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The Latest Garden Lessons Learned

As Summer turns to Autumn it’s time take part in the quarterly gardening meme by PlantPostings called “Garden lessons learned“. Looking back over the last three months and taking stock of the garden reminds me of the lessons I’ve learnt over the Summer months. Just when I thought I was becoming a fully fledged gardener, Mother Nature dished up Summer and cut me down to size – and I humbly concede that I still have a very long way to go…

Garden Lessons Learned in Summer

These are the Lessons I learned this season …

1. Summer is for sitting back and enjoying the fruits of ones labour
I spent many hot sunny weekends on the back terrace watching the birds, reading, relaxing and enjoying my garden. Really enjoying it! And I made lots of plans for the garden and accomplished very little. No matter … that’s what the next six months will be for. Preparing the garden for next spring and summer.

2. Summer is not my favourite “gardening season”
Of everything I learnt, the most obvious to me was that Summer is not my favourite gardening time. I just don’t have the same energy levels in Summer as I do during the rest of the year. It just gets to darn hot out there to accomplish a whole lot. My ritual of making a list of chores on a Saturday morning resulted in tasks being carried over from week to week because I just can’t do heavy digging and physical chores in the heat of summer. Even the few overcast days were not cool enough to get much done. I have a VERY long list of “Gardening Things to Do” now.

[one_third]First Anemone of the SeasonFirst Anemone of the Season[/one_third]

[one_third]The gorgeous SunbirdThe gorgeous Sunbird[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Bits of colour in the gardenColour in the rose bed[/one_third_last]

3. Don’t forget about the flowers
At the end of Spring I listed “It not just about the flowers” as one of my Spring Garden lessons learned. Hmm … I was on a bit of a ‘foliage kick’ at that time as I had discovered the joys of gardening with foliage. So much so that I really did forget about flowers. Luckily I had gorgeous foliage to admire and delight in over the summer months as I really had forgotten to consider what would flower in summer. I had flowers but no “show stopping” display of gorgeous blooms.Next year I need to pay some attention to this so that there is always something flowering.

4. Plant at recommended distances!
Haven’t we had this before? Duh … I didn’t follow my own advice and now I’m going to be lifting and replanting as soon as the weather cools down enough. Again.

5. Attracting birds to the garden
I discovered the joy of observing birds in my garden and I learnt a bit about attracting different birds. Using different feeders, seeds and fruits I was soon rewarded with a few “new” visitors. Lovely!

[one_third]My roses were lovelyIceberg Roses were lovely[/one_third]

[one_third]Lots of new birds cameLots of new birds came[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Still loving all the foliageStill loving all the foliage[/one_third_last]

6. I learnt about sterile plants
I discovered that Petunias don’t attract any bees and bugs. It’s a bit strange to me not to have insect activity around plants and I think I might be planting an alternative next year. Might. I do like how they provide easy summer colour in my Camellia bed. I hope I can find something else with a similar habit and requirements for that spot.

7. I can do it organically (mostly)
Besides an organic snail and slug product I use, I have not used anything chemical in my garden for the last nine months. And I’ve had less aphids this summer than in the years before. There were beetles and bugs and all kinds of interesting creatures, but I never felt the need to kill any as they were always present in small numbers. I hope it stays this way! I prefer not having to spray – and its a lot less work this way too.

8. Write down plant names before planting
My memory clearly is not as good as I think it is and I have forgotten the exact names of a few of the plants I’ve planted. Why didn’t I write them down?

[one_third]Brachycombe Daisy in potsBrachycombe Daisy in pots[/one_third]

[one_third]And up close and personalAnd up close and personal[/one_third]

[one_third_last]One of my “other” pets 🙂One of my "other" pets :)[/one_third_last]

So 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 lessons!

