|the early years|
I am sharing this on the first of the month, along with others at Joene's blog. We reveal our GOOPs, or Garden oops there.
The basic mistake I have made from the very beginning is that I assumed conditions would never change. What I first learned would be the way things would always be. Forevermore.
And here is the problem --
Everything I learned as a new gardener I learned in the rain.
We bought our house in 2004, and I started planting trees and some landscape plants the next year in 2005. I was a completely raw recruit to gardening, and had to learn everything from scratch here on this empty plot of land.
|summer in 2009|
By 2007 real gardens were built, and in 2008 and 2009 I had learned enough and planted enough to see beautiful results emerging.
Those first years, from 2004 through 2009 were my laboratory years, when I experimented and gained knowledge, not only of plants and design, but also about the conditions I have to garden in.
The first six Julys in my new garden were exceedingly wet. 11.17 inches of rain fell in July 2009. The year before, July dumped 7.88 inches on us. The norm is 3.6 inches. Other Julys in those first years were at 4.5 inches, still above the norm.
Those were the conditions in which I built all my gardens and learned what would work. It never occurred to me that we could get consecutive years where the July rainfall would be zero or two tenths of an inch.
So I designed my spaces with lobelia, hydrangeas, turtlehead, river birches, white birches, camassias, shrub willows, winterberry hollies, spicebush, witch hazels, and other plants that can take, and want, a lot of water.
I built a dry creek bed for run off. I learned to ignore the plants that shouted "drought tolerant" and I wouldn't plant the ones that wanted sharp drainage and dry conditions. Yarrow didn't survive my rainy Julys and lavender couldn't take the wet winters.
I learned to mound up new gardens in berms or raised areas for drainage. I put shade lovers in full sun, and they thrived because they were wet enough.
Nothing here is designed for ease of watering --- new tree saplings on the back hill are too far away, and there are about 50 of them now. I can't tote that many cans of water. Gardens nearer the house are poorly designed for hoses or sprinklers.
Early on I had to learn how to keep young plants from drowning, and how to deal with fungal leaf diseases on so many soaking wet plants. Almost everything here is newly planted and immature and needs plenty of water to establish.
After building my gardens over six rainy years, the new normal the last three years in July is hot and rainless.
Now that my gardens are maturing, the wet conditions I prepared them for are not just drier but incredibly dry.
Julys in my garden have been torture --- for the plants and for the designer who now has a high maintenance, stressed looking garden in high summer.
Not what I was going for.
This is not a complaint about real drought. Many other parts of the country have been through a true catastrophe, and we did get rain here finally in late summer and fall.
My observation is that I simply designed everything, absolutely the whole garden, for a static set of conditions, not even considering that it could change. Do you hear the Garden Oops in that? I never thought conditions could change.
My complaint is that I can't take care of it in summer now and it doesn't look good. My complaint --- wait, this may be an incredible benefit --- is that I may have to start over.
New ideas, new plants, different choices, all new. How can I complain about that?
Could this be a long awaited storm cloud with a silver lining?
Surely the opportunity to do a whole new garden redesign qualifies as a silver lining in the storm clouds of change.