As the seasons change we once again take stock and see what lessons we have learned. The 1st December marks the official beginning of Summer in South Africa and so it is time take part in the quarterly gardening meme by PlantPostings called “Garden lessons learned“. Barbie completed her “Gardening Mistakes” post a few days early and today it is my turn to think back over the last three months and document the successes and mistakes in the garden. Fortunately, not all gardening is trial and error. With the help of our wonderful gardening friends, mentors, numerous excellent blogs we follow, books and fabulous nurseries at our disposal, we learn quickly and do a lot of thing right from the get go. But a lot is learned by trying things on our own.

Garden lessons learned

These are the lessons I’ve learned this season …

1. Extend the Spring Bulb Show by planting bulbs at intervals
I had a fabulous show of Spring Flowers. It was magical and thrilling as a new gardener to be greeted every morning with new flowers opening, walking through the garden and being surprised by something new bursting into bloom … it was really fabulous. I was incredibly proud of “my” spring show and anyone who would indulge me was taken on a tour to see the spring flowers. But then they all seemed to finish blooming at the same time. Next year I will plant bulbs in weekly batches rather than trying to get it all done in one weekend. This should prolong the showing for a while.

2. Pruning is mega important
Yeah Baby! I was intimidated by pruning and so just never did it. For example … the Hydrangea that I planted in my pre-gardening days about three years ago had never flowered (or grown much), the grotty looking Weigela was earmarked for the trash can and I was nervous as heck to cut the ornamental grass down to nothing. But at the end of July I took secateurs to hand and cut! Snip, snip, snip all over. It broke my heart a little to cut things down to bare stalks and I had serious doubts about my efforts, but am I ever glad I did it now! The Hydrangeas have come back and have morphed into huge magnificent plants about to flower, The Weigela looks like a plant again and not like a dead twig and the roses are covered in masses of gorgeous blooms! I will never be scared to prune again! My advice to any newbie gardener regarding pruning – Just Do It!

The bees love my rosesBee on the rose

Petunias for instant colourPetunias for instant colour

Experimenting with foliageExperimenting with foliage

3. Plant at recommended distances
So we all know I’m not very patient. Impatience and the desire for instant gratification in the garden has been the cause of me planting things closer together than I should. What a pain … now I have to dig up things that are overcrowded and replant them! Stupid rookie mistake! (Except for Clivias – apparently they like being crowded!).

4. It’s not just about the flowers
I’ve learnt that I can create an amazing garden without even thinking about the flowering potential of a plant by combining great foliage plants. Considering form, texture, leaf colour, shape and size I’ve learnt that a magical garden can be created using plants that might never flower or whose flowers are insignificant. A wonderful revelation and a whole new way of gardening has opened up to me.

5. There is ALWAYS something to do in the garden
Once you start gardening, you can’t stop. There is always something that needs doing in the garden! ‘Nuff said!

Roses after serious pruningRoses after serious pruning

Loving the OsteopernumsLoving the Osteopermums

Witoogies take care of aphidsWitoogies take care of aphids

6. I don’t need perfection in the garden
A bit of a perfectionist in many others areas of my life, I have realised in the past three months that I do not need perfection in the garden. Sure I want everything to look gorgeous, but it is the overall effect that makes me happy, not individual plant perfection. It is just not that important that every blade of grass, every leaf, every bloom be perfect. It is in fact the little imperfections that make it interesting.

7. Just move it!
I’ve learnt from many experienced gardeners that when a plant is not thriving in the position it is in – just dig it up and plant it elsewhere. It might well thrive in another position.

8. Bugs serve purposes too
Spraying the roses every two weeks with some noxious smelling stuff recommended by some rose growers made me very uncomfortable. The bed the standard roses are in has lots of little flowers growing at ground level that the bees love. So I felt guilty every time I used that spray. And frankly, every time I used it there seemed to be more aphids on them than the time before anyway, so what was the point? After pruning the roses I decided to stop using the spray and the result? No aphids. Admittedly there are some beetles that seem to be munching the blooms but the blooms only last a few days and there are so many, many new buds on each plant, that I don’t actually care if there are a few buggy-holes in the old roses that need to be removed anyway. And there are so many happy bees buzzing around that bed its like a regular bee-palooza* in there! Lovely!

I love gardening with grassesPanicum virgatum "Shenandoah"

Lavender is a great filler plantLavender is a great filler plant

Ant on the Globe ArtichokeAnt on the Globe Artichoke

9. Planting seeds can be a real pain if not done carefully
i). I planted a bunch of seeds carefully. Nicely spaced, giving the emerging seedlings lots of space. Tick!
ii). I planted a bunch of seeds just by throwing them in a pot, not giving the emerging seedlings any space to grow. What a pain to thin them out and a huge waste of time! I’ll take the time and do it properly next time.

10. In times of grief the garden can be a great place to heal.
Not a lesson I wanted to learn, but learn it I did.

I ♥ Sherrie

What lessons have you learned this season? Please share with us – we learn so much from reading these types of post by experienced gardeners, so join in and head over to Plant Postings to add the link to your “Garden Lessons Learned” post so we can share in your gardening successes!

*Palooza – According to the “Urban Dictionary”, a Palooza is an all out crazy party!