Happy Gardening

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[note_box]New here? If you would like to get involved in the gardening blog community, consider joining a blog meme. Click to see a list at Gardening Blog Memes.[/note_box]

[one_third]The lovely Mexican PetuniaThe lovely Mexican Petunia[/one_third]

[one_third]In the back shade gardenIn the back shade garden[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Love my Iceberg RosesLove my Iceberg Roses[/one_third_last]

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The Ugly Post

After yesterdays post in which I gave a brief update on my summer garden, I received such complimentary comments and praise that I started to feel like a bit of a fraud. The reality is that it is still a young, developing garden with quite a number of unsightly corners and patches that need work. I seem to have become quite good at taking photos at angles that show my garden as a lush flowering little haven, and truth be told, I also tend to only show those areas in the garden that I am reasonably happy with.

So to keep things real, just for today I’ve decided to “show and tell” some (not all) of the less attractive spots in my garden (including an ailing plant). Only today. Just this once. We’ll call it “The Ugly Post”, ok?

Empty patches

[one_half]The still bare “Garden of Twelve“…The still bare "Garden of 12"[/one_half]

[one_half_last]I’ve not been inspired to work on itI've been uninspired to work on it[/one_half_last]

[one_half]An ailing Azalea (I don’t know why)An ailing Azalea (I don't know why)[/one_half]

[one_half_last]and the gorgeous one next to itand the gorgeous one next to it[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Crowded in front, bare at the backCrowded in front, bare at the back[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Lots of bare patches in the backLots of bare patches in the back[/one_half_last]

[one_half]We’re slowly filling up here …We're slowly filling up here ...[/one_half]

[one_half_last]and here and there …and here and there ...[/one_half_last]

[one_half]and waiting for things to growand waiting for things to grow[/one_half]

[one_half_last]and waiting for things to fill outand waiting for things to fill out[/one_half_last]

Oh dear, where did all the pretty go? Most of these photos are from my unfinished, work-in-progress back garden, which seems to be a bottomless pit that sucks up and devours plants. I’ve been buying plants on an almost weekly basis for a year now and I STILL have huge bare patches back there. I’m starting to wonder if it will ever look like those gorgeous flower-filled beds I see on all the blogs and in magazines … surely one day it will have enough plants to wow my socks off? I’m optimistic. Maybe NEXT spring!

If nothing else, gardening has taught me to be patient.

Happy Gardening

Christine's garden Gardening Home page features

New Garden Lessons Learned

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!

[one_third]The bees love my rosesBee on the rose[/one_third]

[one_third]Petunias for instant colourPetunias for instant colour[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Experimenting with foliageExperimenting with foliage[/one_third_last]

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!

[one_third]Roses after serious pruningRoses after serious pruning[/one_third]

[one_third]Loving the OsteopernumsLoving the Osteopermums[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Witoogies take care of aphidsWitoogies take care of aphids[/one_third_last]

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!

[one_third]I love gardening with grassesPanicum virgatum "Shenandoah"[/one_third]

[one_third]Lavender is a great filler plantLavender is a great filler plant[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Ant on the Globe ArtichokeAnt on the Globe Artichoke[/one_third_last]

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!

Barbie's garden Gardening Home page features Miscellaneous Perenniels

Gardening mistakes

Most of the time, gardening is a feeling and with some research and new-found knowledge you plant and sow and usually your garden will grow – with love and lots of watering. In this past year, I have made a few mistakes and tried a few recommended tips and found that they were a waste of time.

My first mistake is that sun-loving plants should not be planted in the shadow of trees or large bushes. I was too impatient to fill the gaps that I did not ask the plant (or read the label!) where they prefer to be planted. So I have a few plants that are not thriving – my Lychnis Coronaria is not doing well at all and I have seen some amazing specimens to know that mine looks anorexic! I now have to re-position them and this is double work – so I have learnt a valuable lesson!

My second mistake or planting boo boo is putting a large shrubby lavender in a small bucket. They are just not thriving. They seem stunted and a mould has begun to form, so my fancy threesome are not happy in their bucket homes. Hmmmm…. I’ll have to find smaller plants that are better suited.  Any suggestions?

