The Mistakes I Made This Year

The “year of renovation and renewal” for my garden was an ambitious project. I had two gardens that were useless, one because of weeds and the other because of its construction – filled with gravel, rocks and buried stepping stones with a scant inch of soil over them. I wanted both of those fixed. One, the island bed, I could do myself with just some heavy work that was done by my son. The other needed professional work.

I also needed more than the usual spring tree work done, another professional job. I had two gardens in need of intensive weeding. My dock was in ruins. And I wanted my house painted. This was done by my daughter, who was formerly a professional painter.

  1. The wrong landscaper

I relied on a friend’s recommendation for a landscaper to renovate the slope garden in my back yard, the one that was so poorly built as to be unusable. This turned out to be a bad decision. I was overcharged for a job that did not turn out particularly well. While I did get a usable bed out of it, the topsoil delivered was utterly filled with weed seeds, the finished project was not the rock garden I wanted but simply two large, tiered beds, and the stepping stone staircase was simply bungled. It cost another $200 to have the staircase fixed. Moral: Get more than one estimate, and use Angie’s List! Continue reading

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Bad Back: No Garden Work Allowed

My garden needs a lot of attention before fall. There are plants and bulbs to put in the ground. A veritable ocean of weeds needs to be pulled. I have 4 bags of cypress mulch to put down on the island bed, and a half load of wood chips to use to mulch the street border bed.

Weeping Pussy Willow in Fall

Weeping Pussy Willow looks odd this fall

I need to treat trumpet vine shoots and staghorn sumac suckers with brush killer. I want to root prune and move some shrubs and the weeping pussy willow tree (although that may have to wait – it’s looking really strange). The compost needs to be turned.


I need to weed.
I need to weed.
I need to weed.
I need to weed.
I need to weed.

I need to weed!

I need to weed!

Continue reading

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Enjoying the Garden

Don’t you love sitting outside and just enjoying the garden you’ve created? Contemplating the beauty you’ve created, smelling the fragrance, listening to the birds, watching the bees and butterflies appreciating your work?

I don’t. I mean, I can’t.

I’ve tried. I sit on the patio and look around, and instantly what I see isn’t the good things but the things that need to be done.

Gold variegated polemonium 'Brise d'Anjou'

Gold variegated polemonium ‘Brise d’Anjou’

I need to pull those weeds. I need to cut back that plant. I have too many polemoniums (Jacob’s Ladder) and need to pull 90% of them out. Actually, I’d like to pull them all out and replace the remaining 10% of space with a variegated version! But I can’t put those in the same place, because there’s not enough sun to keep the variegation from reverting the following year (that’s what happened to the glorious ‘Brise d’Anjou’ variety at right). Or maybe it would work, because when the huge tree limb fell it opened that bed up to more sun. Continue reading

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Your Least Favorite Gardening Chore? Mine: Watering

On Facebook I just asked people what their least favorite regular household chore is, and my own answer was “cleaning the cat litter boxes.” That got me to thinking about garden chores and which one I hate most.

The answer: Watering.

In this, the year of renewal, the year I took out a Home Equity Line of Credit to be able to get my gardens (and home, as it turned out) back in shape or better than new, I can’t believe I didn’t even think of including an in-ground sprinkler system in the list of projects. Now there isn’t enough money left to get a watering system this year.

Why do I hate watering? First, my experience with soaker hoses was terrible. In my Des Moines garden, I laced soaker hoses(the black ones with tiny perforations) and sprinklers through the 50×55 foot back yard garden (the entire back yard was a garden). I got a Gardena water timer and a two-way valve that would switch from one hose to the other automatically.

The gardens looked great, but my water bill jumped from about $50 a month to $350. Continue reading

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One Wish: Die, Weeds, DIE!

David Beaulieu, Landscaping Expert, posted about the ‘Secret Lust’ Coneflower, a powder-puff echinacea that changes colors. In Facebook’s #gardenchat group, he asked, “Do you have a Secret Lust?”

Well, yes, I do, but it isn’t this flower or any perennial. My secret lust is to have all the weeds and all the shoots of the !#$%@ trumpet vine vanish overnight.

Damned Trumpet Vine Outfoxed Me

Damned Trumpet Vine Outfoxed Me

I thought I was being clever when I put an overturned pot over one of those trumpet vine shoots. But not so! Here’s what happened:

Yes, the tenacious damned thing made its way through a small hole in the bottom of the pot.

That’s the island garden bed, the one where my son and I dug up almost every good plant and potted them. But in spite of my having blasted the remaining weeds with Roundup before planting, treated every visible shoot of the trumpet vine with poison ivy and brush killer, and mulched most of it, by the early September it was chaos again:

Depressing, isn’t it? And this is just the smallest of my seven gardens.

Why did I let it get so bad? Four reasons:

  1. I can’t work in hot weather, especially when it’s humid.
  2. I didn’t expect this after all the work I’d done to prevent weeds.
  3. I haven’t been feeling well, including lots of problems with my right knee and depression.
  4. I can’t work in hot weather.

Then there were two cool days. I was able to weed this entire bed – except for the thrice-be-damned trumpet vines – in less than half an hour, and the next day get the worst of the weeds out of the north border the next day in 65 minutes. In my next post, some before and after pictures.

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