Diggin it: Gardeners are eternal optimists

Many plants can handle being moved around several times until they find that sweet spot, such as this lilac bush that has been a problem for many years.


Many plants can handle being moved around several times until they find that sweet spot, such as this lilac bush that has been a problem for many years.

If you’re new to gardening, you probably think we who have been at it for a while have our skills perfected and gardens that look fabulous all the time.

It’s not true.

Although there are many areas of our gardens that we’re satisfied with, there are also challenging areas that require years to get right.

I have one area in particular that I’ve been calling “the problem area.” It sits at the northeast corner of my rectangular garden. Thanks to a 15- foot lilac bush on its east side, it gets morning shade. But from noon on, blistering summer heat bakes the area until nearly sunset.

During our early years of living here, our kids’ playhouse sat in this corner. It looked cute and the kids enjoyed making tea and mud pies until they grew old enough to undertake the real deal in the kitchen. About eight years ago, we razed the playhouse and the bare soil, rife with opportunity made me salivate.

The first year I put up a trellis and grew squash and tomatoes. They did okay but nothing even close to a bumper crop.

I’ve since moved all of my vegetable gardening to the south end of the garden where they can receive all day sunshine.

Subsequent years have meant trial and error with wildflowers, perennials, daylilies, roses, even vines on the back fence. The area has never looked the way I want and my current assessment suggests two major reasons why.

First, the lighting. The morning shade forces all the sun-loving perennials to lean toward the light. Consequently, they flop all over their neighbors and make the area look like a hodge-podge mess.

Also, there isn’t enough sunshine for the roses to bloom well.

The second issue is that the area is too far from the faucet so the hose barely reaches, making it difficult to keep the soil watered.

Designing my garden is my favorite part of gardening so it has been really fun thinking about how I want to redo this area once again.

I’ve spent the last several months looking at garden photos on Pinterest and other websites and writing down ideas. Finally, now that cooler weather is here, implementing the changes can take place.

First, the lilac has a lot of old wood and needs a trim to get rid of the dead stuff and allow more light into the area.

Then, I will move the roses and perennials to areas that get all-day sun and are easier to water. With the area a bit more open, I will transplant a few shrubs I’ve been keeping in pots, an Osmanthus delavayi and Azara microphylla both with intensely fragrant spring blossoms and evergreen foliage.

Back in September, I purchased a shrub manzanita that is a heat-lover and drought tolerant. It should also fit right in. And closer to the front of the border, I’ve got several low-growing rock garden plants that can take the heat in stride. For instance, long-blooming purple ornamental Oregano and a silver-silver leaved Germander. And closest to the front, I’ll plant some of my Hens & Chicks, allowing them to spill over the rocks.

Gardeners are eternal optimists.

Right now, we’re looking ahead to next year, when our gardens will be perfect. Or at least a little closer. I’ll let you know how this plan works out.

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