Life Goes On

Where I live, it’s getting to be that time of year when we can look back over the growing season and think about what went wrong or right. Two little triumphs stand out in my mind from the summer of 2011.

Now, if you’ve read my blog for the past few weeks, you may have noticed I like to apply song lyrics or poems to my garden. Here is a snippet of a current tune that I love to hum to my most dogged plants:

“L-I-F-E-G-O-E-S-O-N.
You’ve got more than money and sense, my friend.
You’ve got heart, and you’re going your own way.”
—Noah and the Whale

It definitely applies to my two standout successes:

First, I transplanted a false indigo (Baptisia australis) from one section of the garden to another last spring, and I’m happy to say it survived. (Top photo: Baptisia leaves as backdrop for seed heads of ‘Little Bunny’ pennisetum.) I’ve read many times that you should not try to move a baptisia, because the long taproot that makes it very drought tolerant also makes it difficult to successfully transplant. I’ve also passed this advice along right here on our website. I still believe that nugget of wisdom, but in this case the alternative was to just dump the plant, because it really was not in a good spot. I decided to at least give it a chance and now I’m glad I did.

Above, to the left, is the Baptisia australis I moved last spring. (Bent over from some recent rain.)

I think I succeeded because it was a young plant to begin with and it had only been in the ground for a year. I dug it up when the new stems were about four or five inches tall last spring. I tried to dig around and under the whole rootball so I could lift it without disturbing it much, but I did hear and feel the tap root snap. I buried it to the same depth in its new location and gave it some extra water whenever I caught it starting to wilt. By the later part of the summer it was standing up fine to dry spells. It is definitely larger all around than it was last year and seems happy. I know that flowering may be delayed another year or two, but I think baptisia foliage is as pretty as the flowers, so that’s okay by me. Maybe it will surprise me and break that rule too.

My second proud moment this year came courtesy of my witch alder, Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy’. I bought and planted it this past spring. It has the unfortunate distinction of “farthest shrub from the spigot” and also sits on a little bit of a slope. Where I live we were lucky to have only one really bad stretch of hot, dry weather—when temperatures reached the high 90s—and it was toward the end of this spell that I noticed the fothergilla having a near-death experience. The slope made watering it hard—water just runs away without sinking in—so I tried that old “homemade soaker hose” trick. I punched a few holes in the bottom of a large plastic container (originally a family-size supply of animal crackers!) and placed it just behind the shrub. Then I filled that with water. The water seeped out slowly enough to sink into the soil around the shrub. I kept watering it this way for the rest of summer and I’m happy to say it seems very healthy now and has put on some new growth.

I’d love to hear about your favorite successes in your garden this past summer—so please comment below!

P.S. Next week I’ll let you know about one of my disappointments—or tribulations, as Professor Roush of KansasGardenMusings calls them. He is starting a monthly post called “Thirteenth Tribulations.” His idea is that garden bloggers will talk about their garden hardships on the 13th of the month. I love the idea of learning from each others’  mistakes and offering one another advice for overcoming these problems, or at least some sympathy.

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8 thoughts on “Life Goes On

  1. Earlier this year my wife purchased a half-dozen roses at our local food-chain store. After they had been in a vase of water for about a week I noticed that one of the stems had sprouted a side stem with leaves! Having been successful over the years with propagating azaleas and other shrubs from cuttings, I decided to try propagating all six stems after the flowers died off. I cut a 45-degree slant to remove the lowest one-inch of stem, then dipped the stems into a decades old supply of Rootone. That was about the May time-frame, and I have two stems remaining that haven’t “died” and have at least retained the original leaves. Just before hurricane Irene arrived I decided to bring the plastic pot containing the cuttings indoors. As I lifted the pot is gave some resistance, which I discovered was caused by the roots protruding out of the bottom of the pot. Now, I’m not sure where these roses were originally grown, but should I bring them indoors to winter over and them plant them directly into my garden late next spring?

    Kit Smith

  2. I have also moved Baptisia australis with seeming success. Unfortunately, in every case, it either did not reappear or struggled and died the next year. It may have been a subsequent lack of attention (babies, tomatoes, who knows), the heavy clay soil here, failure to re-establish its taproot or a combination of the above. I suspect success is more likely with a very young plant in very light soil.

    • Uh-oh! I suppose I may be counting my chickens before they hatch. My soil drains well so I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Thanks, Toni — and I get where you’re coming from with the “babies, tomatoes, who knows”!

  3. During a dry spell. When rain finally came, I turned on the sprinkler. My neighbors were amused that I would water my lawn in the rain, but I explained how a deep watering is better than many shallow waterings and that I would not lose much, if any water to evaporation.

  4. I am glad that I had never heard that baptisia australus should not be transplanted as I have many more sections with the plant in it and I love the plant in all of those places.

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