Kachemak Gardener: Let the garden thrive and have its head

Smoke.

Hornets.

Late summer head cold.

Local corn: $5/ear.

Porcupines.

Inexplicably pink Yukon golds

Good Grief!

But then again, the Dropmore honeysuckle is gorgeous to say nothing of the hydrangea paniculata. The Theresa Bugnet rose has withstood the porcupine onslaught and is lightly blooming a second time. I am grateful.

This rugosa rose has an arching habit, achieving about5-feet tall and 4-feet wide and is categorized as a shrub rose. She is somewhat out of her zone here and it took about four years for her to establish. I almost gave up. Originally I planted three of these on the west corner of the house to complement the common lilac. The whole affair is underplanted with Johnson’s blue geranium. About five years ago she decided to “travel,” meaning I now have several of these lovely roses filling the entire corner. But, given this unusual weather, the shrub closest to the house has decided to send up canes about 10-feet tall. It is intertwined with the honeysuckle, making a rather striking vignette. I’m not arguing.

My entire plan for this garden is to let whatever wants to thrive to have its head. If something is struggling or fails altogether, I edit. Give me plants that want to be here, that want to reseed, or travel. I’m happy to just try and control the chaos.

The hydrangea paniculata is another example of a plant that I practiced patience. It died to the ground four years in a row. But I didn’t see a need to eliminate it because of its location. Both of us had time. So here we are, 20 years later and that $1.29 bare-root plant is gorgeous. It takes an early spring and a warm summer for it to bloom fully. This is becoming a more common occurrence, and for sure, this is a great year.

In the real world this hydrangea is a small tree and that was my hope for it. It was supposed to anchor the end of a mixed shrub border in the West Garden. If it had done what it was supposed to it would be above the back of the greenhouse, very lovely. But no. It is a very round floppy shrub. Our growing season isn’t long enough for the branches to become woody enough to support itself as a tree. It has split several times under the weight of itself. John has built a harness for it and, although it seemed brutal at the time, snugged it up at the base. So far this is working. When this blooms, like it is doing at this very moment, I am loathe to come indoors. I just want to hang around in the general vicinity and admire it.

The perennial beds are in a sorry state. I started a new-to-me annual chrysanthemum, “Primrose Gem,” a mounding ever so pale yellow that I had such very high hopes for. No. Huge, gangly, garish yellow. There were several of them out there and each one looked more ugly than the other. I can’t imagine what went wrong here. But they are late bloomers and that’s why I tried them. I pulled them out. I just couldn’t stand looking at them another second. So there are some significantly empty spots out there.

That’s really the fun of the garden. No two years are the same, never really knowing what’s going to happen. Take the cranberry cosmos. Often but not always they are large annuals that bloom late. The last few years they have been scrawny and not so very bloomy. But the color is magnificent, and I really want them to happen. Being annuals I can start as many as I want and, of course, this year I backed off. Needless to say, the handful of them are full, bloomy and could use some friends. Next year.

The vegetable garden has been a mystery. I have no idea what I was thinking when I planted at least a million leeks. Why? Yes, I can freeze them, but a million? How about the fennel bulbs? They too are taking up some valuable real estate out there. And I’m not so sure I really like fennel. At least not every day of my life all summer long. They are extremely easy to grow; keep that in mind if you are a fennel fan.

The broccoli is done and over. Really over. John helped me dig it out and add it to the compost pile. The last gleaning amounted to about a cup and I didn’t see any more coming on so out it went. The Brussels sprouts are looking excellent. I may have been remiss in not reminding you to top the stalks. This will halt the growth and encourage the sprouts to gain size. If you haven’t done it yet, get going.

I cleaned up the greenhouse today — cut out languishing cucumber leaves, bean leaves and topped the tomatoes. There is still plenty of life going on in there. Again, a banner year for everything in there. Lucky us.

The Swiss chard is bolting so it’s time for that to go see the compost pile. The royal burgundy beans are still going strong; again this has been a banner year for them. The ones in the greenhouse are thinking about calling it a day, but the ones outside continue to produce. The peas are long gone.

I’m always amazed how much of the vegetable garden goes into the compost. But compost is what keeps this program running. I am baffled if you have yet to embrace a pile.

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

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