Saturday, September 17, 2011

Change in the Garden

Over time, gardeners learn to accept change. Plants die in a severe drought, but some come back the next year and surprise us. A beloved tree is hit by lightning. But after we mourn its loss, we see new opportunities for growing plants that like sun.

Usually, as the garden matures, it becomes more beautiful as plants fill in and we slowly learn the quirks of the soil and climate and patterns of the sun. Sometimes, though, the garden seems to go backwards. Here is the garden edging the front walkway three years ago.


The previous owner had planted illiciums under the front window. The illiciums LOVED this spot and overgrew to the point where it was impossible to keep them from blocking the windows. With regret, we cut them down. 

'Sum and Substance' hostas flourished for years along the walkway, with the aid of a covering of deer netting propped up with wooden stakes. But this year the deer figured out how to eat the leaves through the deer netting. Or they pulled up some of the numerous metal stakes holding the netting down at the ground. (How un-deer-like. I thought deer were gentle and passive, incapable of this kind of aggressiveness and persistence.) A couple of months ago I found the hostas looking like this. 


The front garden stayed in this embarrassing condition for the rest of the summer, as I was unmotivated to work outside in 95-degree heat. Plus, I knew whatever I planted would die unless I watered it three times a day, which is not my style. Garden plants should not be pampered, or they become dependent and needy. 

A cool front came through yesterday, and I decided it was time for a garden makeover. I went shopping in the garden for plants that could be divided or moved. The plants had to be disliked by deer, preferably evergreen, able to take partial to mostly shade, and survive in clay soil. I decided on three autumn ferns (Dryopteris erythrosora) and a Japanese plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Prostrata') that seemed to be getting the worst of a competition with spreading green-and-gold.

Here's the final result. 


Now's the part where I practice patience.


10 comments :

pumpkydine said...

Enjoyed your comments and pictures. The one thing that never changes, is the fact that there will always be change. Couldn't agree more on the summer heat thing. I've been just maintaining my yard and garden through the last two months but with a brief cool spell had to get out there today and do some late summer cleaning, clearing, digging, planting and planning. I can somehow line up more work than this ole body can handle. Ha Ha! Good post.

Karin / Southern Meadows said...

I often morn the loss of plants and trees in my garden but have found that change is good and I have learned to embrace it. I love autumn ferns particularly because they are hardy! Today was much cooler temperatures and it was great to be outdoors in the garden!

Stacy said...

It's one thing to accept change and another to have to twiddle your thumbs while you wait for it to happen... Your choices look wonderful--I hadn't heard of the Japanese plum yew. What a beauty!

PlantPostings said...

How nice to see the before and after--looks like you picked some beauties. And your porch looks different, too? It's fun to make changes, isn't it?

Sheila Read said...

Randy, the only sign of life is change, right? That's what I tell myself when things change in ways I'd rather they not :)

Karin, I try not to mourn plants. But clearly I am attached - sometimes I'll have dreams where certain plants are dying or eaten by deer and I have to protect them. Does anyone else have plant nightmares?

Stacy, good point. Hmm ... acceptance and patience - two huge gardening (and life) challenges.

Beth, this is as close as I come to an instant makeover. Yes, we had the porch rebuilt. So far we have kept its natural color.

Donna said...

always wonderful to have Mother Nature force change on us sometimes...the creative juices flow as we problem solve...I have never seen such aggressive deer...wow...I use a non-pepper natural spray repellent that seems to work so far on my deer...

Cathy and Steve said...

Our cousin has a major problem with deer and so I understand how disheartening and frustrating it is to have them roaming and treating your yard -especially the front yhard! - like their local budget buffet.

I love your new choices for the area and look forward to seeing how the plants look in a few months after they've settled in! I actually think the ferns are going to look softer and more airy than the hosta, more graceful, although no question, that hosta was stunning there!

The Sage Butterfly said...

I do my best to accept the changes in the garden. Sometimes I welcome them, sometimes I resist them. It is a constant in the garden and a lesson that remains.

Sheila Read said...

Donna, I suppose no change would be boring. I'm excited about the opportunity for something different, though the hostas did look great. I don't think pepper spray would repel these deer. We have a herd that comes through more than once a day. My neighbor tried a spray to protect her oakleaf hydrangeas and they quickly disappeared ...

Cathy and Steve, you're right, this planting has a different feel - more delicate and airy. I had about given up on gardening because of the deer until we had a deer fence put up in back. Still, the deer problem dramatically limits plant choices outside the fence. And unfortunately, it makes it much harder to incorporate native plants, since they tend to like to eat natives with their nice, tender leaves.

Sage, change is the only constant in the garden. Whether I accept or resist doesn't make much difference - except to me!

linniew said...

A couple things Sheila-- you have the most resourceful deer ever. Maybe you could tame them and train them to do things, like to understand all the buttons on the tv remote, or maybe to make lasagna. Second, I absolutely LOVED your expression "shopping in the garden" and realize that is what I do so very often! (In spring I sometimes go shopping in the greenhouse where the plants from seed are growing.) Great post!