September 7, 2012

How to Solve Problems

Sometimes solutions to my problems just show up and I don't have to do anything.

Last evening I had a visit from Lee May of Lee May's Gardening Life and his wife Lyn.  They were delightful guests.  And into the bargain, I got two thorny issues solved for me, which had been bothering me for a while.

The first -- how to prune a young American holly (Ilex opaca) and whether or not to prune up a pretty Stewartia (S. pseudocamellia) to show off its bark.  No big deal, right?  Just get the pruners out.

But I had dithered over what to do all season.  The timid pruner is afraid that removed branches can't be stuck back on.  The uncertain gardener is convinced that pruning an expensive tree (the holly) is like cutting cash off the tree.  Each branch on that thing cost a fortune.  Each branch!

Here is how my problem was solved.  I didn't even have to do the work.
This is how to entertain guests in your garden.
The bark will become mottled and interesting as this Stewartia
ages, and now, limbed up, I can see it.
Originally I wanted an Ilex opaca branched all the way
 to the ground, but the specimen I got early last spring was missing
limbs below.  It looked awkward.
Instead of low branches, the curvy trunk of this Ilex opaca
is now its best feature, thanks to Lee's work with the saw.

The second problem -- what to plant in shade in a dampish spot in the back garden.  The camassias in that area die back as all spring bulbs do, and leave a mess of foliage, which I need to hide.

Then the trees above leaf out and create a lot of shade. The area needs a transition from low groundcovers to the taller shrubs behind, something about two feet tall in between.

I am bored to death with hostas and heucheras, and needed something different.  Once again I dithered all season over what to try there. Lee showed up with the perfect solution, a gift of a hardy begonia (Begonia grandis) from his garden.

I knew nothing about begonias and thought they were only houseplants.  But this lovely summer bloomer is hardy, it wakes up late in the spring, so the camassias can do their thing first, and it will be the right size -- a mound about two feet tall -- to fill the mid level between the low plants and the shrubs.  They thrive in shade, they like it damp, and they may naturalize in the space I have.  Perfect.

And it is simply a beautiful plant.
Look at those rich red-backed leaves.

So here is my advice to you when you are struggling with what to do in your garden:

Invite a fellow gardener over who grows interesting and unusual plants.

Get out the pruning saw.

Have the wine glasses ready.

Problems solved.

 

24 comments:

  1. Laurrie, you know how I love to prune, so thanks for letting me have my way with your trees. It was an all around swell time, including the real, not virtual, look at your lovely garden – and the visit with you and Jim, husband and camera man.

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    1. Lee, thanks so much. Why didn't I do this pruning myself? It is so obviously an improvement and so clearly easy to do. Now I know!

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  2. Laurrie, it was fun to watch you and Lee work while Jim and I strolled your lovely garden. It is one of the finest perks of being the gardener's wife. Thank you for inviting us.

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    1. Lyn, thanks -- I so enjoyed meeting you and we had some neat discussions on lots of topics beyond gardening. A great visit!

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  3. You lucky dog getting to meet Lee and Lyn. Then to have the Master do your pruning...wow... what kind of wine did they like? ;) I bought one of these hardy begonias this past spring. I hope the make it through the drought. Your pruning makes me want to get out in the garden a do some myself. I am the timid one when it comes to pruning though.

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    1. Lisa, it was fun to see Lee take the pruners in hand and do his magic. He has had a long and impressive professional career in news journalism and garden writing, but I think he could make his millions just doing pruning workshops : )

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  4. What fun! I always enjoy get togethers with garden friends even when other people's problems are the only ones that need solving(that's where the wine comes in handy).

    Begonia grandis is a fabulous plant and by the sound of it, Lee chose the perfect plant for your space.

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    1. Sue, it was a fun time --- the gardening show and tell was great, but getting to know Lyn and Lee was also delightful. The begonia is going to be a star if I grow it well.

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  5. I'm going to look for those hardy begonias. I have a very damp shady spot which is problematic in my garden. Thanks for the suggestion!

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    1. Barbara, I am just learning about these begonias, and I am intrigued. I have not grown them before, so I'm experimenting, but they appear to be easy, and they are really pretty.

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  6. Wine, friends, and pruners - perfect evening! I love the way he pruned the trees, especially the holly. It looks beautiful! I always thought begonias were either annuals or houseplants, too. Learned something new! :o)

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    1. Tammy, I knew the holly and the stewartia both needed to be limbed up, but was too afraid to do it. How much better they both look after he took the saw to them!

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  7. The holly looks beautiful trimmed up like that! Great form! Sounds like a great time and you got work done too! My yard has so many conditions that sometimes I get stuck! One issue being the shade...I want to learn more about those begonias. I am always looking for something with interesting foliage that has some height. Thanks for the post!

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    1. Garden Diaries, Im looking forward to experimenting with the hardy begonias. They are supposed to be easy to grow, and they will naturalize if happy in the shade, so I have big plans for them! I hope you try growing them too.

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  8. How clever are you to invite such a brilliant knowledgeable gardener over!!! He certainly knows his stuff.

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  9. The begonias are gorgeous, what a gift! I had a good laugh when I saw the photo of Lee with the saw, if only all houseguests were so compliant.

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    1. Marguerite, I swear I didn't invite them over to do work in my garden. He volunteered!

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  10. Hi Laurrie,

    Just wanted to thank you for visiting my blog and helping me solve the groundcover mystery from my trip to the North Shore of MN!! I wish I could grow the bunchberry, but since it needs moist acid soil, it probably would not be too happy in my hot, dry, alkaline soil! Looks like you got some help solving your dilemmas too!! Aren't fellow gardeners just the best!! I am enjoying your blog and plan to add it to my blogroll! Thanks again for visiting :-)

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    1. Toni, Welcome!

      I wish I could grow bunchberry too, but I have no luck even though I have acid soil and enough moisture. Yet it grows wild in great swaths in Minn. and Maine. Go figure.

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  11. These are the kind of guests I would invite to my house every week!:) I was never a big fan of begonias, but I first saw these hardy begonias this spring when my friend found them at a nursery in Tennessee and bought some for her zone 6 garden. I agree they're beautiful--I just wish they were hardy for zone 5 as well.

    I'm a timid pruner, too, but, gosh, your trees are really looking good now!

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    1. Rose, I just hope my garden will be okay for the hardy begonia. The new map moved my zone up, but I hope we really are 6 now and not 5 any more! I'm looking forward to seeing this pretty bloomer next year.

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  12. Laurrie, I always get the best advice from fellow gardeners. And finding someone who really knows how to prune is just an added bonus. I think your american holly looks much better in its 'after' photo.

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    1. Debbie, I agree about the holly. And about the best advice coming from our gardening friends!

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