Sunday, June 1, 2014

mine is not an instant garden

My garden would never be featured in a television show. My garden is the antithesis of "Extreme Garden Makover!" But I like to think of it as Slow Food as opposed to fast food. It's better. It's healthier. And it is there for the long term.

Case in point: planting the lavender.
I spent at least half the morning planting 3 'Hidcote' lavenders. The goal was to get  lavenders under the 'Ashmead's Kernal' apple tree on the left (white wrapped trunk).  I had already planted lavender to the right of where I'm standing, and some 'Bowle's Early' to the right, behind the rosemary. The goal was to plant 'Hidcote' under Ashmnead's so that when the lavender bloomed, there would be alternating sides of lavender as you walk down the path. According to my records, I had removed the dying Mugho pine from the near side (from this view) of Ashmead's on 3/23/2014, and planted 3 'Hidcote'. Today, I removed the scabiosa (isolated purple flowers on the far side of Ashmead's), took up the gravel, sifted it, changed out the drip irrigation, dug in soil amendment (a dubious practice, I admit) then finally planted the 3 'Hidcote' lavenders, irrigated them, then replaced the gravel. To get this:

Yep, the lavender is in there. Here's a closer look. See them now?

I plant lavender from 2-1/4" pots, whereas in an instant garden, mature sizes are planted. It will be a year before they are visible from a photo. In an instant garden, the effect would be instantaneous. But there are benefits to planting the smaller size.

You might think that the primary reason is economics. $3 per plant at the smaller size, versus $10 a plant for gallon sized means a $42 savings for those 6 plants. Then try $120 for a 15-gallon tree, vs. $10 for a 1-gallon tree. Then plant 10 trees. But that's just the obvious reason, and to be frank, not my main reason. I happen to think that the smaller the plant, the better it grows as it matures. You ever notice how self sown seedlings grow much faster and stronger than the original plant? Down the street, there is a commercial landscape that planted 5-gallon rosemary (which looked miserably spindly) and it took 4 years to looks as good as my rosemary above, planted last year from cuttings.

Faster growth from smaller transplant size occurs for various reasons. There is the issue of being "rootbound', with roots growing in circle. There is the issue of the roots being able to cross from the planting mix into the very different surrounding soil. In addition, I think that a large issue is that the planting mix they are growing in, in a pot, is very different from what they need to grow in a garden rather than in a pot. In a nursery, the plants are watered daily, and they need a fast-draining mix. They also get fertilized frequently to push growth to sales size. This is not what happens in the garden, at least not in my garden, and the bigger the pot, the larger amount of this artificial mix, stuff which isn't what the plants need to really grow in the garden. I saw this when I dug out the mugho pine, and the Raphiolepis: roots encircling a mix which is peat, perlite, bark, volcanic rock.  Some of the roots penetrate into the native soil, and I notice that the more roots that get into the native soil, the better the plant looks. The mix is bone dry, whereas the surrounding native soil has some moisture. Thus, the plants planted from 5-gallon pots, do worse than the 1-gallon, which do worse than the smaller pots. Of course size is relative. And I want to limit the amount of potting mix that gets into my soil, for fear that it will destroy the texture of the soil.

So my garden is slow.  Not only do I do most of the work myself (as well as work full time, and maintain the house, and have a life), but I plant small, and I wait. No television crews, no dramatic makeovers.

So you think that gardening in this way would make me a patient person. Sorry to disappoint you, but no. I learned this again today. I had plans to take out the rose 'Mrs. B R Cant,' a tea rose (not Hybrid Tea) which was not performing well. I had read on the web, that it would be big, vigorous, have the cabbage formed flowers that I love, would take the heat, and be exquisitely fragrant. There was good growth last year, but there was no fragrance to the flowers whatsoever. This year, all the roses in the neighborhood were finishing their first flush and Mrs. Cant just sat there. I am aware that Mrs. Cant, being a tea rose, is borderline hardy here, descending from roses from milder climates than mine. So I figured it didn't tolerate even last year's mild winter well. So I bought something to replace it yesterday. Of course now that we've had a week of 90 F temperatures, Mrs. Cant has begun to put on some vigorous growth. A flower opened today which was, you guessed it, fragrant.

still in the awkward stage
So now what to do with my new acquisition?

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