Virtual bonfire

Rose Garden - peak and squallSummer solstice is a perfect occasion for taking stock of the season so far. We’re at a midpoint – at the start of summer – with a lot to look forward to and plenty to look back on with both pride and chagrin. We always like to try new things here and although I have every intention of talking about what works and what doesn’t, I seem to be much more likely to show off our successes (the pictures are prettier). So today I’m joining Susan over at Ink and Penstemon for her Solstice snafu day celebration for a virtual bonfire of disappointments, mistakes and failures.

We tried soil blocks this year thinking that it would be great if we didn’t have to use peat pots or the indestructible coir pots anymore. (Planting this spring we turned up more intact coir pots – it’s like an archeological dig around here.) It turns out that soil blocks are not easy to make. I definitely didn’t get the soil mix right – any suggestions for what works would be welcome. They took every shoulder muscle to jam soil into the maker and a lot of finesse to stamp them into the tray without breaking the fragile clumps. Ours – the ones that held together – were like cement and most of the seeds we tried in them didn’t stand a chance of germinating.

soil blocks

I count it is as a failure that we allowed Lilah (Weed Woman) to take a vacation this week. Not only would we rather be kicking back on a Block Island beach too but the weeds have suddenly taken off as if they knew they were safe. This particular patch of purslane, onions and Berggarten sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Berggarten’) is an example of an intentional snafu. Supposedly onions do not love sage. We want to see if they really won’t grow well or if it’s simply a silly idea to pair such excellent companion plants with each other instead of with plants they might benefit instead.

purslane, onions, and sage

We were so excited to place the Gunnera manicata in our little cement pond. Gail and I both said, “It’s perfect!” especially paired with our other greenhouse behemoth (Agave americana) in a nearby bed. But then the gunnera started to wilt. My research has indicated that they like full sun to partial shade so I can only think that the poor thing is in re-potting shock. We’ve cut all the big leaves off and might make a last ditch attempt to save it by taking off the flowers too. It just doesn’t look stupendous anymore and I’m seriously disappointed. We might have to take it out and hide it just to keep from feeling so terrible about it.

Gunnera and Agave - center stagewilted gunnera

Lilium 'Gerrit Zalm'/Trebbiano Plant labels are something I would love to put on the bonfire. Just when I feel like I’m catching up printing them, the entire garden bursts into bloom, hiding the labels I’ve already placed and requiring about twenty-hundred more. The weekend garden docents must have fits trying to find plant names for interested visitors. At least I know which plants I put labels on… And in the last couple of years I never got a tag on this enormous lily. I know that if I’m dying suddenly to know its name, visitors must be curious too. We ordered Lilium ‘Gerrit Zalm’ back in 2008 but perhaps now it’s known as ‘Trebbiano’? Curious.

pink peony poppies (Papaver paeoniflorum) in the Cutting  GardenAnd lastly, our self-sowers might look to some like an egregious error of judgment but in the case of our pink peony poppies, we meant to have so many. We’ll be saving seed perhaps to sell in the shop. Plus, we and our visitors love them. I did, however, remove them completely from our big Display Garden bed. I have come to the realization that the reason self-sowers are considered such a nightmare is that it’s mentally challenging – heartbreaking and difficult – to edit out something you think is beautiful. But sometimes, just one (or twenty-hundred) will do and make the garden more fantastic than it might otherwise be.

Do you have any snafus to throw on the solstice bonfire? Confess it here and/or head over to Ink and Penstemon to join the celebration.

7 thoughts on “Virtual bonfire

  1. Thanks for the link. That gunnera IS depressing. Wow. I have the same problems with Love-in-a-Mist here. I’m fogged in!

    Susan, first a May snow and now June fog? I hope you get some summer weather soon! -kris

  2. Could the water be the wrong depth or temperature? I’ve never seen a Gunnera IRL but was under the impression they were bog plants rather than water plants.

    Chookie, both are quite possible. Plus we’ve got issues with the pH being high in there. And you’re right – Gunnera is a bog plant – but I had read that it is possible to sink it into a pond so long as the crown is above the water line… It may also be in shock from have been kept merely boggy rather than wet until now. In any case, it does look miserable. -kris

  3. Since this is my first year at gardening, I’ve hit plenty of snafus. Let’s see – there was the time when I somehow believed the right edge of my house was in full shade and filled it with coleus and elegans hosta, only to realize it in fact gets blasted by hot afternoon sun. Whoops. Or the row of dahlia tubers I planted along the south edge of my house and that my husband immediately knew would completely cover the window in his office that gives him the best air ciculation. Whoops again. I could go on and on, but I love the mistakes because I’m learning so much and I’ll never make those mistakes again. Thanks for sharing yours!

    Kira, I still am in denial about a couple of hostas being in full sun at my house. Poor things have burned leaves and everything. At least you are learning from your mistakes. Garden on! -kris

  4. Did you feed the Gunnera, Chris? I recall that the big potted one at Sean’s used to collapse in the heat if it had been fed. Also, they aren’t fond of heat. The pic seems to show it in full sun, which it wouldn’t like here – it needs some shade. Good luck!

    Ed, I can’t for the life of me remember if I threw any fertilizer in the potting mix – which I do remember being heavy on the compost… After cutting off the biggest leaves and blooms it appears to be perking up. (I’m still worried about it being in full sun but really don’t want to have to move it!) -kris

  5. Hi there, sorry about your Gunnera, its one of my favorite plants. I’m afraid Gunneras like to be near water and not actually it! I recently wrote a post about gunneras over here in Ireland you might find interesting http://stoneartblog.blogspot.com/2010/05/im-alien-im-legal-alien-im-gunnera-in.html

    Good luck with it, let us know how it gets on!

    Thank you for the info! What fascinating plants they are. But I’m more and more convinced that we’ll have to move ours back out of the pond. Sad. -kris

  6. Kris,
    Check out pgs.84,85 in The New Perennial Garden (Kingsbury,1996) for a sensitive
    analysis of Gunnera requirements. Seems to be more of a wetland plant than bog plant
    so lack of air in the soil could be problematic. I once saw a whole wet meadow of them growing
    happily in Swansea MA . On another note, I too am suffering from a bizarre form of
    homesickness after hearing Fergus Garrett’s terriffic talk. So it was wonderful to be able to
    revisit with your blog.

    Lyn – You’re kidding – Gunnera in Swansea?! We’re convinced and very bummed but we’ll (Dan will) take the poor baby back out of the pond this week. Now I just hope it survives the whole ordeal… I’m so glad you were at Fergus’ talk – and so glad that we can keep revisiting it as necessary together. -kris

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