August 27, 2012

Fickle Plants

I'm feeling betrayed. Some garden areas are not performing, and things need to be fixed.

The first example is a strip of creeping thyme -- Thymus serpyllum 'Alba' -- that holds back a sharp little rise at the top of the driveway. The thyme has rotted out in the middle and looks terrible.

It was a stunner in 2010 when 12 plugs spread out beautifully over the little berm and bloomed. The fragrance of the crushed foliage was delightful, the draping white flowered sweeps were lovely under the roses and I congratulated myself.  Well done.

It never looked that good again. Brownish, dry stems and dead material appeared and spread, worse each year.

I think I need to cut out the whole area, put in a low one foot high retaining wall of dry stacked stones to hold back the raised soil at the top of the drive, and be done with the thyme.  How I loved it originally, though, before it betrayed me.

I'm not happy with two plumbago plants this year (Plumbago auriculata). They were so pleasing last summer, growing into tall towers that bloomed in light blue phlox-like clusters all summer, forming an arch. They had no support other than flimsy bamboo stakes, and this is what they looked like.

This year I planted two new plumbagos (they are not hardy for me, I need to plant them as annuals), and they have done nothing, despite having these great twig towers to climb up.

Here they are in August, with nothing to show.  They are healthy and green, and they even have a few blue blooms, but have not reached any height and can barely be seen inside the twig towers.  Orange nasturtiums threaten them from below.

I think this relationship is doomed, and next year I'll forgo plumbagos and just let the climbing nasturtiums have their way with the towers.

I'm completely unsatisfied with the gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) this year. I received several clumps from a neighbor (who "had so much, please take some") and I knew enough not to put it in the garden, where they overtake everything. There was a reason why she had so much in her garden.

They went into pots and were great last year.

The arching white spires of gooseneck loosestrife are interesting and pretty, but the golden fall color was a real surprise, very nice, especially in pots.

But this year they have produced no white flowers at all, and are sitting in their pots doing nothing except being green.  Are they too crowded in there?  They are aggressive spreaders and maybe the pots stunt them. Should I simply put them in the garden and hope they don't take over?

Could that save my relationship with this plant or will I regret it?

As a new gardener I was pretty smug about my lovely creeping thyme, my tall towers of plumbago, and the exuberant potted loosestrife, all wonderful examples of my burgeoning gardening expertise.  I formed strong attachments to these successful plants, and was sure they liked me too.

Not this year.  Damn fickle plants.

 

28 comments:

  1. I have never had a good relationship with Thyme. Thyme always does as yours has in my garden. I don't count on it as anything other than an annual. Haven't messed with the plumbagos. The Gooseneck Loosestrife is aggressive. I planted it under a tree where nothing else will grow and it has taken over even crowding out the columbine that I dearly love. I am not surprised that it doesn't like it in a pot. Sort of like it is in jail. I have a spreading bamboo that my Sister gave me and it is sulking in a pot after a year. I am trying to decide if I am brave enough to put it in the ground someplace.

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    1. Lisa, I thought thyme was supposed to be carefree, but I am finding it needs just-right conditions. It's good to know your experience with it, and with the aggressive loosestrife too. I guess these rampant ones don't like to be contained!

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  2. Don't put a known aggressive plant in the ground. That's just asking for trouble. Just use it as an excuse to try something new!

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    1. Vicky, you are so right. I know I should not put the loosestrife in the ground. i'm just disappointed it didn't do well this year in pots, but I need to resist planting it anywhere in my garden.

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  3. Maybe they are just playing hard to get? It's not you, it's them.

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    1. Heather, could my plants be so devious? Oh. Yes, they can.

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  4. Ha! Thanks for giving me a laugh! Yep I have a whole list of those fickle plants too! Creeping thyme was a huge buzz kill for me! I planted some around my stepping stones in my front bed and they fizzled out on me soon there after. Oh well! Have you thought of using a low growing sedum in that area? I have had good luck with dragons blood in my sloped bed. Ah just a thought! Cheers!

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    1. Garden Diaries, that's exactly what the thyme does -- it "fizzles out". I am on the same page as you with sedums, that's exactly what I thought of for that little raised berm, and I started a low sedum there this summer to see how it does.

