GARDEN DESIGN

I am always disappointed when a garden design that looked great inside my head crashes and burns right after the mulch goes on. This happened to me with a 3 foot strip in front of a septic tank berm. I’ve tried various plants over the years but nothing really caught on – sandy soil, full sun.

The new design had a row of Shasta daisies and, in front of them, a row of purple coneflower (Echinacea). Admittedly, it was an experiment because I didn’t know the answer to these questions:

  • Will the pink and white flowers bloom enough to be showy? I wanted blooms sufficient to “stop traffic.” Foot traffic, anyway. Seldom does anyone drive this far down because the paving ends at Poppie’s garage.
  • Will the combination of newspaper and leaf mulch reduce weeds?
  • Will the bushy plants of the two perennials further reduce weeds? Weeds are driving me to the Crazy House.
shasta and coneflower row-1502
The garden design right after I finished planting
my humble abode-1531
Newly installed leaf mulch

Right away, I sent this photo to one of my garden pals. Too static, she said. She preferred a “more erratic” planting. Hmph. I want the erratic cottage garden look myself but I can’t afford to buy a cottage garden outright so I was using last year’s successful experiment of growing perennials from seeds. I had lots of Shasta daisies and Purple coneflowers on hand because I kept picking up seed packets at different stores.

I can vouch for it stopping traffic, for sure for sure. The day that a very tall Shasta daisy bloomed right beside a very short Shasta daisy stopped me in my tracks. I stood there, hands on hips, looking from one to the other.

“How did that happen?” I muttered. “Have I got mutant Shasta daisies? It would be my luck.”

I fetched my seed boxes and began pawing through them looking for all the Shasta daisy seed packets. I’m trying to remember to save the packets because, invariably, I want to know something after the seeds germinate. This qualified as one of those times.

I’m like a moth to the flame with retail seed displays. I might be shopping for bedding but on the way to that department, my peripheral vision will latch onto a seed display. In truth, I suspect those seed displays have a GPS tracker on me. Thus, I don’t have even a sporting chance of going into a store and getting out without the grasping hands of that seed display reaching out for me. Anyway, I discovered that in the heat of the moment, at the seed display, I never looked at the fine print. I had purchased, hither and yon, more than one kind of Shasta daisy from more than one company.

Shasta Daisy seed packets-1581

I had grown and planted in my new garden design:

  • ‘Alaska’ which tops out at 3 to 4 feet
  • ‘Crazy Daisy’ at 24 to 30 inches
  • ‘Silver Princess’ at 12 to 15 inches

At that moment I began to berate myself the way Evie does on a regular basis: “You so STOOPIT.” This was followed by “idiot,” “space cadet,” and so on. I gave myself quite the verbal flogging because I can’t have a row of flower blooms at different heights! That’s beyond erratic. It’s chaotic.

chaos
chaos
do NOT look at the bushes that need trimming

That was just the beginning of the surprises. As the coneflowers began to bloom, I found that I had different colors beyond what I thought I was going to have. Let me explain. I knew that I had planted a lot of plain old Echinacea and one packet of Echinacea Pow Pow. Again, the fine print got me. It seems that I also planted Burpee’s Equinacea – notice the Q? It is, by far, the most striking plant from my seed growing experiment. It is a pastel pink with blooms almost 4 inches across.

I think one of the Pow Pows is in the row because there is a short Echinacea with deep pink flowers. I don’t know how it escaped the small pot the rest of them are jammed into. Most of those haven’t filled out as plants. Yeah, I hear you nagging. Plant the things in the ground so they can take off! I will, okay? Sheesh, gimme a break.

Echinacea Pow Wow-1656
Echinacea Pow Wow

Now my perennial row must be “adjusted” when the weather cools in November. In the meantime, as they bloom, I have begun to mark the favored Equinaceas and will also mark the others as short, medium and tall. The row thingie isn’t really working. I probably need to plant groups of the same – like a whole bunch of ‘Alaska’ with stubby Echinacea Pow Pows in front of them.

These weren’t the only seed surprises for this year. Last year, I planted a packet of Gloriosa Daisy seeds. I didn’t have high expectations because the seeds were old – 2004. My memory doesn’t function as well as the hard drive on my computer so I can’t tell you whether they sprouted and died or only one sprouted. I just don’t remember. What I do know is that I began 2013 with one Gloriosa Daisy.

As Kim over a Red Dirt Farm knows, in late spring I went from Dollar General to Dollar General looking for more Gloriosa seeds. Alas, all their seeds were sold out. I was surprised at such a run on Gloriosa seeds because I get a lot of my seeds at the end of the season when Dollar General puts them on clearance.

Unable to get more Gloriosa Daisy seeds, I had to content myself with waiting for the one plant to bloom. When it did, it was yellow:

Gloriosa Daisy full-1652

Gloriosa Daisy-1650

They looked nothing like the seed packet:

Gloriosa Daisy seed packet-1653

I’m not disappointed, mind you. The yellow is beautiful but it was not what I was expecting. In another session of pawing through my seed packets, I noticed that it has four small seeds left inside the packet. I don’t know how that happened. I think I’ll plant them to see if I can get any two-toned blooms. I won’t know until next year, of course, as perennials are for patient gardeners.

You would think, by now, that I would be used to things not working out according to plan because I’ve got sooooooo many years of experience with it. Somehow, I ignorantly and steadfastly stick to the notion that everything will work out just great. It would help if I could grow myself a Magic Genie to waft up from the center of a flower. With the snap of a finger, the Genie could give me bursts of intelligence to avoid the scrapes I get myself into. Until I can find some Magic Genie seeds, do feel free to offer suggestions for planting a long, 3 foot strip of dirt with perennial, daisy-like flowers.

PURPLE CONEFLOWER

Over the years, I’ve tried several times to grow Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) and have not found it as easy as the seed catalogs claim. That’s Car Dealer Syndrome for you – make wild claims that can’t possibly be fulfilled if it will make a sale.

a really big bug – about 1-1/2 inches

In 2011, I planted numerous packages of seed, either Burpee or Ferry-Morse, all in one round clay pot. I got one plant to live which died back over the winter as perennials tend to do.

In 2012, it came back as an unbelievably huge plant. I wish I had photographed it. I separated it into four plants and, for some reason that escapes me now, planted two on either side of the pot. I’m embarrassed to admit to such a landscaping design as it makes me look like a total idiot, even worse than “stoopit.” I can handle stoopit. I’ve gotten so used to hearing it from friends and family, I think of it as a term of endearment. Idiot, however, is several notches up from stoopit so it pains me to think that I might have some DNA in the Idiot Department.

Encouraged by my success with the one-plant-divided-into-four, I bought countless packages of Purple Coneflower and planted all but one of them. I started them in those plastic clam-boxes for strawberries in the grocery store. I used a combination of commercial garden soil and seed starting mix. After they became crowded, I potted them up in anything that was handy. Here are the results: