to garden, you need patience and to just try, not a crystal ball

I run a large gardening group. I founded it, I created it, I nurture it. But it means there are a lot of people and a lot of different personalities.

As someone who is often short on patience when it comes to human beings, that can be difficult for me. Sometimes when you are trying to articulate a point, because it is social media, people think I and others are being short when what we are doing is answering the question. Sometimes, people don’t like the answer to the questions they ask.

Gardening is a long game. It’s not a short game. There are no magic pills, potions, answers. It’s nature and patience.

You don’t need a crystal ball, you aren’t going to get a gardening crystal ball. You need patience. And knowledge.

Gardeners by nature are helpful people who like to share their knowledge. But the knowledge of a true gardener is gained because they have done the work. They have done the heavy lifting. Reading, learning, trial and error in our own gardens.

Patience is something I have had to learn while gardening. I am not patient all of the time. I am not even patient all the time in my own garden. I have grown impatient with things and ripped plants out and moved them and changed things up. At the end of the day, sometimes that’s all you can do. But for the most part, the majority of the time, I have learned to see the long game of having a garden. Even when it drives me absolutely crazy and I want another result immediately.

Some years are better than others. Last year was incredibly wet, and as a result, entering this gardening season I have plants I lost. I have new tree work that has to be done. I am still not sure what survived in the perennial department, versus what is toast. It’s part and parcel of having a garden. And I don’t say that lightly, because two of the things I lost between the wet of 2018 and the spring of 2019 were favorite roses- two David Austin Abraham Darbys.

But sometimes what I find is trying to explain to people gardening is a long game, they don’t want to really play the long game. They want the instant gratification game. I’m sure you can achieve that, if you have other people to do your gardening for you. If that is how you view gardening, that’s fine, but that is not my view.

People always ask how you get rid of thing sometimes like weeds. There is no magic bullet. I am still trying to eradicate the bishops weed from our property, for example. Every year it’s pulling and digging. There is no other way. Well, you can drop a nuclear bomb of herbicides on your garden but don’t expect other things to live.

And by herbicides, I also count in the homemade remedies that include vinegar which are harmful to humans, nature, domestic pets and so on. Those remedies aren’t organic, they’re caustic. In the garden where I am impatient, it includes these homemade remedies for everything under the sun.

Occasionally there are things, that are old wives tales that are actually helpful – like keeping aphids down by throwing your gray water (dishwater from the sink) out into the garden. Of course that works because gray water has the dish soap in it that is diluted enough that it doesn’t hurt your plants. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t take water out of my dishwasher before it drained after washing my dishes because dishwasher soap is more caustic.

Or critters. People get frustrated by them. Like deer. It is possible to manage deer in your garden and have a garden. There are several organic-based products out there that you can spray and sprinkle in your garden that won’t harm pets, children, other wildlife, or the deer. You can plant plants they don’t like, but every gardener knows if they are hungry enough they will eat just about anything. I have a couple products I like to use and I alternate them. And I use them on a schedule. (Plantskydd and Deer Out.)

I find some of the other critters harder to deal with but I just try. I will fill holes in tunnels with gravel. I do not use things that will poison other wildlife or domestic animals or humans. And when you put out poisonous baits you have to think about where that bait can travel. If someone in your neighborhood puts out mouse or pest poison, the critter might not expire on their property. What if it travels to your property and your cat or dog plays with it? They can get poisoned from that and die before you even know what is wrong.

So again, patience comes into play. And also don’t remove those garter snakes from your garden. Don’t start feeding foxes people food and pet food. Both of those creatures are natural critter control. Work with nature. Sometimes it takes longer, but I think it’s a better way to be.

Other times people need to come up with a plan before they remove things from their garden. They might not like a certain plant, for example, but perhaps it is performing a service in the garden, like keeping the soil stable. That is why I always encourage people to do a little research on their own. More experienced gardeners can always provide information, and we’re glad to do it, but part of learning to garden is the learning component.

And with gardening you learn by doing. Part of the doing includes your own research. Books, magazines, Pinterest, walking around other people’s gardens to see how they’re doing it. It’s not just crowdsourcing. If you don’t try to do some of the learning you will never learn. I am not being mean by saying that. Gardening is tactile. It is a form of Kinesthetic learning. Hands on experience, literally.

And that is the other thing about gardening. It can bring you the greatest of pleasure. It is so rewarding to be able to connect with nature and dig in the dirt. It’s good for your head, literally. When you garden, you do things like reduce your stress, anxiety, counteract depression. There is this tremendous satisfaction of something you have done yourself. It’s literally therapeutic. Gardening is positive.

Gardening is one of the best things I think you can do for yourself. And that’s hard to articulate to people at times. But the benefits of gardening are in the doing. Gardening groups can offer you all sorts of advice and plant ideas, but at the end of the day best thing you can do is get out there and try. So go dig in the dirt a little today before it rains. You’ll be glad you did.

sunday morning in the garden

This morning I planted out my Hatch green and red chiles into trays. They are showing some real leaves, so it was time. They are still inside under a grow light. Hopefully just after Mother’s Day I will be able to set them out.

Mother’s Day seems to be the magic expiration date of frosty overnights here in Chester County. I am itching to plant, but I know I pretty much have to wait.

I also found the pink swamp milkweed seeds my friend Meredith gave me. I am starting those in trays under grow lights. I will eventually plant out as many plants of those as I can get. Pollinators and butterflies love them.

I gave my David Austin Generous Gardener climbing rose a good prune recently. I took out diseased, dying, and dead canes. I also took out crossing ones to open up the rose and it has rewarded me by sending out loads of leaf buds. The clematis which grows in this climbing rose also got cleaned up and is sending out new growth as well.

Both of my tree peonies are also showing wonderful new growth. They were presents from my friend Dr. Foo who grows the most amazing array of tree peonies in his gardens. Some of my other peonies are starting to stick their heads out as well. I planted a lot of peonies in the fall bare root. I am anxiously awaiting their emergence from the ground. I do not expect them to necessarily bloom because I have learned that peonies planted bare root need a couple of years to mature before they really start to bloom.

I have had casualties in the garden, however. RIP to one of my David Austin Abraham Darby roses. I had two but the wet summer last year bought borers and other things to my roses, making it a very difficult rose season last year.

I was going to throw both Abraham Darby’s away but one in spite of the borer damage sent out a couple of new shoots so I cut it back and moved it. I have this one little corner of the garden that is like a rose infirmary. There are no positions of prominence, so I just plunked it in the ground and perhaps it’s a little Darwin survival of the fittest, but it will either live or die. Much like my John F. Kennedy hybrid tea. Borers are a problem in this garden, and I will be more dedicated with insecticide drenches this year. As a cancer survivor I don’t like to use chemicals but sometimes I just have to. I have a lot of time, money, and sweat equity invested.

I will be planting two new bare root roses soon when they arrive, so I will just try again. I haven’t quite decided where they will go, but I will by the time they arrive.

Soon my other plant orders will be arriving. I am adding more native species. I am also adding a couple of more witch hazels. Red ones!

I also am happy to note that my camellia made it thorough the winter and the flower buds are growing nicely. The one I have was started at Morris Arboretum and is called “Balustrade“. It was grown to be winter hardy and so far so good!

Other things blooming now include hellebores. I never planted them much before this garden, but my friends at Applied Climatoloy (they sell at the West Chester Growers Market) convinced me to go outside of my comfort zone and plant a bunch and well…they were right! The last photo in this post is one that is such a deep purple it is almost black.

Yesterday I went and looked at a friend’s garden to help her kick around ideas of how she can plant it and make her ideal garden come to life. She has a bunch of terrific foundation plantings already and basically, it’s softening the edges one bed at a time to give her what she desires.

Sometimes it is hard to envision HOW to get to where you want to be. That is why I think things like Pinterest are a great resource. Pinterest is loaded with photos of gardens and even ideas. I have a great collection of gardening books, but not everyone does, so Pinterest should not be overlooked.

The other thing is simple- when you bring plants home, place them out in your beds before planting and don’t be afraid to move the pots around. I don’t like even numbers, I arrange and plant things in groupings of odd numbers. I use my imagination to see how I want things to look eventually. But because gardens evolve and grow, I move plenty of stuff around when I realize I have a better spot for whatever it is.

I will close with a great source for garden inspiration is Monty Don’s Gardener’s World on BBC. If you stream BritBox on Amazon Prime you will find the current season.

It’s a beautiful day today. Put on some sunscreen and putter around in the garden!

bloombox: garden plants hand delivered straight from the source to you.

I love my plants. I love to garden. So now is the time when I start accumulating what I am going to plant.

Recently I became acquainted with two gentlemen from Lancaster, PA. David and Chase have this business called BloomBox.

This is an independent small business and the model is simple: great plants, reasonably priced delivered to your door. And by delivered, I mean hand-delivered. Not packed in the shipping box and sent FedEx or USPS or UPS. Delivered as in the grower comes to you.

This morning I decided to place a small order. I need to get my herbs, perennials and some of my bedding plants sorted. Herbs especially are something I buy a great deal of because my garden is in part a cottage garden. So I mix a lot of herbs in with my perennials and shrubs and trees and bulbs.

Much to my delight, after placing my order around eight something this morning, there was a knock at my door. And there was David co-owner of BloomBox with my plants!

My plants were in beautiful condition and exactly what I ordered and exactly what I expected. They also gave me a beautiful little Primrose to plant as a gift. They do that with all their customers.

David and I spoke for a brief time and I will be ordering from him again. To me this is an extension of shop local. And right now orders over $45 are delivered for free. Their delivery area is fairly wide but you still have to check your ZIP Code to make sure they serve you before you place an order.

They are not certified organic, but they are clean growers so in my opinion they don’t have to be certified organic. I know how they’re growing and what they’re doing.

Give BloomBox a try! I will also note that I am not a compensated blogger, and I have not been compensated for my opinion here in anyway. I am a new customer of the business and I am impressed so I am sharing this with all of you.

BloomBox checks all of the boxes: quality, value, customer service.

I will note that I am not going to directly put all of these into the ground just yet because it is still a little early. I will be bringing my plants into the garage and covering them outside with landscape fabric until it is warm enough.

Spring is here, so go dig in the dirt!

sometimes there is just twitter love

Sometimes I just love the Internet, specifically Twitter. Lately it’s been dismal because of all that tweeting from places like bathrooms in the White House. When someone disses a genuine U.S. hero months after their death, it gets a little dismal.

But then up pops an Internet coyote, and a Main Line one no less! Radnor Coyote felt they had to have a voice after Radnor Township Police issued a coyote warning, I am guessing.

Now Radnor Coyote is a media darling. Everyone is talking about them – philly.com , Delco Times , and TV reporters galore! (Well come on, let’s face it, @RadnorCoyote is a heck of a lot less scary than the cougars that roam Wayne and pop up at local Wayne watering holes like The White Dog or Paramour right?)

I am not sure if they are howling at the moon tonight or not because from my windows the moon is under cloud cover.

Radnor Coyote is very witty. They are an excellent twittersationalist, so check them out!