Outdoor · Yard Management

Reflecting on my 2009 garden

For me, surviving a Wisconsin winter entails poring over gardening magazines, catalogs and books.  I love mapping out my garden and coming up with new ideas.  I am happiest when I am creating.

A big part of that process is reflecting back on the previous year to understand what went right and what went wrong. I’ll share my thought here and then follow-up with a post about my plans for 2010!

The 2009 successes

Using white Cleome and white Snapdragons as a border mixing tall and medium and short. It provided a lot of white for nighttime interest and helped to protect Lilies from bunnies somehow.

Another big success for my garden has been Alliums.  Alliums are great because they are bulbs, which suppress weeds and form a natural barrier.  Alliums are also great because they are resistant to pesky predators like bunnies and deer since they are part of the onion family.  Rodents leave them alone.  Alliums also look great in the garden at all stages, when they are in bloom and when they are brown.  They also need very little attention such as staking.  I have grown the Globemaster Alliums but hope to get some other varieties, like Stars of Persia, into my garden.

Another 2009 Mel’s Green Garden hit was using fishing line for an invisible trellis. I will definitely be repeating this, as well as planting loads of White Cleomes, Dinner-Plate Dahlias and Old-fashioned Vining Petunias.

A successful 2009 Mel’s Green Garden combo that will definitely be repeated and rolled out on a larger scale was lime-green Zinnias combined with dark-purple Basil, dark-purple Persian Shield and dark-purple Transdancantia.

The 2009 misses

Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. — Randy Pausch

Birdhouse gourds

My biggest gardening failure of 2009 was with growing Birdhouse Gourds.  I was so excited to grow these to turn into birdhouses with my kids.  So I planted the seeds from Seed Savers.  I managed to grow only 2, which was a bit disappointing since I have 3 kids, but that was okay.  Then I picked them and started the drying-out process.  Something went seriously wrong, and they molded and became totally rotten and smushy.

But I will not give up!  I will try these again, and I have been consulting with other gardeners who have grown these successfully, to figure out where I went wrong.  Here’s to hoping that the birdhouse gourds appear in the “hits” post for 2010!

Better planning for the vining petunias

Buy more Old-fashioned Vining Petunias earlier.  Seeds, too.  This is one of my favorite flowers, and stores were sold out of the plants as well as the seeds very early.  I plan to hold back some of the seeds for July/August, to plant this continually to have the blooms constantly.

Fix the eye sores and neglected spots

I am going to try to do a better job growing a screen around my rain barrels.  They are very large, very white and really don’t look that great. I have grown Morning Glories up and around them in the past, and this works well but takes a while to get started.  I am going to try to have more coverage with a mix of taller grasses.

Plant more shrubs . . . the new perennial!

I am a big fan of of using Boxwoods as a border. But a look I see again and again that I would like to copy in several areas of my yard is to create a neat and tidy border with Boxwoods.  I think I am going to try this in my front yard.  I currently have Lamb’s Ear to edge my front-yard garden beds, with larger Boxwood in the shapes of cones.  I think it would look great to have the smaller Boxwoods in front as a neat and tidy border and to have different dimensions of the same plant.

At a recent Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society meeting, Ed Lyon, the director of Allen Centennial Gardens, said that this is the decade for Hydrangeas.  I love Hydrangeas and should have mentioned Limelight Hydrangeas and Annabelle Hydrangeas in the 2009 successes.  I would love to try a few other Hydrangea varieties, like Pinky Winky, Pee Gee and two that are new to the market this year:  Incrediball Hydrangea and Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea.

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