Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Life Happens To a Garden...

Last March, Doris, a member of our local perennial plant society garden tours committee asked me to put my garden on the 2009 tour. I said, "Doris, my garden is not the garden you visited, it's not up to a tour." She replied rather matter of fact, "Well you've got a year to get it together!"

Doris had been a visitor to my backyard wildflower garden about 6 years ago and the garden she remembers barely exists. I suppose that there are gardens that remain to some degree the same. But most gardens change. Even the neighbor who plants the same annuals is planting in a different garden each year. Gardens age. The trees grow taller, perennials fill in, new plants are added, plants die, trees have to be removed. Gardens change. Gardeners age, too, and sometimes what we were able to do at an earlier time isn't always manageable.

Life happens to a garden

When Doris stopped by for her tour the back garden was an alive garden. There were paths through the wooded lot, a dry stream bed and native wildflowers were blooming. Phlox pilosa, the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox had put on her best party dress and the visitors were charmed.

Five years ago it all changed...it started with some hip pain at night and grew into a backache nightmare. Gardening changed for me. I had to give it up for quite a bit of time...and I am afraid that the beautiful wildflower garden that Doris visited went to seed!

Years of digging and moving rocks about the garden had taken it's toll on my body. Word came down from the experts..."take care of your body or never garden again." When I ignored their advice, I would have a serious amount of pain as a consequence. So, I curtailed the heaviest gardening chores. But not without being forced to stop. It was a difficult time for me and the gardens.

The front gardens got most of my energy and attention. Well, because they were in the front and you can't completely ignore the front gardens! That's what I said to my husband when he saw me gardening! It was so very hard to not garden....impossible was more like it!

That was also the summer we decided to build the front porch. Which meant that the garden had to be moved....it was right where the porch would be built. So, I very slowly and carefully moved the garden; including the 37 daylilies I bought from Gilbert Wild and Sons! I moved them and most of the other perennials to plastic swimming pools until the bed was ready and it was cool enough to transplant them.

One of the professionals helping me with my back, suggested I dig the plants while lying on my stomach!

You can all laugh at that one! I actually tried it. It worked for a few little plants, but seriously, I garden on clay and limestone and in the middle of the summer, nothing's coming out of the ground without putting your back into it.
A dear friend dug the grasses and other deeply rooted perennials. She was wonderful!

May I distract you

The front garden along the driveway is where I built a new bed. It's doing fine.

You can enlarge this photo to see the Rudbeckia and other cutie pie plants.

From the street, looking up the hill. I love Rudbeckia and its bright bloom...at this time of year it's almost the only bloom we have.
It feels alive with butterflies, bees and color. But, now, something else needs our attention!

The back garden

Ahh, if only we had snow all winter, no one could tell how over grown it has become.

Secondary succession began in the garden as soon as I quit working there. Red Cedars and other opportunists love a vacuum and have moved in. Without an intervention this garden will become a Red Cedar Forest. Although, they do look lovely covered with snow! But, we don't have a snow cover all winter and the garden shows its neglect from November to February.

Spring 2008
Since our house sits on a small slope you step up from the patio to the wildflower garden and wooded yard beyond. Thyme grows in the full sun on the steps, so does Columbine and sedum.
It's quite colorful in the spring....

Here we are at the top of the steps looking towards the wooded back yard. Someplace in there is a stone path; with wildflower beds to the left. Phlox pilosa and other wildflowers are happily romping about!

We have climbed through the wildflower covered path and have turned to the left. You can see the dry creek bed (metal fish at the bottom of the photo below).

The dry creek runs through the middle of the garden and off to the side, where it carries water away during the rainy winter months. It works well moving the rainwater runoff from the slopeing yard. There are wildflower beds on both sides of the creek.

Phlox divaricata, columbine and crested iris are woodland flowers they were not bothered by this gardener's absence! They have multiplied! Why wouldn't they...it's becoming a real woodland, not an artificial one! Ahh, succession at it's best!

Summer 2008

When I stand out there now and look around, I think...well unprintable things!

Once again, we are standing at the top of the steps looking into the garden down the path. Believe me, that is a path!

A close up of the fish and the dry stream with its weeds and wildflowers. If I didn't know that not everything in this closeup was a weed...I could get very discouraged! The seed head is Lunaria/Money Plant; there's also P pilosa, penstemon and wild aster.

