Sunday, August 11, 2013

What do you do when you're overwhelmed by your garden?

By mid-summer my garden looks as though it needs a face-lift.  I've cut back the spring and early summer bloomers.  There are holes in spots where plants have unexpectedly dropped dead.  The grass is dry and turning brown.  The mimosa tree continues to drop its dying blooms.  I'm continuously deadheading.

I meter out water to keep my landscape plants going, ever mindful of the impact to our water bill.  I make plans for plant moves I want to make in the fall when conditions are more hospitable for transplants.  Abetted by cooler than normal temperatures, we've begun ripping out another section of lawn to expand my planting area but the soil needs serious work to prepare it for fall planting.  

Despite all the constructive planning and preparations, I'm frustrated.  I need some immediate gratification.  What do I do?  I plant up some pots.  Pots provide opportunities to create small, manageable gardens.  I can experiment with new plants and different plant combinations.  I can keep my miniature gardens watered without borrowing from savings to pay the water bill.  It's relatively quick and easy to tidy up my pots and, if a plant dies or fails to deliver on its promise, I can yank it out and replace it without disrupting a large planting scheme.

The vast majority of my pots contain succulents, which winter over outside here with little problem due to our mild winter temperatures.  (My potted succulents were featured in a January post, which you can view here.)  However, in the last couple of weeks I've planted some pots with herbaceous materials.  

Here's the first of my summertime creations:


This 12 inch tall, 18 inch diameter pot on the back patio is crammed with plants.  I don't usually crowd plants this much, even in decorative pots, but, figuring that I'll transplant some of these elsewhere in the garden when they die back, I went for broke.  This is what I included:
  • Coprosma hybrid 'Evening Glow' (1)
  • Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit' (2)
  • Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' (1)
  • Lantana 'Little Lucky Peach Glow' (2)
  • Russelia equisetiformis 'Yellow' (1)
  • Zinnia 'Profusion Mix' (3 plugs)

All these plants like the sun.  They're also drought tolerant once established so they'll work well if they end up in a garden bed later this year.

Yesterday, I planted another pot on the small side patio, which gets only morning sun.

This pot is 13 inches in diameter and 12 inches tall.  It contains the following plants:
  • Agave 'Blue Glow' (1)
  • Carex testacea aka orange sedge (1)
  • Nematanthus aka goldfish plant (2)
  • Rhipsalis salicornioides aka Dancing Bones Cactus (3 divisions from larger plant)

I'm hoping that the grass will get enough sun to preserve its orange coloration and that it won't outgrow the pot too quickly.  This agave does well in a pot and tolerates some shade.  The goldfish plant was a sentimental selection - I remember tending one as a houseplant when I was a teenager.

So, there it is, my temporary bandage for my angst over the current state of my landscape.  What do you do when your garden "to do" list leaves you feeling overwhelmed?


  1. Planting up a few containers is a great solution to what's ailing you.

    I've been doing something sort of similar only in a one plant per pot sort of way. When I find something is looking less than that stellar (it's happening a lot as I notice areas I haven't watered) I distract my eye by plopping a container there. It usually works, especially if it's something new.

  2. I have the opposite problem with so much rain and heat the garden is overgrown and my work leaves me no time this summer to what do i do? I look for the blooms that might entice meat the moment and take care fo the veg garden as it continues to grow. Lovely containers. Mine are pretty much spent.

  3. Well, at least once I kill the plants in the pots I'll still have the pots. You know, always looking on the bright side. ;-)

  4. Those are good ideas, I like your combinations. Your summer list sounds like mine in Texas, watering just enough to keep things going a few more weeks and planning ahead.

  5. I like your approach Kris ! I usually start cutting things back hard in the hopes that I will get a nice fall resurgence..this works quite well with the roses and other things that are fast growing . I've also been known to do some re-mulching in late summer just to tidy things up abit.

  6. Other than trying to keep things watered, mostly I notice the problems and make a mental list of what needs fixing later. This is the beginning of processing/canning season for garden produce, so my focus kind of changes, anyway.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one who runs out of steam come August. I'll get some energy back in time to plant fall bulbs, never fear!