"Garden" may be a verb, but nothing says you have to be in a hurry!
With the crush of spring activity fading away in our rearview mirror, summer is finally here and that means relaxing in our gardens and enjoying the outdoor spaces we’ve created.
We gardeners are a restless sort though, aren’t we? Do you ever find yourself ready to settle in and relax with your favorite beverage, only to look up and notice something in your garden that bugs you, something that’s not quite right or could just be better if you only did such-and-such?
Sure, I suppose this could be a buzz-kill, but this is a natural time to notice these things—staring you in the face as you’re sipping your margarita. Below are common issues you might notice as summer sets in, and suggestions for what to do. But don’t worry – you won’t need to get out of your lounger if you don’t want to! Just take note of what you see and make a resolution to change it—mañana.
Types of issues you might be looking to resolve:
We don't always get it right the first time, do we? Not to worry, stuff happens! You can fix it—improve upon it even!
- COLOR STORY CONFLICT
Did you end up with a distracting color clash? Did you miss the mark on the timing of that clever, color-themed, flowering combo you were trying to pull off? I planted some lilies this spring that I thought would be a good color match with their neighboring plants. Bulbs can be especially tricky to incorporate into an existing scheme because catalog photos are only so good, and the bloom time is an estimate at best. I had some pretty bad mismatches this round and will be moving (or removing, in some cases) several Asiatic lilies that aren't paired with their most flattering partner and/or aren't worth keeping now that I've seen their flower.
- CULTURAL MISMATCH
Do you have a plant that isn’t optimally matched to its current growing conditions and consequently isn't looking its best? Perhaps it's exhibiting one of these symptoms:
- Leaning towards sun: Give it some help by moving it to a location with more light.
- Flowering is sparse: Oftentimes, this means that it's not getting enough sun.
- Crispy, burnt edges on the leaves:The foliage is probably getting too much sun. The afternoon blast can be hard to take and not every plant can take the heat without showing some signs of damage. For example, I've earmarked a golden oak leaf hydrangea for relocation this fall because it's consistently getting burnt edges on its foliage from the afternoon sun.
- Wilting in the heat: This can be a sign of water stress. Even if you have irrigation and think it's getting water, you might want to double-check, as it might be in a "rain shadow." Move it to a position where it'll get a more reliable dose of water and/or reduce its stress by moving it out of the blast if it's getting that super-strong afternoon sun.
- ADJUST SPACING
What if your "forever plants" are larger than you expected and need more room in order to develop properly, unhindered? I've written about this before—the importance of getting the spacing right between your "forever" plants so that they can be happy in your garden for the long-term without getting crowded out or requiring removal. If you notice that you've placed two plants that you treasure too close together, make a note and attempt the move as soon as it is safe to do so. Because these are higher-value plants, you'll want to wait for the optimal time, weather-wise, to make the move. After it has spent a couple to several years in the ground getting established, the risk in revising the spacing between plants is much greater and the likelihood that it'll lead to heartbreak is higher as well. So take extra care early on to try to get the spacing right the first time on the plants most dear to you.
- PLAN FOR NEW PLANTS
What’s missing that will take the scene to the next level?
- Observe the plants' shape, habit or form as it relates to its neighbors—what would you add or subtract to make the composition more effective?
- Ponder the qualities of the foliage: its size and shape; texture; reflectiveness, etc.
- Consider the color of foliage and/or flowers and think about what additions would enhance the scene.
- Or you can round out the seasonal flow by filling in the gaps to add some verve to those seasons when the show stalls out or interest wanes.
- REMOVE THE DUDS
Don't like it? No worries! You're in control. You can remove it and try again!
- SOLVE PROBLEMS
Need a strategically-placed plant to solve an issue?
- Is there something on a neighboring property you'd like to obscure?
- Has something gotten too large and is now blocking your line of sight to a pleasing view?
- Is soil sloughing off a slope, needing some additional plants to hold it in place?
- AND MORE!
There can be an endless number of reasons you might want to make a change. Any reason that you’ve ruminated on and have decided upon is good enough–it's your show. 😉
Tips for keeping track of what you want to do.
Keeping a record of your ideas for improvement in a notebook, electronic or old-school, will help you keep it all straight so that you can spring into action with confidence when the time is right (for you!) Here are some ideas for how to do it:
- Chances are you've got your smartphone on you, so you don’t even have to get up, right? Snap photos and make notes right then and there in the IOS Notes app (this is what it's called on the iPhone, though I'm sure Android has an equivalent app) about what you want to do later. Create a folder for your notes to keep them organized and stored together.
- If you prefer an in-the-garden reminder, you can write notes to your future self, using weatherproof ink, on a discreetly-placed stake next to the plant(s) you're looking to edit. Choose a method of marking the location that is easily camouflaged but can be reliably found later. (Okay, you’ll have to get up for this one, but perhaps you could dispatch a minion to get you the simple supplies you’ll need?)
- If you're a bit geeky like me, you might want to keep a simple database. I'm loving Airtable for this type of stuff. If you like Excel, you'll love Airtable. It's free, and you can download it here via this affiliate link.
- Whatever method you choose, keep it simple and comfortable for you. If you hate gadgetry, go old-school. If you like to organize electronically,
go that route. Just choose the best, most comfortable method for you.
You’ve made a plan. What next?
Wait. Or not. It’s your choice.
Though plants can be pretty malleable and forgiving, they have their limits. The hottest days of summer are usually an inopportune time to transplant shrubs and/or make extensive garden edits. And sometimes, you may be the limiting factor. I know, because I have an aversion to heat—I’m like a delicate flower and will melt into a puddle outside my optimal temp range of 68 to 74 degrees. 😳
And I don’t wish to be misunderstood—if you want to plant now instead of putting it off, that's fine, too. I’m all for planting year-round as long as you avoid the hottest days and follow our tips for pre-soaking. The video below demonstrates how to do this.
In any case, the notes made via the above process will add focus to your next shopping excursion and/or work session in the garden. When the time is right, you’ll be ready.