What it has and what it lost

A quick assessment tells me that a dogwood and witch hazel died in the drought last year and shrubby dogwood, spiderwort, and PPPP have had their way in the garden! The neglected brick and stone paths have plenty of weeds....that can be remedied. Wildflowers like Iris cistata, Phlox divaricata, P paniculata, P pilosa, Aquilegia canadenses, trillium and daffodils and other bulbs are plentiful. That's good! The shrub layer and other small trees are fine....Cercis Canadensis has made a strong showing and sowing! The Viburnum rufidulum is still beautiful. But Vinca major and V minor, along with Liriope and bush honeysuckle have gotten too big a strangle hold. That will take some help!

Gardens can change

It's not a historical garden and nothing needs to be static. Now, that I am able to work in the garden like I need to, I'll weed the beds and clear the paths this fall. Once it's clear, I can decide how to proceed. One thing's for sure, there will be plenty of Phlox pilosa to transplant elsewhere! Let me know if you want any?

One more thing! Doris, this garden might be tour ready in 2010...but certainly, not any earlier. I have to take care of my back!


"A gardener learns more in the mistakes than in the successes." - Barbara Borland


  1. What an honor to be asked. But a chore, indeed, for anyone who does their own work. I find your wildflower gardens beautiful and would love to see them in person. Even back there I see touches of whimsy. Maybe, if you really want to do something back there, this will give you that little nudge. I really enjoyed enlargeing your front bed and looking at all the pretties. I even saw some coneflowers in there. And what is that tied to the tree in the middle of the picture? It looks a little like a nylon stocking.:0 Just take care what ever you decide to do and DON'T try doing it lying on your stomach!

  2. This may be my favorite of all your posts. You aren't afraid to show the bad along with the good, and I like how you remind us of the temporary and evolving nature of a garden.

    Like you, I would be heartened by what has survived or even thrived in the untended period. In a year you can accomplish a lot. You may be on that 2009 tour yet. And I'm glad to know that you can come back from back pain as you did. Take care of yourself!

  3. This is a super great post! Love the progression of life. Better get working as you surely must be on the garden-even this year it looks good! Love your driveway bed and luneria seed heads.

  4. Hi Gail, I agree with the others, this is a very personal, wonderfully written post. Your garden looks beautiful to these eyes, I didn't see a single weed. But my definition of weeds keeps changing and is now limited to crabgrass only. Everything else, including the little cedars, is merely a wildflower. Your front bed with those rudbeckias is a delight. My back and hip also bother me and some chores will never be done again by me. Mr. I Don't Garden is going to have to take up some of the slack! It worked for the Financier, when I physically could not do a job, he was more than willing, just needing supervision since he cannot tell a prized specimen from a weed. It really makes a difference to have a willing helper with a strong back for the heavy stuff. We still have the brains, just not the brawn. Can't wait to see it in person, it is enchanting.

  5. I can so identify with this post Gail. I had a ruptured disc in my neck just 2 years ago. Well, You can imagine what my garden looked like during this part of my life. Even before the surgery I couldn't do much. Take heart. Once you get fixed you can carry on. It does make you look at your plantings different. I am incorporating more shrubs into the garden. My Dearly Beloved is great too. He does all the major digging and any other heavy work for me now. I do so appreciate this. I have found that this summer my strength is coming back too. So two summers after the surgery and I am almost healed. Can't overdo though. I have learned to be careful. I hope you are healing now. Your garden will survive, just as you will. As you say it will change. After all change is good. We just have to make ourselves like what we are doing different. Sometimes it takes a little convincing. Ha..

  6. I loved the virtual tour, Gail, even if you don't feel ready for a physical one. I love the beds along the driveway, and even the wilder areas in the back--what a beautiful property. And your fish is just charming.

  7. A great personal tour indeed Gail... Your place looks like a wonderful oasis! Laying on your stomach digging out lilies! I was trying to see myself doing that. I think my wild critters would get a kick out of that. But we will do what we have to do in order to dig in the dirt. I have abused my body way too much over the years with improper lifting, bending squatting, etc and the bod is feeling the repercussions called pain. A little red wagon now assists me when my arms were enough in years past…

    Your place is beautiful…

  8. I like the natural woodland look! Sometimes you have to work things bit by bit and accept that you can't get to everything. I like the rudbeckia blooms, they look great! Sorry to hear about the loss of the dogwood and witchhazel. I think that the drought will be felt for a couple more years.

