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Garden Lessons Learned in 2017

Enriching the soil:

May 31st, I posted "Two small additions to the garden with big impact".

Well, the Red Riding Hood Penstemons are doing great. In fact, they have already spread. On the flip side, the lovely dwarf blue phlox, from the Flame series is definitely no longer with us. This was planted in another area of the garden which has a tough time due to the western exposure. The heat and dryness took them out sometime in July. This only makes me more determined to help the site which is so barren now. I have some Beverly Sill Irises that make it there, but not much else. I'm going to try the no dig method of permaculture in this corner. Stay tuned for a future post.

The Red Riding Hood Penstemons in late May 2017.

Red Riding Hood Penstemons in late October 2017. These should be quite bushy next year.

This is my first step in layering compost, twigs and leaves for a no dig permaculture garden bed. I'm going to try dwarf phlox again, but a different variety.

Proper siting and mulch:

Moving the Soft Caress Mahonia from between two pine trees to a shady area with no competition except a small Sambuca Lace Elderberry has been positive. The plant is setting flower buds. I also have three epimediums at the base of the Mahonia. I'm learning to use living plants as a mulch. The Mahonia has survived the transplant plus our dry spell.

The Epimediums are helping to protect the roots of the Mahonia.

Use other plants to guide your site choice:

The Wild Bergamot was planted in Spring 2017 and performed beautifully this summer. I had some previous experience here. The Black and Blue Sage and the red Bee Balm both come back in this area each year and are very happy. This is an area that receives at least five hours of sun, but also shade in the morning.

Patience and Watering:

This is the second year here for our five pink muhly grasses that are next door. We planted these smack in the middle of the dry lawn. In 2016 only two of the five bloomed. A neighbor who is a plant professional advised me that the grasses like more moisture than I realized. This year we have watered once a week, if there was no rain. So far, four of the five have fairy like pink plumes. I still have hope that the fifth one will send out plumes any day now. Next year, we will dig little troughs around each plant to help the water sink in the ground. Think miniature rain garden.

Know what you are buying

We've all made the spontaneous choice at the garden center. In Spring 2017 I picked up two very attractive pieris japonica, Prelude plants. They had dark green foliage with white flowered racemes. I didn't look at the price. They turned out to be $30.00 each. ouch! I did some research online, the leaves and flower nectar are poisonous. Finally, they need moisture. I thought I could handle that. They were placed near a large fern in part sun with plenty of mulch. They did not survive. One made it through to August. It was the one that was partially protected by the fern. Long story short, these weren't good plants for my garden. I've added some tried and true plants, in their space: hellebores and a large hosta.

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