in full sun where it survived but hasn't been very happy. I'll be moving it within the next week or so to the one narrow spot beside the house that is shaded most of the time.

  2. I'm hoping your three-year-olds will jump for joy this season. :)

  3. Very nice saying and it makes sense, at least to me. Only this spring I can see some of my 3year-olds finally thriving after being eaten to death by slugs in the past. Gardeners will always find something to moan about (lol) but just between us, we know that deep down it is really nothing more than a never ending joy that lits up our lives. If it was all perfect, what the hell would we do all day (and night)? As much (or little) headache as they might give, those maples of yours are truly stunning.

    P.S. Amy's comment made me think about a dry shade lover I've come across the other day in the Botanical garden, - Epimedium (Barrenwort).

  4. Our gardens sound a lot alike, only here it's Cottonwood & Boxelder roots (well, Boxelders are Maples). Sometimes I like to recall all the plants that have perished here in the last 15 years, but mostly I like to focus on the ones that have survived & thrived: Stylophorum diphyllum (Celadine Poppy), Asarum canadensis, Mertensia virginica, Labrador violets, Japanese Anemone and, most surprisingly, Campanula persicifolia. All of the above have become so abundant that they've had to be edited (read seedlings weeded out). Yes, we can't grow Ligularia, or Petasites. Astilbe will always be a challenge. Watering will always be necessary except when we have a deluge like last August. But a decent garden can be had.

  5. LOL! I love it, a time out for plants! I'm sure they'll behave for you. Have you put any miracle grow on them? I just planted some babies today. I can't wait until they start to grow. Cheesehead was laughing at me. He said I'd have a nice garden in about 20 years. Goofball.

  6. When you are ready to learn about rain barrels and all the accessories that you can add - check out

  7. Amy, I hope to never have to do that again.

    I honestly think that quote was meant for sun, not shade gardens. But I figure now that my 3-year-olds have been put on notice, they just might decide to leap, at least some of them.

    I love sweet woodruff, and it's on my list in fact. I've been a little cautious of ground covers, afraid they might spread too much. But last spring I took the plunge with lamium, chocolate chip ajuga, and pass-along creeping phlox. They're easy to pull out if they spread too much, and sweet woodruff is easy to pull out too. (It's hard to imagine having to pull anything out of this garden ever!)

    Nancy, me too! Thank you. I've got my toes and fingers crossed. I've been pleasantly surprised to see so much coming back in the garden. I've had lots of stuff do fine during the growing season, only to mysteriously disappear the next year. I'm taking all the 2nd-year survivors as a very good sign!

    Violet, I sure hope it holds true for a shade garden. Ugh - slugs! They have feasted on the hostas here. I hope they'll be bigger, thicker-leafed, and more slug-resistant this year.

    MMD, I'm SO looking forward to having to edit! I'm very encouraged by my survivors. Two houses ago I had a beautiful shade/part sun garden under three mature box elders. Everything I planted grew there. Now I wonder how, considering the challenge this one has been. It's definitely been a learning experience. I'm just sure this year the garden will thrive!

    I love your choices. It looks like my anemones, planted last year, are coming back. I'd almost given up on them, but they're showing signs of life now.

    Cinj, I hope I don't have to resort to a time out, but I'll do whatever it takes ;) My favorite fertilizers come from Gardens Alive. They're stinky and kind of a pain to apply, but they have always worked wonderfully for me, and I like that they're organic.

    Your nickname for your husband cracks me up, as do the cheesehead hats you Packers fans don!

    My mom and her husband retired to, and gardens in your great (cheesy) state. The last time I visited them, they took me to a great little cheese shop in a neighboring town, and afterwards, to lunch in a really neat restaurant, where I had a sandwich with cheese on it. ;)

    Aquabarrel, actually your rain barrel looks interesting.

    Don't you think though, that it's a bit cheesy using other people's blogs to advertise your product? I do.

  8. I was quite stupified the first time I saw a cheesehead. I mean really who'd want to wear a slice of cheese on their heads? It's grown on me though, not that I'll ever accessorize with one or anything.... I don't think there's a town in Wisconsin that doesn't either have a cheese shop or one in the next town. It's a great place for us cheese lovers to live!


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