  9. Hi Gail, I agree, the garden is a living thing that grows and changes. Gardeners do the same, we change, things around us change and we grow older. My demanding job and the increasing time I need to spend on aging parents is taking away from my garden. I am constantly making hard decisions. I'm afraid if I let yard and garden chores get too overwhelming I will grow to resent or even hate it.

  10. I can certainly relate to your back pain. I thought a herniated disc was going to sideline both my hobby and my career, but the wonders of modern medicine and some behavioral changes saved me. I hope you are progressing as well. The only time my garden was on tour, was for a neighborhood tour. It was the first time the civic league tried it and it was scheduled several years back for a Sat. in May, normally a nice time of the year. A Nor'easter blew in and it rained all day with temps in the low 50's. Only the hardy came out and very few of them too. We ended up staying on the porch all day drinking beer with heavy coats on.

  11. Beckie,

    I can attempt to mail you the PPPP if you're interested! The flag on the tree is a reminder that I am moving it to another spot... We hope it survives. I never see those kinds of things when I take a photo...well afterwards and I had posted it already! I am not sure that Doris is the nudge factor but it's time... and I won't be lying on my stomach...Imagine the biting itching, crawling bugs back there along with the poison ivy.


  12. Pam,

    Thank you...you are one of my gardenblogging role models so your kind words are much appreciated.

    At first I was surprised so many had survived. But, that's the nature of native wildflowers, they survive the conditions that are natural to them and they have had plenty of natural in the last 5 years!

    As I look at the task ahead of me it has become important to remember and chant to myself over and over~~ 'Perfection is the enemy of good' (Flaubert);-)

    I will be very careful, you too....


  13. Tina,

    If you are in town this weekend or next week it would be a good time to stop by...there is still bloom... The weekend of the 12th is not good! I don't know what it will like like later in the month! Glad you like the front bed...it is coming along well and I owe Iowa Victory Gardener a big thank you...he encouraged me to expand the monarda and I did! It really has helped it pop out there. Boy am I going to miss it when it stops blooming!


  14. Frances,

    I treasure you and your eyes! Really, I do! Wait until you see the jungle garden in person, you may roll those eyes and look at me and shake your head! The back and hip issues seem to be epidemic among women our age! I have gleaned that I have relied too much on my back and not enough on abs for lifting and moving about! We can talk about it when we get together...if we run out of stuff to talk about!

    Mr I don't blog or garden...is NO help! He says hire someone...Who can afford to hire garden helpers! I need a teenager I can boss around!


  15. Lisa,

    I am glad you are healed/healing! You do a thing for ever and then someone says move this way not that way and it is revolution! Boy was/is it hard to change old behaviors....even now I am sitting here at the computer using very sloppy posture!

    The garden has changed and it's not all bad...I get to rest more now and sometimes (before the chiggers get active) I lie in the grass and stare at the sky!


  16. cosmos,

    Thank you! No I am not tour material...the garden might be but I'm not! Glad you came along for the webtour! Aren't the fish nice...garage sale!


  17. skeeter,

    I really do lie down in the garden. It is a great way to rest the back and look at the sky. Wasn't that the funniest suggestion...no way could one dig a daylily out while lying down...a little red wagon sounds good! I am thinking about a stool I saw in a catalog...it's rocker stool!

    I might save my money for my fall bulb order!


  18. Don't overdo it & end up unable to garden at all. You could be on the 2009 tour, just tell everyone that you only have a front garden. It looks wonderful. I wish you could come see my shade garden when you are in Chicago. Early August is when it looks its worst, yet I have managed to find things to bloom now & give it interest & color. I like the wildflowers that bloom in spring & have colorful berries now.

  19. Dave,

    You are wise to know that a little bit at a time is the pace to go! The wonderfulness of Rudbeckia is that you can take the seed heads ans sprinkle them where ever you want them to grow! Sometimes I just drop the whole plant on a spot! It's true the drought will be felt for years!


