Shaping Up

Its August, its summer, its time to ease up and chill. In my book, that means doing less in the garden. I cover only the bare minimum of required tasks. The fact that I go off on vacation this month does not help matters. As a result, my garden looks distinctly blah at this time. Shabby, shoddy and sad are how I’d describe certain areas.

It occurs to me that I really ought to follow my own advice and prepare in advance for precisely such eventualities. Grumbling around, I find I’m not alone. So, I’ve given the matter some thought and come next August, I’m determined that we present the world with much improved gardens

First and foremost, there is the watering. My policy of watering only the pots and not the beds works effectively for most of the garden. Except the two perennial beds in front. The very beds that are the first to be seen by anybody who approaches the house. The beds look very attractive all spring, and reasonably okay in early summer. But, by mid-summer, when temperatures have soared and rain is erratic, they start to look ragged and unruly. Its taken me a while to admit to myself that I’ve been much too rigid in my no-watering rule. I’ve been expecting too much from these hard working plants. They do indeed grow without extra watering but they simply cannot look lush and bloom prolifically which is what is needed in a flower bed. Mind you, the plants placed here for summer display are mostly native choices. Which is why they can survive okay. However, to thrive, even natives must be provided better conditions. While it does not matter how they do in the wild, within a contrived space like a garden, it does. Hence, my decision to water these beds more regularly. As much as possible, I’ll use rain water from the barrel and when that supply runs low, I’ll use the hose. I shy away from automation because I feel it disconnects me from the plants and leaves me unaware of their needs and progress.

Deadheading and weeding regularly will of course go a long way. Mulching well will reduce the time required for the latter considerably.

The remaining tasks need to be done in advance of summer:

Herbaceous plants need dividing every few years to keep healthy. Otherwise, they stop blooming well.
To do this, the plant is dug up and divided by prising roots apart. New growth from the edges are replanted and the tired, center of the clump is discarded. Fall is a good time to divide plants. Feed with compost. Water well till established.

Borders with many, established plants require staking to stop them from drooping or flopping. Placing the stakes as plants begin to emerge makes the task easier. Natural materials like twigs and bamboo blend into the background very nicely. This practice gives the beds a neat and cared for appearance.

Hedges, certain edging plants like boxwood, topiaries, rambling roses and other climbers need taming. Prune, trim, pin back or tie back as needed. Again, this tidies up the look of the garden.

Voila! The garden looks infinitely better.

I’m sharing images of gardens that look vastly better than mine at this time of year:
(c)2014 Shobha Vanchiswar

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