Long-time readers of my blog know that I have never shied away from being honest about the poor upkeep of my garden. Sometimes I find beauty in the weeds, and sometimes they depress me, but I’ve never pretended they didn’t exist. I agree with Colleen that fear of “not doing it right,” or “not being good enough,” can keep someone from starting to garden–it almost stopped me. So I am happy to make my contribution to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:
I had a hard time deciding which photos illustrate bad, and which illustrate ugly. I finally decided that while everything that was bad in my garden was ugly, not everything that was ugly was bad. Last year I planted four winterberries in this wet area by the road:
Did anyone ever tell you that not many plants grow in a wet, soggy area, but the ones that grow there grow really, really well?
I had wanted to plant winterberries here for years, but I was so afraid this would happen. Well, it’s happened, and somehow I am surviving. So are the winterberries, at least this year. But my conscience scolds me as if I were a misbehaving dog: “Bad, Kathy! Bad!”
I had the presence of mind to tag each one with flagging tape this spring, before the undergrowth became overgrowth. Flagging tape and tomato cages have saved many a garden plant growing in the wilder areas of our property from the string trimmer and the brush mower, but my inhouse landscape crew won’t even touch this area now that I’ve got shrubs planted here. They’re too afraid of killing something that Collin and I (uh, mostly Collin) went to such trouble to plant.
Eventually these shrubs should reach nine feet, if they manage to outlive the competition.
There’s a lot of ugly around here to choose from, so I tried to find an example of it that at least had hope of redemption. Here’s what the purple-and-gold bed looks like these days:
This bed needs a complete makeover, which it probably won’t get this year. That pink hollyhock mallow just showed up, like it does everywhere, and I just haven’t gotten around to pulling it. (I tell myself I’ll do it after a nice, soaking rain, but at the rate we’re getting rain (not) it just might go to seed if I wait that long.) Milkweed has an almost tropical presence, and the flowers are fragrant, but they don’t match the color scheme either. The purple mallow that I did want in this bed is gone, and the ‘Bluestocking’ bee balm that matches it so perfectly is a shadow of its former self. (There’s still a bit of it to the right of the gold ‘Stella d’Oro’ daylily, but it’s only in bud, and thus invisible.)
Here’s what it looked like in its prime:
How the pretty have fallen. Sigh.
Yes, let’s end on a more cheerful note. I have managed to bring two of my flower beds back from the brink of destruction, and these days my heart wells with pleasure and gratitude when I see them. The Birthday Garden is a sliver of blossoms separating the south side of the house from the driveway. Way in the back are yellow and deep red daylilies, the plant on stilts is cephalaria, with lavender catmint billowing at its feet. I don’t even care that the scarlet poppies don’t really “go”; it all makes me happy.
In the spring, many woodland ephemerals are blooming here. As they go dormant, these foliage plants (pictured above) are really hitting their stride. I really like how the variegated bulbous oat grass at bottom right highlights the white edge of the hosta ‘Francee’ just visible behind and to the left of the ornamental grass.
That same clump of grass provides a wonderful contrast in color and texture with the purple leaved heuchera next to it. Its dusky maroon leaves echo the color of the flopped over foxglove, and complement the pale yellow foxglove in the foreground. No lie: a well-designed flower border has as much going on as a classical symphony.
That broody hen knew what she was doing when she chose this area for her nesting site. I always look forward to turning the corner and taking in this view, remembering that it didn’t always look this good. As a matter of fact, at one point I wondered if anything would ever look good again. Thanks, Colleen, for a chance to get some perspective.
How about you? Dare you show the bad and ugly in your garden to the world, as well as the good? Let Colleen know in the comments to this post.