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

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Of Course Your Mind's On Your Garden!

'Diane' Hamamelis x intermedia
March 2, 2010

So is mine ... I've adopted a wait and see plan of action. I'm curious to see the effects of extreme weather on the garden. We've had a surprisingly long and cold winter. Our gardens don't have a warm blanket of snow to protect the plants from the winds and roller coaster temperature extremes that a Middle South garden experiences. They are mulched with a thick covering of leaves but, I expect some loss and damage from the recent arctic blasts that have made this the coldest winter in thirty years.
We had snow, but it doesn't last long

Add to that, record breaking rains last fall and you have a look into the whys and where fores of my "wait and see plan of action."

The Garden of Benign Neglect is looking very brown,
even the evergreens are looking beaten up!

Our usual sunny and mild October weather was rocked by torrential rains that went on and on!

Heterotheca Villosa 'Ruth Baumgardner'
a gift from Frances, of Fairegarden

I am prone to hyperbole, but torrential is the right word. We had 18 inches of rain in three weeks. The pounding rain mushed many of the fall blooms, washed off the pollen and nectar that late visiting pollinators need and compacted the already challenged clay soil. The native x-asters rebounded nicely but, a few of the stalwarts of fall were done for. The best news is that Tennessee and all of the Southeastern US is no longer in a drought.***

Thank goodness for an indomitable gardening spirit~Although, I don't think I've been my usual optimistic, glass is half full person of late. I apologize for that~it's a simple case of Garden Deprivation Syndrome. Please, a cue to the violinist to start playing something sad and mournful... It's been over 5 months since I've been able to dig in the dirt. Hand, rain, snow and cold have conspired to keep me out of the garden for this long! Usually, we have milder winters and there are many opportunities to get your hands dirty planting a few perennials and bulbs. But, not this winter. Cue to end the music.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I'm especially curious to see how the xeric plants made it through the fall rains and wet winter. In the best of C&L circumstances they had a 50/50 chance to survive our wet winters. No matter how often the soil is amended~ drainage continues to be an issue in this heavy clay soil. There are beautiful plants that can take these conditions...native cedar glade plants love it. Surprisingly, non native species tulips come back year after year. Both, love the dry summers and can survive the winter rains.

T. turkestanica

But, xeric plants, not so much!

Salvias, agastaches and even gaura exerted their powerful siren call and seemed a good plan for our hot and dry summers. After a trip to Chicago for Spring Fling and a tour of the Lurie Garden, I was hooked on another 'Please don't let my feet stay wet' plant. So I bought 5 small plants.
Geum triflorum/Prairie Smoke
Lurie Gardens June 2009

Now tell me the truth! Could you resist that pretty face?

In the meantime, it's wait and see if they made it through the weather and then, we'll wait and see what 2010 throws at us. Predictions are that our summers will be hotter and dryer and our winters wetter.* Looks like even more cedar glade natives will be moving in the garden~


* Tennessee Assessing The Cost Of Climate Change
***Much of the world is still experiencing drought


  1. Yes, we can do nothing now but wait and see. Here in my central Indiana zone 5 garden, the winter has been a little colder than normal, but we've had some nice snow cover lately. I've seen the first crocus blooms already, and now I'm ready for the flood of spring blooms.

    Hang in there! You may be surprised at how resilient some of the plants really are.

  2. I can't wait any longer!!! Just so you know. We are of the same mindset, Gail, and reading your lovely words and seeing those cheering shots has helped already. A tulip even!!! Come on out, Sun, we have sorely missed you. Thanks for the link love, my dear. :-)

  3. 5 months is a long time not to have been playing in the garden.

    I think we are all waiting to see what has survived this very hard winter - here everything is now about 6 weeks late.

    Not long now .....

  4. Wait and see is what we do in Connecticut too - it must be hard to get used to further south, even with lovely crocuses and sweet Diane to keep you company!

