Wednesday, May 20, 2015

To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow

I read this sweet little inspiration phrase in a gardening book, and my first reaction was “yet so many garden with total disregard for tomorrow”  For example, people who plant in the ground before the last frost date or buy over-grown root-bound potted plants and hanging baskets they will never water. 

I guess I am the tomorrow kind of gardener.  I am always the one buying the short, stocky plants that haven’t bloomed yet.  When I see a particularly nice combination potted up, I march right past those and head out to buy the individual components to plant up myself.  That way I get younger and healthier plants that are not already root bound and hard to maintain.

A basket full of Calibrocha may look beautiful today, but buying the individual plants
and planting fewer per pot will make them easier to maintain.  These baskets usually burn out
for me within 6 weeks while my own plantings peak a little later.

Today I passed up the rack of hopelessly wind burned pepper plants and went through the show room with it’s tempting selection of a little of this and a little of that and back to greenhouse # 8 (out of 21 in the large glamorous garden center with the concrete walkways and shopping carts) and found the protected and fresh stock of pepper plants, pulling flats out so I could step back to the wall with the shortest, deepest green and most enticing plants.

Newly germinated seeds shelter in the warmth of the cold frame
along with annuals fresh out of the commercial greenhouse.

Gardening is about patience.  Sometimes you get instant gratification by going out and buying a beautiful selection of plants or shrubs and transforming a dull or unkempt portion of your garden into a virtual Eden.  But usually gardening is a long process.  In the last post I wondered how many greenhouses I would manage to visit this year.  So far six at least once, and I am on the third round for several suppliers.  I have also visited two Big Box garden departments for various supplies, and have two more greenhouses on my wish list mainly for tourism purposes. 

A trunk full of Geraniums will take over
an hour to transplant properly

Why so many trips?  Because it won’t all fit in my car all at once.  And if it did, the sheer enormity of the task would be overwhelming.  I walk into a well stocked greenhouse and I am immediately overwhelmed and underwhelmed at once.  There are so many beautiful choices, but the I can’t always find the exact variety or color I have in mind.  If I did manage to find everything I wanted all at once, I would not have room to stage everything and keep it protected until it is safe to plant and I certainly wouldn't have the energy to plant it all at once.  This must be done in stages. 

On one side the hoop house with a frost cover shelters tender seedlings
from direct sun and wind.  On the other side, sturdier, hardened off
plants await transplanting after threat of frost.

Last Friday I planted 16 gallon size perennials in the new rock arrangements between the trees.  This is in an area that was previously lawn and requires digging through sod and amending the soil.  Rain storms were rolling through and I had to do it in stages.  Plant six plants, get rained out, pack up, flee to the house, check the laundry, check the weather radar, start all over again.  Then on Sunday I planted a whole flat of marigolds.  With list in hand I made my rounds depositing the planned number of packs in each area, then I went back through with a trowel digging them in.  Saturday I filled large pots and added soil to the stationary planters, shoveling compost and wrestling with heavy pots.  Today I was back to the nurseries for another car full of plants.

Half of a rainy day's work

Another reason to do this gradually is that greenhouses stage their plants in cycles.  They can’t do it all at once either.  First come the perennials and hardier plants, then the bedding plants and vegetables, and finally the hanging baskets and combination pots for the finishing touches and color refreshers.  I have hanging baskets on my list and I know the best place to get what I want, but they are still in their beginning stages and not yet beautiful and tempting.

The bad news is that half of our clump Birch tree died.
The good news is the smooth red bark of the branches make
an attractive support for the pot of 3 foot high Sweet Peas.

Back at home I have a large population of plants to harden off and coddle and protect until after threat of frost and high winds.  The most finicky live in the cold frame and must be moved in and out and placed in sheltered spots until they become hardened to the sun and the winds.  There are adolescent plants who have graduated to the garden paths and which can be covered with my miniature hoop house if frost threatens.  Then there are plants ready to go in the ground, staged beside their intended beds, waiting for a free moment between weeding and watering and mulching and carrying to get settled into their permanent homes.  Today’s work was to pot up some decorative pots of Portulaca and Nasturtium.  I still have 15 (a trunk full of) Geraniums to fetch, carry home, and plant.  But there’s always tomorrow.

The garden peas are doing well, and the oldest planting of leaf
lettuce is supplying us with salad greens.

1 comment:

  1. I like tomorrow too....sometimes with shrubs and trees tomorrow is a very long way off. Some of the trees I plant today won't mature until long after my time has passed. I'll admit the northerner in me likes to push frost dates but hopefully in a somewhat sensible manner.