  20. Marnie,

    I know what you mean...when my mom got sick and her health declined I was juggling a job, trips to MO, a new blog and many things felt undone. The pressure was at times overwhelming! I am sorry that aging parent issues are with you! They are harder then we imagine.

    To take the garden pressure off... I think about plowing under this one particular section of the garden. It would mean less work for me in the long run!


  21. Les,

    Herniated disc sounds very painful and I am glad you are healed. The behavioral changes are often tougher then PT! Now that tour story could be a relief and a lot of fun, no guests beer on porch or a big irritating experience! There are always a few hardy souls who are determined to see the gardens!


  22. Gail, sve your money. My daughter bought me one of those rocker stools this year and it is not much good, at least for me. Maybe someone younger could use it okay but might as well think ahead to when it is too hard to use and put the money into something that will work into an even older, old age. Like one of the stools with wheels on it and then you can just scoot along the rows without getting up. With the rocker stool you have to get up and move it yourself. Therefore can only do what you can reach at a time.

    Even your backyard looks like paradise to me.

  23. Six years is a long time, isn't it, Gail - either for a garden to become or to unbecome. Since the front garden didn't really exist then, maybe MMD's notion of the front being the tour garden, with the back being a wildscape would let you be part of it without too much pain?

    I can't imagine how a gardener can plan so far ahead - especially when the essential element like weather is so unpredictable.

    As to the personal nature of this story - y'all know how much we like true confession posts!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  24. Gail your garden is lovely. I like the driveway garden with all the rudbeckia. As for the back garden I love the way it looks natural. It would be like walking through wooded unspoiled gardens. Maybe a little weed here & there--nothing major.
    Do take care of yourself. As one that had been down that path nothing is worth loosing your health or mobilebilty.
    If I were closer I would be glad to assist you as I love to garden.

  25. annie,

    As The Garden Spade Turns or So Are The Gardens Of Our Lives! I have other garden confessions but I can save those for another day!

    Ah neglect...I do have some guys help corral the leaves every year. I can't rake for long, the twisting is not good! But it doesn't take long for things to get out of control, where I see the most plant loss is non native perennials. What you can't see is how the woods have become so overgrown behind the garden area or to the side of it! That the Red Cedar has been the most successful pioneer species proves again to me that gardening on clay and limestone in cedar glade like conditions created a red cedar forest not a eastern deciduous forest. And in a battle for domination vinca and liriope will win every time!

    Planning...not my strong suit! Truthfully, I am hoping that Doris forgets she asked and I will avoid eye contact with her at meetings;->


  26. jean,

    Thanks I thought it looked hokey! If I worked in rows and had a traditional vegetable garden the scooter would be perfect....I just have to remember to bend correctly and rest! It is hard to change long term patterns!

    Thank you Jean...in the spring it looks wonderful...the Phlox is blooming everywhere...because it is growing between the bricks and stones in all the paths and it's semi-evergreen here so it never dies back! But I still love it!


  27. lola,

    How sweet to offer that might be one of the kindest offers I've had! I fear I shall be hiring someone to help! Yikes! I will never have a manicured garden, I just don't know how to do it and the other confession I have to make is that I will never entirely finish garden projects! I get distracted by new plants!

    I'm glad you stopped by for a visit!


  28. I'm sorry to hear about your back problems. I love what you've done to your front garden. It looks beautiful! I love all those yellow flowers.

  29. mmd,

    Every time I start to comment to you my machine has crashed, so I am on the spouses!

    I am bummed that I will miss seeing you while in Chicago, but the kids have me scheduled. If I can sneak in a visit I will email or plurk! I know you have worked hard to have bloom as long as possible, I can tell that from your posts and your photos. It would be delightful to talk wildflowers with you. We will and soon I know.

    I am working on taking care of the hip/back...I highly recommend acupuncture! It has helped me. That and resting while I garden...I can lay on the ground and stare at the sky!

    The biting bugs are getting to me!


  30. dp,

    Thanks...I like the front garden, too...it hasn't been hard to do, so many of the guys I plant take care of themselves and make more plants each year! It is a pain in the bottom to have a pain in the back! Take care of yours...I recommend yoga!


