Sunday, August 17, 2008
Lying down On The Job
Once upon a time, we had afternoon pop up thunderstorms and our summers were a little dry. But not in the last several years. I kept hoping that the hotter temperatures and lack of rain were aberrant; that soon we would return to our normally dry summers with occasional afternoon showers. This summer's weather has convinced me that we can't count on a return to normal...this may be the new normal. If that's the case, I need to change a few of my gardening practices.
Even though, the present sunny border 'design', works; a few plants might be retiring to someone else's garden and native moisture lovers, like monarda and stokesia, will be grouped together. It will be easier to hand water them and much better for plants like, Schizachyrium scoparium x The Blues, commonly known as Little Bluestem. Little Bluestem will be happier with other grasses and perennials that tolerate dry conditions.
The Blues live in a raised and tightly planted border that's quick to dry out. I set out a soaker hose last month when our temperatures where in the 90s with no rain for weeks at a time. The rudbeckia, monarda and daylilies are thrilled to have the extra moisture, but, it's drowning The Blues. They don't need or tolerate wet feet and it's starting to show! It's seriously listing from too much moisture! Soon it will be lying down on the job!
Other than liking dry roots, it's truly a beautiful and easy care native grass! I like what White Flower Farms has to say~~ "We selected this native Little Bluestem variety for its beautiful blue foliage that develops splendid burgundy tones in fall. Spikelets of purplish bronze flowers rise on the branched stems in late summer, and the backlighting show continues into winter when pearly white seedpods glint against sunrise and sunset. Easy going and tolerant of heat and humidity, 'The Blues' is scaled nicely for a mixed border or a natural meadow planting brightened with wildflowers and butterflies."
Who could resist a grass like that! Not me...so, making sure it survives my watering mistake, is high on the "take care of this, right now" list.
This is a good segue for sharing my biggest lesson of the season!
The Echinacea tennesseensis (Tennessee Coneflower) is not happy! Sarah, the garden coach, thought it would be perfect in the new bed by the front stoop! This bed was to be the home of cedar glade endemics. All winter long, it was sunny and wet; similar to the conditions at a cedar glade. Once the trees leafed out the bed was no longer in full sun. This is what it looks like ~~Downward Facing Dog coneflowers.
They're just not supposed to lie down! Echinacea purpurea can flourish in shadier conditions. Tennessee Coneflower cannot! It loves the sun and follows it as it moves across the sky, a beautiful Sun Salutation all day long! They're not supposed to lie down!
Sarah is convinced that the problem is too rich a soil! I think it's the shade! The stems don't look weak, they look as if they're reaching for the hidden sun...poor babies! It's possible that we both may be right!
I'm not taking the tree down! So this fall, half the coneflower will be relocated to the sunny front bed. I am sure they will thrive in the full sun among the Echinacea purpurea and the Rudbeckia hirta.
The Echinaceas will co-mingle and their offspring will be beautiful! The original plants will survive, but the offspring will multiply. Next summer we'll have more lavender and gold postings....and the coneflowers won't be looking for the sun.
As for the remaining coneflowers....I'll ugly up the soil in the cedar glade bed and make it lean and mean with a mulch of decomposed limestone to mimic the cedar glade conditions. That should help! If they are still lying down on the job next spring, we'll move them to the front bed, too.
Everyday in the garden is an opportunity to learn! What have you learned this summer?
Wherever humans garden magnificently, there are magnificent heartbreaks.