Wednesday, October 11, 2017

And In the Condo Terrace Garden -- Report On Our First Summer

 You might remember that this past April, I shared my intention to track my new (container) garden's growth via regular posting here, to turn the pages of its story with you looking over my shoulder. I followed up on that intention with a May posting which described the garden as it was, with a survey of what we'd inherited from the previous owners.
 Then Lisa asked if I'd mind providing a rough schematic of the garden, and Pater sketched me up an outline. I posted it with a promise to "unpack" it later, to describe the additions represented on it.

That promised post never happened.  Since then, I've taken you on visits to other gardens: Wendy's in England, Ali's on a BC Gulf Island, Eleonore's in Germany.

But although I took many photos, posted some on Instagram, discarded others eventually to free up my phone memory, I never managed to put together a coherent post on the garden's summer performance. Shame. Shame on me. . . .
 I'm trying to learn not to make promises here, learning not to set up obligations that will begin to feel like burdens, that, when not met, leave me feeling guilty. So I'm not going to tell you that I'll do a quick catch-up anytime soon.

But I can tell you that the six cherry-tomato plants yielded bowl after bowl of sweet, juicy, jewels, many of those picked by small hands and popped greedily into little mouths.

I will tell you that after the June infestation I wrote about here the hydrangea rallied to buy itself another year on the strength of healthy foliage and abundant bloom (it's true, the bright pink will never be my favourite, but at the height of summer, it somehow convinces me). We picked egg cases of scale insects with considerable disgust for several weeks, and we're hoping that provides a solid discouragement to next year's crew, but time will tell.

The heavy rains of spring, followed by dessicating wind and heat while we were away (we had family monitoring and looking after the garden, but the containers dry out so quickly that damage was done before help arrived), followed then by months of drought--all this was hard on plants, and many suffered a scourge of aphids and powdery mildew (a demonic duo well known to most gardeners). I had to cut the honeysuckle back to its base, as I did with both roses bushes, and we belatedly picked up Safer's Insecticide and a Safer's Anti-Fungal Treatment. In my big seaside cottage garden, I left most afflictions for Nature to balance out. Wasps and snakes and dragonflies kept most tiny pests under control, and I'd had years to find the right spot for the right plants, to judiciously encourage -- nay, insist! -- that plants dig for their own water or learn to manage without much. Containers are a whole new gig for us, and there's not nearly as much margin for error. Plus any ugliness is much more visible. . . We can't simply dig something in behind the guest cottage while it's nursed back to health.
But we've had enough success to encourage us to keep at it. The wisteria never did bloom this year, so we've been reading up on how pruning and fertilizing might make that happen -- meanwhile, I'd keep the plant for its gorgeous foliage alone. We missed the clematis bloom, although came back from travel in time to find that the flowers are purple. Finally got 'round to chopping it right back, a few weeks ago (it hadn't been properly pruned in a couple of years so there was a nasty mass of ancient dried foliage clogging up the view -- I'd sacrifice a season's bloom for the current enjoyment of the fresh leaves and vines it's put out through the late summer, early fall. . .

We had four apples on our dwarf Scarlet Sentinel!! We might need to find a more protected spot for this tree (the wind blew the apples off before they were quite ready, although still tasty), although it's currently in a good spot for sun. The fig tree has been a delightful surprise, not only for its rather extravagant branching and sketch-worthy leaves, but we have so far actually harvested more than ten sweet figs from it.  . .

The rudbeckia's been blooming cheerily for weeks now, added its colour to the violet-blue creeping campanula that never stops flowering. We added several pots of hardy fuchsia -- pink-scarlet-purple, a pot of sweet-scented purple heliotrope and, last week, two pots of hot-hued chrysanthemum. . .

The grasses we've added have all done well, and there spiky textures and diverse shades of foliage bring interest to the ground level in a fairly easy-care form. There's a long, narrow pot of Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica rubra), that I'm going to divide in the next week or two, so that I can pop I few more pots 'round. I love the way its rich wine-coloured spears move with the slightest breeze.

The sarcococca (sweet box) has been readying its tiny flowers to open all delicate and white some wintry day and release their sweet scent, and some weeks after that the Daphne will show off its pink fragrance. Before that, we'll get some fall colour from carefully chosen shrubs, and once those leaves drop, we'll look for some flaming branches and textured bark. And when the garden's denuding itself, we'll be entertained by the birds trying to put on some fat against the cold. We had a Northern Flicker hoovering around the other day, trying to remember where he'd seen a suet feeder. And we've given in on the house sparrows who seem to consider us their sole provider. They've proven themselves adaptable to bell feeders and finch/perch feeders, and I can't imagine what dire steps I'd have to take to dissuade them from the table.