  31. Hi Gail,
    Wonderful post, as always ... I think your (expansive compared to here!) spaces are quite attractive. I understand the unintended neglect, as we suffer from that too, but it makes things interesting! Especially in that savage back corner bed chez nous. Yours look natural and unforced ... but remember what our philosophy is, lol.

    Hmm, have you read much Flaubert? He's one of the tops ever for me. I miss reading and teaching his works...

    My small confessional to add to yours: I injured my right hip in a fall in 2003. It has exacerbated the arthritis I already had in my joints, so when the dew point is over say, 66 or so, it's tough for me to do garden work. I still do it out of love and devotion, but now have to be cognizant that I'll be paying the consequences the next few days. I still think the price is worth paying, but I'm a stubborn one ....

  32. ivg,

    We have over an acre and it was too easy to expand while I was younger! I totally get that gardeners scale back or redesign their gardens as they age. Even now I think of spots I could add this or that to! Especially near the mosaic shed! But that means more work or more work undone when it's too difficult to work.

    Natural and unforced is exactly the description I would use to describe the philosophy of c&l. There isn't much formality in our lifestyle.

    No, not any Flaubert since college. Lots of gardening books! Did you teach French Lit?

    Btw, my front garden looks so much better since I added a couple more monarda plants...thank you!


  33. Hi Gail,
    As often happens you were leaving a comment on my blog while I am having such a great time over at your blog. (Yours popped up in my e-mail while I was reading.)

    This post was so fun to read and helped me to imagine your garden in all its changes. Like you I've been gardening in the same place for so long the garden becomes part of the way we mark our lives. The good years, the bad years, the years in between. I am so glad you showed us your entire front bed... it is so lovely. I can see why you love the Rudbeckia. Back in the spring when I was at a garden shop with my DIL I saw a package of seed for Rudbeckia and remembering you had mentioned it as one of the stalwarts in your garden I picked up a package to give them a go here for the first time. Unfortunately it was "Trilobia" -- a smaller flower I guess-- the plants grew but the flowers were quite disappointing. Next year I will look for the correct ones. Still, I think of you everytime I see them anywhere. That's a nice thought.

    Okay, before I write a small novel I also want to say how I adore the back steps that lead up to your woodlands. Their is just something about all that natural space (and that dry creek bed) that makes me feel quite peaceful and giddy all at once. It is the kind of place I would LOVE to walk around and tour for just how lovely it is even now.

    It's interesting how even a neglected area just keeps on producing its little heart out because that is what it was created to do.

    I surely hope you are taking good care of your back. It is not fun having to make adjustments as we get older but it is important that we do. We probably all need to give this more credence as I know I am quite guilty of abusing mine from time to time.

    Have a great rest of your weekend.
    Meems @Hoe&Shovel

  34. Hey- it's me again... I meant to ask you if that is cardinal flower peeking out between the Rudbeckia in that first photo.

    I bought some this year on-line. It was sent to me bare root and I laughed when I saw it thinking it would never make it... they were so tiny.

    Just this past week --after weeks (no months)of literally nursing the little guys daily I have blooms on three of the six plants that made it. I'll probably post about it at some point... although I am so behind in posting already... I have several started and no time it seems to finish them...

    Anyway, just wondering if it IS cardinal flower ...how do you like it and does it come back each year on its own or do you have to plant it again?

  35. Well, I will try again to post a comment. Hopefully, this one will go through. The one I just sent got lost somewhere in cyberspace. I think I said something about learning that pain can be a real pain, but it has made me more tolerant of people who move slowly through the grocery aisles. Do you remember Tim Conway from the Carol Burnett show? His old man skit was hilarious, but I can see myself moving like that in the not-too-distant future, and that vision is not funny. Your garden is lovely. Take care of yourself and don't overdo getting ready for your tour.

  36. meems,

    What a pleasant comment to read after a sweltering hour outside! The heat and humidity are both hight today...whatever was I doing out there!

    The red flower is cardinal flower...It's quite a contrast to that yellow isn't it! The sad news is that it has declined considerable and is nearly gone from here. I can't maintain the moisture he needs to thrive. I have read that it needs to be in standing water to take full sun, I think it needs a loamy moist soil. You have better soil than I so you might be able to keep it going! I have even tried some of the newer named varieties like Monet Moment and Ruby Slippers both gorgeous flowered but neither survived beyond the second season! I think my clay soil is too dry or I haven't found the perfect spot for it! I might try a container with a plugged hole and standing to set in the garden next year...won't the mosquitoes be happy!