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  5. I had an area back by the alley in my previous home. I planted loosestrife there and it did take over, but that is what I wanted. I kept it under control by pulling some of it up. A very tough plant...maybe it doesn't like being confined.
    Balisha

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    1. Balisha, I have seen gooseneck loosestrife used in gardens and it looks great, and fills its space. But those gardeners must do what you do to control it, and pull it up where it isn't wanted. I agree it is probably unhappy being confined in a pot.

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  6. Hahaha...this is SO how I'm feeling about parts of my garden this year! I really can't get beyond the "But they looked so good last year," feeling. I keep hoping that this year is a fluke (well, the weather HAS been weird this year), but will probably have to deal with the sad reality of a few things sooner, rather than later.

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    1. Scott, I always think it is my efforts that produce such beauties, and then when the next year comes and they disappoint, I want to blame the plants. Why can't they be consistent each and every year? I'm glad to know I have company in my disappointments!

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  7. Laurrie, you know how humbling a garden can be – and never more than this year. You can't take it personally; it's not you. It's the weather. They just can't help being ugly. So, repeat after me: Wait till next year.

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    1. Lee, Gardens certainly produce both humility and pride. I do take great pride in my successes, but boy am I put in my place when the plants or the weather decide to behave in their own way.

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  8. Laurrie, I find the fickleness of plants one of the interesting aspects of gardening. Every year a different plant will grab center stage at various times throughout the growing season. I go with it and figure a way to highlight each year's star. This way the gardens are slightly different each year.

    I have exactly the opposite experience with thyme. It grows amazingly well for me and is my go-to, no-fail edging plant ... except in wet spots.

    I would not plant gooseneck loosestrife in a bed without commiting to keeping it under control. I'm just not interested in adding a potential thug and, ultimately, another gardening chore. Perhaps your neighbor could give you fresh thinnings each year for your pots?

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    1. Joene, I am encouraged by your experience with thyme. Maybe I shouldn't give up on it? And what a great idea about starting with new plugs of loosestrife in pots each year. My neighbor has so much, and they did so well that first year in pots!

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  9. The Gooseneck Loosestrife looks great in the pots. I like Joene's suggestion of new cuttings every year to go in pots, or maybe using really big pots :-)!

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    1. Ruth, I think the best suggestion is new cuttings in the pots I have and keep the gooseneck loosestrife from getting so crowded. It must really hate being so cramped.

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  10. Noooo...don't plant the loosetrife in the garden! Oh how I wish someone had said that to me, lo these many years.

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    1. Ellen, I know, I know. Even confined in pots I can see how rampant this plant wants to be!

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  11. Laurrie, I've had similar issues with keeping thugs in pots. Mint and ribbon grass have both sulked in pots for me but I know the second they are 'let out of jail' as one commenter described I will be very sorry. I wonder if you could try thinning your own loosestrife each spring by cutting it in half to rejuvenate it.

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    1. Marguerite, that might work. I think if I take them out of the containers, chop out about two thirds and repot the remaining third, I might get the nice blooms and pretty shape I had the first year. I'm going to try that for next year.

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  12. Have you tried thinning the loosestrife? It did look wonderful last year with that golden fall color.

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    1. Sweetbay, thinning them or reducing their size seems to be the best suggestion. The consensus is that this spreader is not happy in jail in a small pot!

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  13. Yes, sad to realize that some plants are quite fickle. They'll bloom for you one year then leave you cold the next. But still, we just enjoy and appreciate them when they're good and try to coax them to bloom again on days when they seem to be doing nothing but just staying green :)

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    1. Outdoor, It has been an eye opener for me --- I thought once I had success with a particular plant, I had it all figured out forever! Not so.

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  14. There are some plants it's just hard to have a long-term relationship with. My small planting of thyme has never done much, so I haven't gotten too attached to it. I did get a plumbago as a gift from a good friend this summer--she thought of me when she saw those sky-blue blooms, my favorite color. I loved it, but as soon as I planted it in the ground, it dropped all its blooms and hasn't bloomed since, even though I've kept it watered. And the agastache that was such a stunner for me last year? It's a puny little thing this year, barely noticeable. Maybe that's why I like coneflowers so much--they're the old friends that never let you down.

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    1. Rose, how sad about your plumbago going pffft, especially since it was a thoughtful gift Although mine disappoints this year compared to last, it does bloom, and if I peek at it closely it has that sky blue color you like, very pretty.

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