One of the delights of gardening is that it brings constant surprises. The garden is never totally predictable. Plants that bloomed together one year are out of synch the next. A plant that you thought was dead puts up strong new growth the following spring. Although surprises are a normal part of gardening, the surprise factor can be even greater if you’ve been away from the garden for a while. This is true for me in my Gettysburg garden, which I leave in late spring each May and return to three months later in August. When I am driving back to Gettysburg, I always feel a mixture of anticipation and trepidation about what surprises I will find there.
When I returned to my Gettysburg garden a little over a week ago, the surprise factor was greater than usual. It was probably good that I had some warning about the first surprise (by way of a panicky email message from the student who was mowing and watering for me during the summer); otherwise, I might have had trouble finding my townhouse! When I left, the front of the house looked like this:
When I returned, it looked like this:
I rent this townhouse, and my landlord sometimes uses the summer months when I am away to get some major projects done; this new landscaping was a part of a larger project that included a new roof. I consider this change a pleasant surprise. I have never been a fan of Arbor vitae, and this one was not in good shape (although it did do a good job of hiding my trashcan); I’m delighted with the boxwood replacement. While I do like yew, this shrub was much too large for the space it was in, and trying to keep it pruned down to size was a major task. I don’t actually know what the replacement plant is or how large it can be expected to grow. Can anyone help with an identification?
Whoever installed these plants did not give my landlord any information about how to take care of them, and he did not know that they needed weekly deep watering for the first season. I have taken on the task of nurturing these plants. I have pushed the woodchip mulch (which would not have been my choice) away from the base of the plants to form a saucer at the drip line and watered each plant deeply last weekend. (Since they had not had any watering since planting other than rainfall, they were very thirsty; the boxwood alone took 25 gallons of water.)
The surprises in the back garden were less pleasant. Here, as in my Maine garden, the morning glories failed to grow this year, so I won’t have any flowers gracing the fence through the fall. Meanwhile, in the herb bed in front of the fence, the parsley bolted and the oregano turned into a monster plant that is sprawling all over the patio. On the opposite side of the patio, large weeds established themselves in the small circle flower bed. Is that corn growing there??
While I was away, the larger back flower bed, which looked like this when I left, got taken over by large plants moving in from behind and is looking a bit like a jungle. Whole plants have disappeared under all this shrubby foliage (including a formerly glorious Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Minaret’). Even the hostas are having trouble competing, and I can’t actually see the foliage of Hosta nigrescens. The Joe Pye Weed, trying desperately to reach the light, has grown long horizontal branches that would be about 8’ tall if they were standing upright.
I plan to get out with a pruning saw this weekend and reclaim this flower bed from the jungle. I’ll be sure to post the results.