    I am glad you like the steps to the backyard. It is a mess back there but it has a natural feel that is enjoyable....maybe you will get to see it sometime! May I put blinders on you so you aren't distracted by the messy areas! There is a marble bench back there that no one can see! Someday!


  37. walk2write,

    Fist of all welcome to Clay and limestone and thank you taking the time to comment! There has been some trouble with blogger the past few days and many people have been unable to post or comment. I appreciate your persistence. Those of us who have had or are dealing with chronic pain are indeed persistent! I do try to take care and not overdo gardening and anything that aggravates my pain! I know you know what I mean.

    Again thank you and I want to pop over to your place!


  38. Hi Gail,
    I see the Flaubert quote is gone now, lol. Tsk, tsk. Yes, I used to teach French Lit, language and Film back in my teaching days. I loved the work, but hated being the entire dept. where I taught, because I had to be too many things to too many people and it eventually burned me out. I still miss teaching though, the teacher in me never goes away, lol. He just morphed into another direction, I guess.

    Fernymoss gave me a really thoughtful birthday present the other day ... The Criterion Collection's restored and remastered version of Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless, which I only previously had in VHS format. It's 2 discs and has tons of film geeky extras I'm looking forward to poring through, but for tonight we're just going to watch the film itself. Man, Jean-Paul Belmondo was a hunk in those days! And Jean Seberg was at her best (not bad for an Iowa girl from Marshalltown, IA, eh?) when she was younger. And yes, I used to teach a class on French New Wave Cinema too, lol...

    But for the Flaubert ... when you have time, you might want to consider reading his last masterpiece Bouvard and Pécuchet, one of the funniest books I've ever read (well, once you know Flaubert's delicious irony). That's the one that ended with his Dictionary of Received Ideas which is a hilarious compendium of 19th century "received wisdom" that's every bit as relevant to today... If you're ever interested in reading this one, I have links to the text online somewhere I can provide if you don't want to spring for the printed book. The chapter on B&P's gardening exploits would likely have you both cringing at their idiocy and laughing uncontrollably, they fail so miserably at it!

  39. Oh, and I forgot to mention the Lobelia cardinalis you and Meems mentioned ... we've struggled with that plant for years and still have one that's hanging on by a thread in the Woodland Garden. After researching it more, we've decided that we too can't keep it moist enough, seems that it really wants to be in a boggy or pond like area to really be happy. It sure is beautiful when it blooms, I just wish we could keep it happy, but until we have that water feature/pond here (where??? lol) we've given up on it, and just thank it for trying to come back and bloom!

  40. Your gardens are beautiful even in a somewhat neglected state. Your post was wonderful and I enjoyed reading it. Although it did make me want to put together a group of gardeners and go help you get ready. I was not aware of your back problem and was sorry to hear of it, but I hope that you are feeling better. Just don't over do it or you will find yourself right back where you started.

  41. What a wonderful post, Gail! I'm glad I had a few minutes to catch up on a little blog reading and didn't miss this one. Your backyard looks like a woodland haven for wildlife; as you say, it's not an artificial garden.

    Everything does change, which is what makes gardening so interesting. You have to take care of yourself first, too. I have so many grand ideas for all the space I have, but then I stop and think--do I have the stamina to keep up with everything? I do all the gardening myself, so I have to restrain myself from taking on more than I can handle.

    Back problems can be chronic, I know, so enjoy your beautiful front garden and let mother nature do most of the work in the back yard!

  42. IVG,

    Ok, where was the Flaubert quote? I don't recall posting one! Are you sure I had one here? Was it in a comment?

    No Flaubert and now I have to confess that I haven't ever seen Breathless;-) Can you possibly accept my deficiencies! Now, a personal question! Are you retired or on a second career?

    Belmondo had the kind of face that could be both good looking and yet not.

    Too bad about the Cardinal Flower it is a beauty but not for my garden.


  43. rhonda,

    Aren't you sweet! I think we all need a group of gardeners to help us out from time to time! Annie Transplantable Rose has a group of gardening friends who get together on a regular basis to work on each other's gardens. Now that's a group of good friends!