[one_half]Unhappy Lychnis in the shadows![/one_half]

[one_half_last]Lavender just not thriving in the buckets[/one_half_last]

My third and hard learned lesson is that I mow the grass too close! I am lazy with the mowing and cut the grass short and then I get these bald patches that look ugly and take ages to come right. If I would just cut the grass more frequently and not so short, it would be lush and consistently green. It is not my favourite job but once the lawn is mowed it usually makes the whole front garden look nice and neat! So, now I have to come clean, clean up my act and get that lawn looking tip top!

My forth gardening lesson learnt is that all is not always a “good idea”. I want to be a responsible gardener and try to recycle as much as I can. I have tried the toilet roll inners and have failed miserably with them. I thought it was the best idea ever – all you have to do is plant the seedling directly into the ground (once you have the little darling happily growing in the toilet roll) and you have an added protection from nasties getting to your tender stem. Well, this turned out to be a big flop!  I painstakingly mixed the soil, placed it in the inner roll (quite difficult I must add) and then planted a seed or two into this – it took all afternoon. Watering was difficult too. I didn’t want to drown the seed so I used a small measuring cup and gently poured the water (or feed) into each individual roll…..yup! What a schmuck!!

[one_half]Bald patch in my lawn[/one_half]

[one_half_last]My excited attempt at recycling toilet rolls – planted with basil and tomatoes[/one_half_last]

Well, this did not  produce a great crop of plants – most of them did not even pop a head out! They remained stunted and looked malnourished! After all the attention and love and great worm tea …..!! I don’t think I will try that again. Oh yes! AND!! The toilet roll was so stiff that I had doubts that they would ever decompose! So, I had to tear them up gently and plant the surviors. You will see the difference in the photos below – the seed in the ground (literally shoved into the ground and watered) looking full of promise in producing a host of tomatoes and the delicately cared for wimp of a plant that looks as if it will take another year before it bears fruit!

[one_half]Stunted growth from the toilet roll planting[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Seeds shoved in the ground at the same time have flourished[/one_half_last]

Oh the joys of gardening! I have learnt valuable lessons this year!

Christine's garden Gardening Home page features

Garden Lessons learned

Here in the Western Cape of South Africa we’ve had a very mild Winter. Well on our way to Spring, the nights are getting shorter the days are a little longer and the spring flowers are starting to bloom. Trees are greening up and everything looks fresh and new. As the seasons change I am taking part in a new quarterly gardening meme by PlantPostings called Garden lessons learned.

My Spring garden

As a very new gardener, these are the lessons I’ve learned …

1. Plant in Groups! Not randomly.
This has been my biggest lesson learnt this past season. The Irises in the photographs below are a perfect example of my “random plantings”. I bought 6 of the rhizomes. I brought them home. At the time I was a complete newbie (read: clueless) gardener. I planted them in twos. Two together in one spot, two in another and two in yet another. How stupid. They are magnificent plants, large, strappy, strong upright standing leaves with gorgeous blooms and I planted them in twos. How stunning they would have looked in a group of six. They would have made a statement – been a focal point. Instead, they are lost in their silly placement. HUGE lesson!

2. When planting a new plant bought from a nursery, it really pays huge dividends to prepare the soil and planting holes properly.
Before I knew what I was doing I used to buy a plant at a nursery, bring it home, dig a hole and plonk it in and wait. And wait … and wait. And then sometimes I’d wait some more. If I was lucky the plant would eventually start to grow. If I was unlucky, it would shrivel up and die. Then I started gardening properly. Reading, learning and trying new things. I learnt that I need to dig the hole twice the size of the pot the plant is in. Mix some compost and bone-meal/fertiliser/whatever into the planting hole. Water. Then add the plant. Make sure there are no air pockets. Plant it at the correct depth for the plant. Water it. Depending on the plant, water daily until established. Presto! What a difference! All my new acquisitions made and planted in this way over the last three months are THRIVING! What a joy!

