Blue Castle Garden: Year 8

In 2012, Blue Castle Garden became a desolate wreck. Beginning the year with a colorful spring flower display, unavoidable neglect in summer resulted in many plants showing their true colors. 

While the hard landscape elements were solid, the plant selections had serious issues. None of the information I’d read on gardening addressed the plant design problems I was facing. 

 ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Beautiful Spring Flower Display

The spring flowers in the back yard were the best to date. The creeping phlox was outstanding, the tulips were tastefully arranged in drifts and the lawn was a gorgeous jewel green color. 

Fresh spring foliage. 

Looking over the bridge into the back yard.

Sem False Spirea bush and Fernleaf Caragana tree, at their very best in the spring.

Two-toned and dark purple tulips were standouts in the peninsula flowerbed. 

Removed Poorly Located Tree

Three years after planting, it became obvious the front yard Swedish Columnar aspen tree was in the wrong location. Storms caused the growing stem to bash against the house eaves and new research warned of potential root damage to house foundations. In an attempt to salvage the tree, my brother transplanted it into his garden.

We were surprised to discover huge roots on a such a young tree.

Unfortunately the tree was too mature for transplanting and died the next year.

CHALLENGES

Not Enough Time

A unexpected work promotion to a demanding new role resulted in far less time for my garden. In a well designed garden, this shouldn’t have been a problem. However, my reliance on annual and perennial plants created an unkempt monster by the end of the season. 

Weeds and thistles choked out the gravel pathway. 

Perennials struggled to survive among the dandelions.

DISCOVERIES

Some Recommended Plants are Poor Performers

Plants raved about in garden books may not perform as expected. Beautiful in spring, they slide downhill the remainder of the season. 

Snow-In-Summer, nicely mounded in early spring.

Later in the season, it became a scruffy thug, intruding on other plants.

Candy Stripe creeping phlox, coated in spring flowers.

By mid-summer it looked tired and messy. 

Only 3 Months to Hideous

Without constant maintenance, a flower-heavy annual and perennial garden does not handle neglect well. With a similar level of care and better plant selections, in future years the garden remained attractive the entire season.

The garden looking neat, lush and tidy late in spring.

A mere 3 months later and the garden is scarcely recognizable.

Delphiniums Have Drawbacks

It’s important to pay attention when a plant is known to have disease issues. Lovely as delphinium flowers are, without firm staking they cannot withstand windstorms. Powdery mildew is also a serious problem. 

Delphiniums with severe powdery mildew damage.

Once the powdery mildew has reached this stage, the stem is unsalvageable.

Powdery mildew turns delphinium leaves black.

Cutting back the diseased foliage led to healthy, short regrowth but no flowers.

REFLECTIONS

This year’s disaster demonstrated the importance of observing plants in local gardens to see how they perform the entire season. Trusting books where only the best plant stages are shown is highly misleading.  

Even with a work promotion or other stressful life event, a well-designed garden should remain relatively tidy with little maintenance. Mine was the absolute opposite.

This post is part of the Blue Castle Garden Timeline series. 

About Jolene

I’m an avid gardener whose mission is to bring more beauty into the world. I believe that with the right information anyone can create their own lovely, small garden paradise.

When I’m not gardening you can find me exploring the Canadian Rockies. Learn more…

Jolene Rempel on Cirque Peak, Banff National Park.

About Jolene

I’m an avid gardener whose mission is to bring more beauty into the world. I believe that with the right information anyone can create their own lovely, small garden paradise.

When I’m not gardening you can find me exploring the Canadian Rockies. Learn more…

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