  5. Here is to a glass half full. If you were going to be out of the garden for your hand, you could not have picked a better stretch of weather. As I write this it is snowing, again. By this point last year my yard was a sea of blooming narcissus, but this year they are very much in wait and see mode.

  6. Gail girl ! Just think you will be well into Garden Mode and I mean literally .. well before we northerners will be : ) So I am a little jealous but happy for you .. that is a lot of rain girl !
    I will be waiting to see what you say about TES especially .. I just know our "kids" are going to grow this year and make us proud ? LOL
    Good luck and let's all get gardening ?
    Joy : )

  7. Gail, hopefully your new plants will have needed that extra moisture. Best of luck. I am so looking forward to the warmer weather predicted for this weekend. Come on spring...

  8. Seems our weather has been much of the same here...I have taken on the wait and see approach more this year than ever before...but really, what other choice do we have? We will have at or below freezing temps the next couple of mornings.....sigh...what gets me is this time of the year when the temps can swing around 40 degrees between morning lows and afternoon highs..sipping that glass of wine, watching and waiting with you!

  9. Gail - I hear you. I'm with you.

    The torrential rains washed away my dreams of poppies. I have spots of them here and there and not necessarily where they were planted.

    The edging that The Musician and I added in November got washed out on either side of the blocks.

    We had to re-dig the trench a foot wide and deeper to handle the torrential rains, laid a 4" perforated pipe with a sock on it; covered it with drainage rock.

    The dry stream got filled up with the backfill that HAD been placed around the edging!

    On Monday, The Musician, The Archaeologist and I added pretty river rock to the top of the drainage rock.

    I've been feverishly writing for freelance $$ for magazines and websites in the last few weeks - to recoup my expenditures to save my garden. This French drain and lost seeds hadn't been in the budget. As retirees whose 401k plans now look like 201K plans, the deal here is that I have to support my garden with my freelance writing.

    Without the drain, my sloping deer resistant garden - and all my xeric plants - would have been history. Really, I was almost to the point to giving it up.

    Notice that I've not had any photos of my garden since November? I've been writing about travel just to keep my blog alive with posts.

    There is SNOW on the ground this morning. Sigh.

  10. This wet cold icky weather gives way for those of us 'enjoying' it to dream of a time where we can get out into the garden.
    I am so tired of the wet and snow. This abundance of water will be great for some plants and not so good for others. Like you, I have to be in a wait and see frame of mind. In my yard I have aobut 2 inches of snow, again... and will have tidal flooding at high tide.

  11. At least your photos are beautiful. Sounds like we had the same weather, fall through winter. (In fact, I just saw the rains from last fall in my area featured in an article in the latest Nature Conservancy magazine.) But I do believe that our recent weather represents the extremes we sometimes get and so we should continue to plant for what might be the averages. Do not despair Gail, for if you do many more might as well!

  12. We've had snow on the ground since Dec. 5. But, it will melt this weekend. I bet my flowers do alright since we haven't had any bitter cold temperatures--just lots of moisture.

  13. We are definitely waiting to see what happens. It's been a very weird year for weather. At least the drought is past. It looks like the cold may be coming to an end soon, this weekend go out and get in the dirt!

  14. Hi Gail, I love your blue (purple?) obelisk! Also, that very cute yellow/maroon plant looks like a crocus, but I've never seen that coloring before. Gorgeous! Finally, xeric plants can handle quite a lot of moisture when they are dormant, over the winter. (Think of CO or UT as an example; VERY dry in growing season, but VERY snowy 6 months of the year.) The question is, how dormant do they get in TN? I've learned a lot of things that are perennial for me, aren't in CA because there the foliage doesn't go dormant and then gets too squishy in their wet winters. And that's all I know about that. (P.S. Shipped the booklet on Monday, maybe it will arrive today!)

  15. You always take such beautiful pictures Gail.

    It is true -- wet years kill xeric plants, and vice versa. The garden is such a dynamic thing.

    It's a good thing that the drought is over, but I'm a little tired of slipping around in the mud. Bring on the sunshine!

