Kachemak Gardener: End of season time to assess mistakes

Now is an excellent time to note the mistakes you have been avoiding addressing.

Although I have stressed more than once that this garden has no design, that the plants are willy nilly, that it all just falls together, I may be understating the truth of the matter. As I was cleaning out spent annuals and cutting back the columbine to the new growth at the base I noticed some very lovely perennials that are not getting their due. They are so overwhelmed by the “this and that” nature of their companions that they just haven’t been given a fair chance to shine. And this is a shame.

This is a small garden but I really like lots of one plant and/or to repeat the same plant throughout the beds. I stick with the prosaic color combination of pinks/blues/purples with a little yellow thrown in here and there because this is what works for me. But I also can succumb to the plant collector’s bane of having just one of something and there it drifts, all alone, and eventually buried by everything else around it. When I purchase just one plant my plan is to grow it on and eventually divide it. I’m cheap. But if that one plant is lost amid the masses it doesn’t stand much of a chance. And that is what I was discovering this afternoon as I was making the beds somewhat tidy in the face of a few days of rain. So my mantra for the coming season is to let these little beauties have enough room to shine. My fingers are crossed.

While taking a walk in my neighborhood I had the delightful experience to meet a new neighbor, Fay, who is revamping the garden that the previous owners had installed. I was able to share my worst ever mistake: DON’T plant under the eaves. Lay down landscape material, cover that with rocks and let your planting bed start from there. There is nothing stranger than standing out there in a raincoat watering the plants under the eaves. On the north side of our little house, I planted a row of bleeding hearts. They love this location, they reach their potential, they bring me great joy each and every time I return home but, they are smashed up against the wall and need to be watered even in the rainiest of summers. Drat. I have hinted to John that perhaps we could rip up the boardwalk and move it out about six feet. You can imagine how welcome this suggestion was received. So there they are, and I will live with this mistake but I my hope is that you won’t make the same one.

Yet another regret is planting trees and shrubs too close to either each other or the house. The three lilacs in the East Garden are so crammed together that they look like one, which is actually sort of interesting but I’m not sure how this will work in another 20 years. As it is when I hang laundry on the carousel clothesline it is a fight to get it turned past the Donald Wyman. There you have it, the need to prune back the lilac.

One of the pleasures of Pioneer Avenue are the hanging baskets that business owners have installed. Each and every one is lovely but I do really appreciate the Duncan House’s. Why? Because they are big enough, they are to scale with the building and they are the same shape as the building. This all works for me to say nothing of the lovely selection of plants. Take a look.

And that brings me to Homer Brewing. Co-owner Karen Berger has solved a sticky problem of demarcating parking from seating. The ingenious use of pallets turned on their side, secured with rebar, gravel for ballast in the bottom section, lined with plastic gutters and planted with mostly succulents is charming and functional. If you wish to adopt this idea I will caution you not to plant food in a pallet. There are different methods used to keep them from rotting and this usually consists of chemicals. Think about that. Stick to ornamentals. Karen stores hers for the winter under the eaves of a handy shed, pulls them out in the spring, waters and the succulents are resurrected. Daily watering keeps them looking fresh throughout the growing season. Excellent.

The broccoli is still producing, albeit tiny heads and I feel like a gleaner, but, hey, it’s food and delicious at that, so glean I will. My latest concern are the onions. They had a late and rocky start and are now looking good but are showing no sign of calling it a day. I don’t want them to start to rot with the rain but if I harvest them too soon they will continue to grow and that will ruin them. This just really isn’t onion country but when they work they are so excellent. Jane Wiebe gave a handful of her “Patterson” seedlings and compared to my “Red Wing” and “Blush” (a new one this year) they are excelling. Huge and gorgeous but again, to harvest or not to harvest …

The greenhouse is coming to a close. The Royal Purple beans are finished, cucumbers are done, and the tomatoes want to be done. I think it’s trying to tell me something.

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