One notable urban affliction we hadn't really anticipated, and a temporary one, we hope, is the fine layer of dust that coated the leaves of most plants, threatening to clog the stomata. Normally, this would have been washed off by rain regularly enough, but in this summer's long drought, we made sure to give them a rinse from time to time.

So there you go. After months and months, my promise has been kept, although I realize that was a very quick look 'round. But ask me questions if I'm missed mentioning a plant or a care issue you've been wondering about. Or offer any suggestions or advice you might have, as gardeners do. . . 

12 comments:

  1. You seem to have a lot of plants packed into a small area , which they might enjoy . They can support & protect each other . They certainly look fit . Holidays can be problematic for gardeners , you can't expect carers to give the same attention but I wouldn't want to stop having trips away . Our Hostas each have their own old washing up bowl of water to sit in whilst we are on holiday . Plus we have a long plaster mixing bath which we fill with a couple of inches of water & stick thirsty container plants in . They always seem to look much fitter when we get back , sat in their own little micro climate .
    Wendy in York

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    1. We do have a lot of plants packed in, Wendy, and that's exactly what I'm hoping for, a space where they create a little micro-climate that works for all of them. I think that your solutions of sitting them (together or not) in containers of water while we're away is a good one, and we're also thinking of those new watering bags for ones that can't bear being water-logged but shouldn't go dry. . .

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  2. Speaking of aphids, we have a lot of ladybugs around just now, many more than usual. They sneak into the house (as hitchhikers, mostly, I think) and then need to be escorted back outside. Fingers crossed they will look after the aphids next year.

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    1. Interesting you say that, because I realize we haven't seen any here. I'm thinking we might buy some next year, altho' I'll do a bit of research first to be sure I'm not just buying them to kill them off . . .

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  3. A fig tree with figs-that's really an accomplishment! And cherry tomatoes!
    Your garden is full of beautiful plants and the next year would be even more "yours",with additions and full changes you'll make in inherited one
    I'm very curious about the winter in your garden and protection of the plants
    Dottoressa

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    1. I did feel excited about the figs, although I suspect the tree will still be working on health it drew from the nursery before we bought it. From what I've been reading, though, I think it might be one of the trees we'll have to get some winter protection for, perhaps some burlap wrap. . . . I'll try to report later but I'd better not make promises!

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  4. Gardening in containers vs. on land is quite the challenge. Your space seems large and your plantings are diverse. Watering, pest control and managing plant size is really one very big job. Sounds like you are skilled and up to all the challenges! I'm afraid I'd be looking for a gardener or replacing plants with furniture.

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    1. It's a big enough job, but pleasant enough except for the pest control, and it's all close enough that we're not worn out making the rounds. My husband has been doing almost all the watering, and we snip a bit here and a bit there as needed. Not much weeding at all. We're going to try repotting (and root-pruning) the big maples, and that job may encourage us to find a gardener!

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  5. Echoing the other comments about how much variety you've managed to pack in to your space. Very true that containers are a whole different branch (sorry!) of gardening. Is that a hollyhock in your photo - the white flower below the rose? They seem able to thrive on very little water. I'm thinking of the hollyhocks growing at the foot of house walls in France, in a tiny gap between the wall and the pavement. I had to give up on them in our Edinburgh garden because they were a feast for our very large snails. Always good to have a good chop back of an overgrown clematis. You will be rewarded for your bravery.

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    1. It is a hollyhock, yes. It's true, they do grow just as you say in Bordeaux, don't they? They haven't done well for me in the past (haven't tried for decades, though), succumbing to mildew rather than snails, but so far so good with this one. And yes, that's what I figure with the clematis. . . Just wishing the wisteria were as easy to sort . . .

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  6. Me too on the variety - and the fruiting you have going on. Also, zero shame. You are retired. Whatever you do is what you are supposed to be doing. Backing away from external commitments that don't serve you is of course a good thing! And I look forward to some day seeing where your garden has got to, in person. <3

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    1. Thank you! I do guilt, shame, embarrassment, at the drop of a hat or the pointing of a finger (and if fingers aren't pointing, I imagine them doing so!). But I have a few years left to learn a few lessons and choosing my commitments would be a very good one, says I. And oh, I'd love to have you visiting my garden again. . . xo

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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