[one_third]Thriving new DelphiniumsDelphiniums thriving[/one_third]

[one_third]A Tulip closes at DuskA tulip closing at dusk[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Thriving foliage 2 weeks oldLovely foliage thrives[/one_third_last]

3. The pictures they show you on the packets of Tulip Bulbs are not always true to what grows!
And whats more, those lovely pictures they show you of the egg-shaped blooms … well that’s only the way they look when they close in the evenings and first thing in the morning before the sun starts to belt down. Even in my shaded garden they open up like saucers and invite the aphids in! And the colours are (mostly) nothing like the packet pictures. Will I grow Tulips again? No. Far too much effort and money for too little reward. It was a great learning exercise – one I won’t repeat. Great I’m sure for people with full-time garden help and more space than they know what to do with. I have neither, so I’ll live without tulips in future.

4. I cannot grow Dutch Irises!
OK, these bulbs were not expensive and I’m really glad I tried them. I suspect that my garden is just not the right environment for them. Either that or the folks that grow Dutch Irises for Woolies have some magic soil or fertiliser that produces stems four times the size of mine. This is one thing that is cheaper buying from Woolies than “growing my own”. I won’t grow these again.

5. I can grow Louisiana Irises! Very well!
I bought a few Iris rhizomes at a plant fair in February. They were Louisiana Irises – Colorific, Sinfonietta and Stanley Blue (a new hybrid). I had been told by a landscaper that I would never be able to grow Louisiana Irises in my garden. Well I did, and I can! I have proof. And they are gorgeous!

[one_third]Louisiana Iris budsLouisiana Irises[/one_third]

[one_third]Another budAnother bud[/one_third]

[one_third_last]In full bloom. Isn’t she lovely?In full bloom. Isn't she lovely?[/one_third_last]

6. Moles can destroy your garden in days.
I’m through discussing the mole – I’ve waffled on enough about him. But I’ve learnt that when something really threatens your plants you need to take action sooner rather than later.

7. If something doesn’t work, give it away or compost it!
Being an inexperienced gardener means I’ve made incorrect plant choices. I’ve spent money on plants that were unsuitable for my garden, allowed others to make choices for me that I didn’t always like and so on. I’ve learnt that when something doesn’t work there is no point feeling guilty about it. Give it away or, worst case scenario, just rip it up and throw it in the compost mixer. And then make better, more informed choices next time.

8. Making your own compost takes time and effort, but is extremely rewarding.
I think only gardeners can appreciate the thrill of making your own compost. From taking a bunch of old leaves and grass cuttings, throwing in your vegetable and fruit scraps from the kitchen, mixing, waiting and then … finding you have black, sweet smelling compost at the end of it … If you don’t garden you just won’t understand.

9. I can prune my own roses!
All the hype about pruning roses! I was really terrified to do mine. I was so sure I’d mess it up and have to buy brand new roses. So I bought a book. I bought a video. I watched some more videos on You Tube. I read blogs. I practised on a miniature rose. Then the big day came and I went ahead and pruned my three little standard Iceberg roses. I was sure I’d messed it up. But guess what? They are growing new leaves like crazy! And they look GREAT!

[one_third]Fabulous FreesiasFabulous Freesias[/one_third]

[one_third]Terrific TulipTerrific Tulip[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Cute CinerariasCute Cinerarias[/one_third_last]

10. If you don’t wear gloves whilst gardening your hands are going to look terrible!
I always start the day wearing my gardening gloves but somehow they get removed half way and I dig and mess about in the dirt with my bare hands. My hands and nails look pretty awful right now. But so what … I have a lovely garden! I’ve traded perfectly groomed hands for a garden I am (almost) proud of.

11. I love, love, LOVE Spring!
This is not news for experienced gardeners. They all love Spring (and Autumn it seems). But it is my first Spring as a gardener, and what can I say … its totally magical! Every day there are new surprises. A new shoot, a new bud, a cacophony of colour in an unexpected place. I feel like a child making new discoveries every day. Its wonderful feeling like a kid again. I love it!

12. The garden is never “ready” or “finished”.
A garden is a constant work in progress and always changing. Every season seems to brings with it new challenges and rewards.

13. Gardening is not a hobby I’d recommend to control freaks! You cannot control the garden … it controls you!

What did YOU learn this last season?

Happy gardening