Sunday, March 9, 2008


Take these daylilies, for instance. They don't look like much right now, do they? Daylilies are resilient plants, hard to kill even. They thrive in this hot dry spot, even planted in rocks. They're self-sufficient. Sure, they need to be divided every few years. OK, I know, their foliage is messy. I didn't say they were perfect. Clearly, they don't look great in winter. But they really don't take much, and in June they'll be glorious. And they'll survive most droughts even if you never water them. They need a little attention to be their best, but even without care they come back every spring.

Some plants struggle no matter how well you care for them. You can tell from the start they don't like it in your garden. No matter when you plant them or how much you water, they're wilting by afternoon and soon wither and die.

You consult your books, go on Amazon, buy a few more. You wrack your brain and burn up the internet searching for answers. Not much will thrive in the hot dry shade tangled in 40-year old roots.

One spring day the Johnson's Blue you carried from gardens ago just up and disappears. A resilient plant, you're convinced it will make it. You find just the right spot, just enough sun. You amend the planting holes and divide it, and water in well. Then you have lunch. By the time you come back your geraniums are gone, dragged away by evil yard monkeys who steal more of your plants than the maples kill.

Unexpected storms come out of nowhere. Some are more predictable. There's an ominous feeling when sky turns green. You gather lightweight items and head for cover. On days like this you miss your screened porch.

No matter how hard you try, no matter how well you plan, no matter how many evil yard monkeys you swear at or how well you amend your soil, no matter how much you think you know or how well you tend your garden, there are forces of nature outside your control. You wonder sometimes if this garden is worth it. In spring you begin again.


  1. We Canucks and "northern Americans" have to be one heck of a resilient bunch .. just look at the snow we have to suffer through to even SEE a dead looking plant.
    Be greateful not to be locked in my snow drifts !!!! LOL

  2. Thanks for bringing a smile. You are so right about daylilies, they are tenacious. We have never heard of garden monkeys here, but do have various varmints that like to eat leaves and roots and just dig up stuff for the fun of it. But we don't amend the soil, although we like to add soil conditioner as a mulch sometimes. Daylilies never let us down, wet or dry, sun or shade.

  3. Yup, I'm a gluten for punishment, can't wait to begin again :-)

    No monkeys here but my wonder-doodle digs up daylily clumps and other plants. The daylilies are the only ones that survive that treatment. I just pop them back in the ground (after a few choice words) and off they grow.

  4. Anonymous1:38 AM

    Isn't that the truth and you said it so well---we do it cause we love it. I'm going nuts right now not being able to plant stuff. And when someone ask me how I got to be such a good gardener, I tell them it's cause I've killed more than have lived.

  5. "Evil garden monkeys" LOL! I wonder if they are the same as the bad plant fairies in my garden. I agree with the "grow what works" philosophy. There's not enough room for plants that don't perform. And I am guilty of Daylily abuse - I have a clump right in front of the dryer vent. The poor plant prematurely sprouts, then gets whacked with frost, not to mention getting dried out in the middle of summer. Gotta love it.

  6. Joy, I feel your pain! We're an inch away from a snow record here. Right now my little corner of the world, like that photo, is brown. . . just. brown. and cold!

    Frances, Our yard monkeys are called squirrels by most people. They're about as smart as monkeys sometimes, and they're mischievous.

    I add mushroom compost or sometimes composted manure. It makes a huge difference helping things get established in my lean, dry soil.

    Melanie, when George my 80-lb lab mix was a puppy, i had to put ugly wire fencing around my borders to keep him out. It worked until my oldest moved back home with her lab mix and he taught George to jump the little two-foot fence. Surprisingly they never dug, but there were massive trampling casualties!

    Anna, I hear you. I'm so anxious for mild weather. I long to be back outdoors and back to work!

    Mr. McGregor's daughter, I've never lived anywhere where I've had to contend with so much squirrel damage to my garden. I have a love-hate relationship with them cuz they're so darned cute. My garden is at the hub of the neighborhood squirrel superhighway where the canopy covers so well they can jump from tree to tree much as monkeys swing from tree to tree. We usually have at least 5 or 6 nests with two or three sets of babies each season. They're adorable to watch but they wreak total havoc in the garden.

    I totally agree with your philosophy. My only problem is figuring out what will perform here. Never in my life have I had a garden with as many challenges as this one! I'm sure anyone who stops by to read this blog will be hearing about them as I post my trials and tribulations!

  7. Anonymous11:21 AM

    Henry Mitchell called it "defiance" but I suspect it is two sides of the same coin. Defiance seems more masculine and resilience more feminine.

    Sigh! I managed to kill my daylilies in the 2006 drought.

  8. m.s.s. in Texas, I've been known to be defiant when it comes to planting stuff that's probably not the best fit for dry shade, and resilient when it dies!

    I'm sorry to hear about the day lilies! That's one thing I haven't managed to kill yet, but there's still time!


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