Don’t be afraid to move your plants around

I went to a friends garden this week because she is frustrated with what she has going on. I truly think being overwhelmed by your garden is one of the main reasons people give up.


But this friend is ready to dig in (literally) and get things under control. She has very specific needs from her perennial bed and really all I had to do was listen. Sometimes saying things out loud is all it takes. Once she heard herself telling me what she really wanted it all started falling into place.

The garden itself is not too big so there was a plus right out the gate. But the lamium has taken over and is driving her crazy. I have respect for ground covers. So much so that I avoid them. They seem to have a life of their own and no regard for any other plant. They are short sighted. Self centered. Her lamium needs to go.

She also has an aversion for plants that touch each other, and those that hang over the edge of the bed. This is where a tape measure comes in quite handy. Read the label and measure the mature size of the plant BEFORE you plant. Then hope for the best.

But the best part of my experience in her garden was it gave me a wake-up call to get going in my own. My patience has expired when it comes to the campanula glomerata. It used to be just the right size to hug the peonies, the blooms complementing each other. Not for the last three years. They have become huge, unruly, maniacal, and they don’t even bloom at the correct time. Nothing about them is what I want any more. I have fallen out of love with them. Out they go. Finally. It took a bit of courage, mainly because I don’t know what to replace them with. But I have all winter to research my options, which is what winter is for. Especially if it doesn’t snow …

I never ever rearrange the furniture in the house but the plants in the perennial beds are forever on the move. Give this some thought. Just because you put something in four years ago doesn’t mean it needs to stay there forever. Perhaps you want to see it from the kitchen window instead of the living room. Move it. Have you planted a shrub in front of a window? Move it. Can’t get past the roses to walk in the house (guilty)? Cut them down.

And here’s another thought: My garden is small but I manage to put in a lot of one plant for the impact, for the color, for the joy of seeing a whole lot something. If you have been planting one of this and one of that maybe it’s time to be bold.

This is also the time to be thinking about bulbs. You have until it gets really cold and who knows when that will happen. But get them lined up now so you are ready when the moment comes. I will wait for garlic planting. I’m always and forever worried that I’m getting them in too early and they will rot before it freezes (this has happened). But they (and all bulbs) will benefit from a couple of weeks before frost to develop a bit of a root system. It’s a fine line.

Peonies (in case you are still interested in what has become a ubiquitous plant) are a tuberous root that needs to be planted one inch below the surface in the fall. They are hardy so don’t fear the 1-inch dictum. Also keep in mind they are only beautiful when in bloom which is about two and a half weeks, so plant something lovely to go along with them.

A friend of a friend stopped by with a couple of plants from Girdwood. Fine. Except they had huge slugs on them the likes of which I have never seen. Just what we need — alien slugs. Maybe we should build a wall? (I digress). I cut them in half and, now this is important, removed all of the soil and rinsed off the roots.

I suggest you do this with any plants that you get from someone else’s garden. You never know what may be lurking in that pot besides the plant of your dreams. Be wary. I have one of those plastic trugs that I don’t know how I gardened without it, and it is into this that I rinsed the plants then poured the muddy water into a trash bag. Off it goes to the landfill because I don’t want to introduce anything into the environment that could possibly cause havoc.

Onto the vegetable plot: The broccoli, which I thought was finished, has had a resurgence. It is loving the cool rainy weather and rewarding me with more and more side shoots of excellent quality. I’m thankful I broke out of my “Packman only” phase and now include Arcadia. The two of them produce a very different product but both are welcome and stretch the broccoli season.

I will spare you the sorry details of just why I have only one (that’s right — one) kale plant. But what a plant it is. Now that it has enough room and the temperature is dropping it is performing magnificently.

The potatoes had flopped over so I dug them, they are now curing in the basement. The beets are stored in the refrigerator. I don’t like huge beets so I figured it was now or “too big.”

Same goes for the carrots. I planted Bolero this year and they are excellent and are touted as a storage carrot. They were starting to split so they too are all tucked into the refrigerator. I’m waiting on the onions. They need to topple over before I’ll pull them. Any sooner and the tops don’t dry and they just keep growing when they should be drying. Challenges never cease.

Stop deadheading. Keep weeding.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener. She has been writing the Kachemak Gardener since 1990.