    But seriously, I am not entertaining the possibility of a tour! Doris probably knows that although, knowing Doris she will ask again.

    The back is a chronic issue but I do take care of it! Lots of us seem to have a similar issue with our hip or back!

    I'm glad you like my chaos!


  44. Rose,

    That has been my philosophy since my back started aching! But now I do want to clean it up just a tiny bit!
    The cedar trees are marching toward the patio and bringing the honeysuckles with them and I'm not sure I can keep the vincas from taking over the known garden world! It will always be wild and natural but with paths you can see.

    It sounds like you have had some back issues, too! You are wise to consider how much you want to take on even if it is exciting to think about expanding the beds are adding another one! It's like a big juicy carrot dangling in front of our noses and we want to bite on it!


  45. I think it's an honor but also added "pressure" to have your yard on the garden tour. I would stress and stress if that should happen to me, wanting everything to be "perfect". I need to listen carefully to your advice to take care of your back. I had a small episode last fall with mine that passed but now I catch myself lifting, digging, etc. because I've "temporarily" forgotten the consequences (or there's no one else around to do something that I think "has" to be done right then)! I think your garden is beautiful ~ I too, love the stone steps in your backyard. Great bones to work with. and since I'm coming in late (with so many comments already posted) I'll add that I grow lobelia cardinalis every year in my garden but never, ever get it to overwinter. It's so beautiful tho that I keep replacing it. oh and the hummingbirds love it so I guess I do it for them too.

  46. Hi Gail,
    I swear there was a Flaubert quote on this post when I first saw it, something about "perfection" (one I hadn't seen), but maybe I was just hallucinating.

    LOL, I'm hardly retired! I wish I could but I'm still too "young" for that and besides, we couldn't afford it! I guess I'm on about 3rd career now ... I sorely miss teaching, but I work in Market Research now (and have for about the last 10 yrs), which though a dicey profession, pays much better than teaching ever did. Ah, but the passion is not there, alas. Doesn't allow for much creativity, I'm afraid. Thus the blog as my outlet to write as I'm wont to do...

    At least you knew of Breathless, I totally enjoyed seeing it again in such a pristine print, though Fernymoss was a bit baffled at times, but he gives me big leeway on some of my more esoteric Frenchy stuff. Bless him! At least he's totally on board with all my Pedro Almodóvar films ... but those are hard to resist, unless you're a total subtitle hater (I can at least appreciate the original languages since I speak them). If you see Volver in the video store, rent it and give it a shot, and if you like it, work your way back from there... He's the best director to come out of Spain in decades ... even won an Oscar for his screenplay for Talk to Her a few years back, and if you ever see Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown get it! That's where Queen Pepa's name came from! :-)

  47. IVG,
    You did see one in a response to a comment! It is also attributed to Voltaire and I was thinking Voltaire even as I wrote Flaubert! ...my french is crummy but I know yours is not! So I had to go to wikipedia for this;)

    Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.

    A darn good gardening philosophy for me!

    I will add Women on...to my viewing list! The title is too perfect to pass up and you've recommended it so highly!

    We all have to make a living and pay for our gardens some how! Our older than us friends are retiring...I think 62 is young!


  48. Eve,

    So wise...there is only so much we can do and letting go when we need to focus on our health is one of them! That and letting go of the need to have it be perfect!

    My yard doesn't even approach manicured! I do mow the lawn! I have to tell you about a conversation with my dear friend. Her next neighbor's garden is very neat and tidy. I remarked that her neighbor would hate having my garden next door...my friend said, "Oh, she would! There are no leaves on her driveway."


  49. Your gardens are lovely, front and back. Even with a little neglect, one can tell they were--and are--cared for.
    I think we take for granted that working through injuries is the best approach, at least when we are young. I am paying for every gardening mistake I made forty years ago, with the pain of wear and tear. I don't think anyone escapes without a price!

  50. aiyana,

    Yes we do get into that mindset that believes we need to soldier on...no pain no gain! I know that I brought some of this on myself! thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed the garden!