  16. Hi Gail. Like you, I'm afraid this wet weather will be harder on my xeric plants than any amount of cold. I've spent the last several years switching to drought tolerant plants only to have the weather patterns change and give us record amounts of precip.

  17. I did see a map showing the end of the drought for the Southeast, so that at least is good news. I hope your Prairie Smoke makes it. If not, I can try to collect seeds. Even with snow piled 2 feet high on top of them, they manage to make it through the winter in my garden. They're still buried, but the sun is shining today, and it's going to be above freezing, so I hope to see them again very soon.

  18. This weather hasn't been very southernly. I'm from MI and I think I would have rather been there for this winter. At least it's just snowy there! We have had tons of rain, about 6 snow falls and many cold days. I hope it's almost over now.

  19. A siren call indeed! I think those gorgeous agastaches are worth growing year after year... even if they don't survive your ever-wetter winters. :)

    ps. I wonder if you could use the trick I used to grow lavender at my old house? The ground there was clay, so I built up a mound of better soil and planted the lavender at the top of it. When the plant gets big and bushy, you don't see the "bump" of dirt it's planted in at all. I kept lavender for at least 3-4 years that way... maybe longer, but I moved away so I don't know how they fared after that.

  20. My Prairie Smoke take the winter wet clay fine. They don't thrive, per se, but they do't look shabby, either. We'll see--there's still a foot of snow on top of them in that part of the garden.

  21. Lovely shot of your Diane witch hazel. Mine is about done but this is the first year that the lovely Primavera has bloomed well for me. She is a dayglow yellow. When she grows a little more, I believe that even in spite of her small flower size I'll be able to see her from my deck! Hope to post her picture soon on my blog but right now I'm enthralled with daffodils.
    It's definitely still winter here in Zone 7 Mississippi but I do see signs of spring.

  22. I'm curious too as to how the plants will all do. I noticed some freeze damage on some evergreens this morning (not the camellias) so some is obvious. Hopefully all your plants will be fine and the sun will warm us up soon.

  23. I agree it's been a long winter, and I can't wait to see something green poking up out of the ground soon. While our October was one of the wettest on record, we didn't have the torrential rains that you did. I think your "wait and see" attitude is the only realistic approach you can take. I sure hope those "Prairie Smokes" survived, though; I've been lusting after them myself.

  24. I am waiting and seeing too Gail. We typically have a long winter but it's usually broken up by some warmer spells. We didn't have any of those this year ~ just straight cold. Luckily (for the plants) they were covered with snow the entire time. I hope that protected them (maybe better than normal??)
    I love that crocus ~ I haven't seen one colored like it before. Now I have something to add to my list for fall planting!
    Hang in there ~ soon you will be able to get out in the garden. I'm glad you're not in a drought anymore. That's the positive in it all.

  25. We feel your pain, Gail! We've had something like 45 inches of snow so far this winter, which I think is a record (last year we got about 10), and are just now beginning to see a few bare patches. But like you, we're no longer facing drought conditions, and best of all, this morning I saw our first blooming snowdrops! Spring is definitely in the air! Let us know how your prairie smokes fare. I love them so, but haven't dared to try them here...

  26. That species tulip looks like it is playing a roaring fiddler's jig instead of a sad dirge. Love the purple trellis in the second shot!

  27. I'm anxious to see what this cold winter has done to the garden. Hopefully everything will be okay!

  28. 18 inches is torrential. I think about our garden all the time. Our house has garening mags and books in every room, every room. You know, all the snow doesn't have to melt before you can garden.

    great pics. jim

  29. Wait and see is the best attitude to take...why stress over what you can't control? And there is a good chance that your prairie smoke will make it. They survive in Illinois's clay soils!

  30. Unsolicited advice alert:

    Don't listen to the naysayers, Gail. Predictions for a dry, hot summer prevail every year in these parts. Sometimes they're right, often they're not.

    Also I lost my Geum 'Prairie Smoke' by planting it in a hot, dry place. Go figure. If I buy it again, it's going in a container so I can keep an eye on it.

