I Give Up
I'm sick of my shtick.
That whole "galloping horses will never see it" and "imperfection is part of my charm" thing is getting old. Failure is no longer funny. I want a nice garden and I want it now.
It's been a challenging summer here in Raleigh, what with blazing heat, no rain, and a grasshopper/locust/chewing-insect-from-outer-space infestation. My garden is now at a whole new level of goddawful.
The sad thing is, I was feeling pretty good about the garden (and myself, by extension) when I went to DC in June for my very first Garden Bloggers Fling. I had a great time, except for the part where my self-esteem suffered a blow from which it has not yet recovered. "Is this inspirational or depressing?" a fellow blogger asked me as we surveyed an impossibly beautiful garden. "Depressing," I said. Inspirational is when something is within the realm of possibility.
I'd really like to be a gardener, but I'm not. At best I'm a grower. In a good year, that is. And this is not a good year.
Take my front yard (please). Since deliberately smothering the grass and ripping out the boring foundation hollies three years ago, I've been trying to create something that passers-by would actually see and think "garden." No luck. I have been unable to figure out what will grow in such a fiendish exposure - north facing but with morning shade and blazing hot afternoon sun, except for the parts closest to the house, which receive no light at all. Full sun plants don't flower well, partial shade plants fry. Oh, and the soil is lousy.
The summer has been an unmitigated disaster for this pathetic patch of property. In last two months, some mysterious leaf-devouring insect has decimated my Heucheras, turtlehead, and oregano "Aureum," making hash out of my latest foray into garden design. Then, on cue, came the demise of my dwarf weeping birch. It was a nice little tree and I commend the previous homeowner for his taste in planting it. But a white barked birch in boiling hot North Carolina? What could possibly go wrong?
I could tell the tree didn't have long for this world, but since its main role was to provide shade for my Ghost and Japanese Painted Ferns - just about the only plants that had been doing well in this Summer of Death - I was hoping it would have the courtesy to hang on until cooler weather. Of course it chose to drop dead in July, when the average temperature is 95 degrees and 100 isn't unusual. Finding instant shade for the ferns was imperative, triple-digit temperatures be damned.
Bear with me, I'm almost at the punchline.
My choices stank: kill the ferns by moving them in 95 degree heat, or kill them by leaving them to fry in their now much too sunny location. I chose Door Number 3 - give them 50-50 odds by planting a 5-gallon container-grown "Tonto" crape myrtle as a replacement for the birch. I derisively dubbed it my "I Give Up" tree, final proof that I was incapable of growing anything interesting or original and was reduced to planting the most overused tree in the south. Oh how the mighty are fallen, right? But it's pretty, fast-growing, practically indestructible and it adores the heat. At this stage I'll take it.
So last Saturday, I plopped Tonto into the hole lately occupied by the weeping birch. Then I prayed.
Today, as I write this, we are enjoying our fourth straight day of 95 degree-plus weather, with no end in sight. And guess what? Tonto objects.
I give up. I really, really, really give up.
7/23/2017 09:38:47 am
7/23/2017 05:01:59 pm
All true, but it's nevertheless upsetting when you pour your heart and soul into something and then realize you have no talent for it. And many of the gardens I saw at the Fling were owned by landscape designers themselves. But right now I'm just looking for Not Embarrassing.
7/25/2017 06:09:10 pm
Actually, I think Anne is on the right track—therapy. You know the old saw, when you can't change the situation, change your reaction to it? Alternatively, you could come see my garden, which would be the opposite of inspirational and, for you, the opposite of depressing.
7/23/2017 09:53:53 am
On your now-dead birch, cf. Robert Frost's poem "There Are Roughly Zones," about planting a peach tree in New England:
7/23/2017 05:03:05 pm
Because we want peach trees in New England, that's why.
7/25/2017 06:10:16 pm
Further to my comment above, I knew a very good therapist who often quoted poetry as part of therapy.
7/23/2017 10:54:50 pm
You're being way too hard on yourself!! This fall, take out all the perennials and stuff in a bunch of shrubs. Maybe abelia would work well there. I know viburnum will thrive. Put your perennials in a kinder spot. Osmanthus Goshiki is unkillable but it looks like a holly so maybe that doesn't work for you. Or try spirea! There are several really cute dwarf cultivars. If you mix in orange milkweed, which is what I did in my front butterfly garden, you'll have the perennials you crave. Coneflowers will work there, too. Don't give up!
7/25/2017 06:41:25 pm
Tammy, please don't insult your front yard garden by mentioning it in the same sentence as mine. But I appreciate the pep talk. I'm indeed at the point where spirea and abelia are looking pretty good to me and will try that as soon as the weather cools off. I'm through with perennial forever. Or until I try again. Whichever comes first.
7/25/2017 06:44:37 pm
Thank you Jason. They say what doesn't kill you makes your stronger and I have always hated that expression. I'm tired of rebounding and just feel like wallowing in self-pity. Is that wrong?
8/29/2017 06:36:09 pm
I feel for you! It's hard when nothing goes right. My advice is to hire a professional to get you off to a good start. This advice springs from a a post I did most recently (Natural Shade Garden). The gardener in this post hired a landscape architect to design a plan. Then she executed the plan herself over a number of years.
8/29/2017 08:11:56 pm
Thanks. It's good advice but hard for me to follow. Somehow I can't help feeling that if someone else designed it, then it wouldn't really be my garden. Crazy? Yes indeed.
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The Galloping Horse Gardener is a native New Yorker who packed it in in 2005 to live under the radar in Cary, North Carolina. In 2014, she removed to a new secure location somewhere in Raleigh.
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