  51. Hi Gail,
    By all means, if you have Netflix and they offer Women on the Verge for rental get it, you'll have a rollicking fun time through a totally improbable narrative with all the folks he assembles for this film. It was nominated for best Foreign Film in 1988, but lost out (not sure to whom), unjustly, I would say. We never tire of watching it and laugh reliably every time, and I've probably seen it at least a dozen times by now. I can even quote dialogue (in Spanish even)I love it so much.

    You'll find out more about Almodóvar in my most recent post and others I've done previously. He's a truly awesome talent working these days!

  52. I read every word and felt so badly for you but then rejoiced when you last commented that you could garden again. It will all work out and you would have changed it anyway over the years. Just like you said..our gardens are never the same. So make of it now as you will and you will be known forever for your beautiful Phlox!!

  53. Gail I love your blog. I have a new smaller home and garden that I am creating. All you are doing I have done in the past and really hesitate putting this on your comments. But maybe someone will recognize this vine on my new blog.
    Take care. Every injury I have.
    Knee and ankle came from gardening.5 years ago I planted so many plants without the proper shoes that I cracked my instep. Never went to doctor and now when tired have a limp and cannot wear some shoes that I use to.
    My new blog with this plant is http://myjourneytomindfulness.blogspot.com.
    With all the traffic you have I probably will not receive a response.
    I do not live to far from you.

  54. ernestine,

    One of the pleasures of blogging is meeting new visitors. You are very welcome here and it is my hope that I can always respond. Sometimes it takes a few days...I do hope you haven't had to wait to long! Ernestine...I think all of us gardeners have pushed ourselves beyond the limit too many times. It is difficult to stop when we have decades of doing things the way we like to do them. It's a lesson I keep giving myself an opportunity to learn. Again, I am glad you stopped by.

    gail Gail

  55. Gail, everyone has already done such a good job of expressing my sentiments. Of course that won't stop me from throwing my two cents in! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post, and coming back to read it again this morning.

    Most of us of a certain age will continue to face daunting physical challenges now and in the future.
    Our gardens must and will evolve to accomodate our restrictions, as will our expectations of ourselves as we age.

    Most of my clients are older folks whose physical limitations now prevent them from caring for their gardens as they'd like to. This gives me lots of food for thought both in my own garden and for the future of my business. In the meantime although I sometimes find it daunting, it's so rewarding to unearth and restore these gardens to their grateful owners. (We won't talk about those few crabby apple clock-watchers with unrealistic expectations and no patience. . .)

    Your front garden is just gorgeous and could certainly be on a tour as it is now. I agree with others it might be a good option.

    I love your PPPP!

  56. Gail, thank you for giving us a full view of your garden. It is a woodland wonderland! I love your front garden - no grass to mow and very ecology friendly. I also love the stone steps with the phlox in the background. It is all so beautiful.

  57. Hi Gailie,

    The thing I love about your garden, wildness, weeds and all, is walking about it in and discovering all the little treasures. It may be overgrown in spots, but other spots are pictures of beauty!

    I wish you would hire someone to help you with the heavy work. How fun to have a garden tour in 2010! May I come? xxoo Lynn

  58. Your front driveway bed is so pretty! I did enlarge the photo, and enjoyed. Your back area is beginning to look like mine... only prettier. It is such a pretty spring woodland garden. I am not able to garden much any more and I know some of what you feel. But, it is pretty in its summertime lushness, even if they are not all plants you wanted. Maybe you can sell cut-you-own-cedar-Christmas trees. Those are the only kind we had back home. Oh, yes, those vincas, and honeysuckles are a problem. Don't you know someone who might want the Liriope, and would come dig it? I had a helper dig two washtubs full and donated it to a fund-raising plant sell. I didn't think it would sell, but it did. I hope you do not hurt yourself further, by getting too enthusiastic. It is still a very pretty place and you have such wonderful material to work with. Aren't we fortunate to live in such pretty places; I feel rich just looking at the plants.

  59. Gail - How special to be invited to be on the tour. And having watched your garden for the last year or so, I think it's amazing. But I understand the health limitations. I have tendonitis in both elbows and had surgery 2-1/2 years ago, so that seriously limited me, too. I am still careful, and do less at a time, and stretch. And my DH is happy to dig holes and I have a guy I can hire for true projects. The weeding is the hardest though, and I'm pretty much it for that. Keep being smart about your back -- your garden is beautiful.

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"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson