Blame it on the fact that my wife and I planted four trees, several large shrubs and dozens of perennials over the past few weeks.
After all the heavy digging, it was ironic when I somehow strained a back muscle planting a tiny 4-inch Salvia greggii.
Don't worry -- the pain isn't too bad (as long as I don't bend over). ;-)
So I've been thinking about how age is reflected in the garden. I don't know about you, but when I plant a perennial, a shrub or a tree (most anything but an annual), I have high hopes that the plant will get better and stronger with time.
Sometimes, this wish comes true. Perennial Lemon Queen Sunflower looks about five-times bigger, bushier and stronger than it did last year.
|Perennial "Lemon Queen" Sunflower doing its best impression of a shrub |
only a month after emerging from dormancy
All the aronias have been going from strength to strength in the past couple of years -- more flowers, more berries, more healthy foliage, taller plants.
But then there are other plants that seem to have a tougher time of it with each passing year. (I can sympathize!!)
I'm talking about plants like Gaura lindheimeri. I've seesawed back and forth in the past on whether I love this plant (gorgeous pink flowers over a long bloom season) or whether I'm ready to shovel-prune it (mass of ugly dead stems in the spring that seem to take forever to green up).
|Gaura lindheimeri in late April. Not looking promising.|
This year, I think Gaura is trying to save me the trouble of making up my mind. All of the gauras are a little later than usual in making their spring comeback. When I didn't see any growth at all, I started hacking down through the dead stems and found that many of them were rotted and could pretty much twist away in my hands. Not a good sign.
It looks like what they say about Gaura needing good drainage really is true. And my heavy clay soil just isn't cutting it.
(I know that when some perennials start dying out in the middle, it's time to try to divide them, but I've heard that gaura is taprooted and therefore does not take well to division. Has anyone successfully divided a gaura before?)
That said, when I ripped away all the dead foliage, at least I discovered what looks like a bit of healthy foliage on the outskirts of the plant. Maybe I'll get at least one more good year out of the gaura? And I think there are a couple of seedling plants nearby.
|A tiny bit of healthy foliage offers hope that a piece of Gaura may have survived to bloom another day|
That's more than can be said for Russian Sage. Initially one of our favorite plants due to its silvery foliage and pretty blue flowers that attract bees, Russian Sage has gone downhill year by year. The experts say to cut Russian Sage back in the spring when it starts leafing out, but the plants aren't regrowing any leaves on the old wood, they seem to be sending up new shoots from the base. That creates a bit of an issue with new foliage emerging from a mound of dead wood.
|New foliage (surrounded by dead wood) growing from the base of Russian Sage|
Worse than that, much of the new foliage starts wilting and browning within a few days of unfurling. This happened in earlier years too, but the whole process seems to be happening even faster this year. I suspect poor drainage may be the culprit here too.
|New Russian Sage foliage wilting just days after appearing. Not a pretty sight.|
I tried cutting away as much dead foliage as I could and leaving the healthiest looking new stems, but I suspect that these Russian Sages may all go to the great compost pile in the sky before the year is out.
|Leaving the best Russian Foliage intact in the hopes it will serve as the core of a healthy plant this year|
What's the lesson here? I guess for me it's a reminder not to rush to judgment. For better and worse, I'm often quick to praise a plant to the skies or heap scorn upon it.
Sometimes a plant that soars in the spring will flame out before the year is done. Other times (frequently?) it can take a plant several years to settle into a new home, prove its mettle and show its true colors.
Which plants in your garden get stronger year by year? And which ones have petered out over time?