    I'm glad the drought is over. Think how pretty the landscape will be in a few months.

    Hang in there. I think many of us feel your pain.

  31. Gail, you know I feel for you. This is the coldest winter we've had in my 13 years on this corner of Katy. I'm starting the chore of determining what will come back from the roots and what's a lost cause. I'll be doing a lot of cutting back and/or yanking out in the days to come.

  32. Last year our winter was long and colder than usual. We did lose some plants, but other plants did better than ever. I hope you don't lose many and that you'll be able to get out and dig soon. The Geum is very pretty, I've never seen one like that before.

  33. Wow...the picture of Heterotheca Villosa 'Ruth Baumgardner' looks awesome. It made my day. Keep on posting.

  34. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you. I've already started to spot the things I've lost to the harsh weather. It is sad, but I'm looking on it as a good chance to do a bit of HRT (Horticultural Retail Therapy).

    Wonderful photography, particularly like the shot of the Witch Hazel.

    RO xx

  35. It's that time of the year ~ impatience at seeing what has survived the winter. I hope that your plants will have come through with flying colours. The Geums should do fine. They might like good drainage, but they survive heavy clay too. They are native plants here and called "Grandfather's whiskers". I was just reading about them ~ http://tinyurl.com/ycn4mp6

  36. Garden of benign neglect - I love it! I live it! We've still got snow on the front yard, but things seem to be springing back pretty well - even the pansies I planted in the fall are still alive. Amazing how nature does it. Can't wait to see your garden in a few weeks. Kelly

  37. I find for my xeric plants, mounding is much more important than soil amendment. That said, I'm also getting a little nervous, they can suffocate in the wet clay. Well, we shall see...

  38. Gail, I'm sorry but you're right...nothing to do but wait and see! So many of us are in that same boat. It sounds like your area has experienced some of the worst weather. And you made a good point that I'd not thought of re. the rains...the pollen and nector is washed away. Never considered that!

  39. Such a beautiful post, so hopeful, and still pragmatic. We went through this last year, and yes, we did lose quite a few plants.

    I love that shot of the blue chair, with the golden light, it looks so lovely.

    Here's to many survivors.


  40. I'm so with you in spirit, Gail. I haven't gone quite five months... but this weather continues to be uncooperative and we had snow two mornings ago. :( You will recover your usual self soon (and I'm speaking to myself here, too). Besides, I do think Les is right: you couldn't have chosen a better stretch of weather to heal your hand and be out of commission in the garden. It's been rough out there!

  41. Ah yes, wait and see! We must be patient ... I'm saving my sighs till then :) Lovely photos, dear Gail. Happy weekend ... heading north again ... just can't get enough of that snow :)

  42. I too am in the waiting mode. Wondering what damage has been done by this weird winter. Still too wet here for ground planting. A lot of my gardening is done in huge pots so it's a little easier to plant some things. Potatoes were planted this past Sunday. Some pots are ready for other things. We are still having freeze temps.
    I do have a need to be in the garden getting my hands dirty. Your post of 3-27-08 says it all.

  43. It has been a very long wait hasn't it. Anticipation is very difficult to endure at times. The purple is working quite well isn't it?

  44. LOVE that chair! I hope your hand is healing well, Gail. You'll soon be digging in your beautiful gardens again...surely spring can't be that far off, though, on days like today, it makes you wonder. :)

  45. Gail, Your Crocus and Geum photos are wonderful and I love the light and shadows on your chair! Five months is more like what we might have as a space from gardening, but this year I was able to garden even in November and burn in late January. I have not gotten around to all the needed pruning yet. You have good reason for being weary of the 'time out' of gardening. It is great to hear however that the droughts in the south have ceased for it was a long haul. I do hope for warm sunny days to come your way and that they will stay to allow you to play in your garden. ;>)

  46. Winter is lasting 'way too long, but we're at that point where a few days makes a big difference. I hope by today you're seeing more signs of spring.


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