a is for aaargh?

Words are my livelihood. So imagine how ashamed I am to admit this: My plants can’t read.

Their tags are quite specific about what soil they like, how tall and wide they’re to grow, how much cold and sun they tolerate — all the essentials. They simply don’t comprehend.  

When I leave the recommended space between them, they stay their original size forever (or die). (This tricolor sage was supposed to be a pretty 24″-32″ accent in front of the fence. It’s still 6″ tall, same as the day I planted it, 6 weeks ago.)
When I crowd things, desperate to replace brown mulch with green leaves, the results are never quite as expected. (This hosta was supposed to grow to nestle in a lovely bed of sweet woodruff. The woodruff is winning.)
Frick and Frack the hydrangea brothers have stayed the same size (about 18”) for 2 years. No blooms.
Note how the hunk of hosta I got from my neighbor 2 months ago is already gaining on Frack.
When I plan a bed around “dwarf” shrubs that are supposed to stay a tidy size, they grow like mad, leaving the poor saps behind them yelling, “Hey, down in front!” (This variegated dwarf (3’x3′) weigela planted a year and a half ago is now easily 5′ tall and growing.)

When I plant 2 whole flats of ground cover (spaced according to their preferences), two years later I get 2 whole flats of ground cover (spaced according to their preferences). (This pachysandra is a little taller, at least.)
When I purposely plant “vigorous growers” or even (gasp) “invasives” out of the sheer desperation of seeing plants instead of mulch or dirt, I get nominal spreading at best, 3 years later. (The dreaded Bishop’s Weed — playing nicely with the daylilies in a lousy spot.)
Unless of course, someone else plants the invasive (probably unknowingly). Then it grows EVERYWHERE, in sun or shade, in cracks in the asphalt, wherever. (Lemon balm growing out of rubble.)
Oh, and there’s Godzilla the azalea (who came with the house). I’ve never grown one of these beyond 3 or 4 feet, and never in full sun. This one is easily 5′ tall, 8′ wide, and 4′ deep — and it’s hanging over most of the end of the deck, blocking the view of the yard and wasting precious deck space. But we can’t seem to justify digging out a healthy shrub that blooms its heart out every spring (though not my favorite color). Nor do we have another spot for this behemoth, assuming it could survive a move. But still, I could plant 10 perennials in this prime sunny spot — one of the few in our mostly shady back yard. (Opinions? Should we yank it?)

So, I’m thinking of starting a little remedial reading program for the green team. They only have to learn to read a few lines on a small tag. We’ll start with the basics…”b is for bloom”…”f is for foliage”…”g is for grow-already” (though not, evidently, “green thumb”).

I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught. 
                                                                ~ Winston Churchill

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6 Comments

  1. kevie said,

    Friday, July 18, 2008 at 11:59 am

    KEEP THE AZALEA! THERE IS ROOM FOR ALL COLORS IN A GARDEN. IT WAS THERE BEFORE YOU AND PROBABLY WILL BE THERE LONG AFTER YOU GO….TRY PRUNING IT? NOT TO MENTION IT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE HALF OF THE ‘SAD SACKS’ YOU CURRENTLY HAVE PLANTED. SOME PLANTS TAKE TIME TO ACCLIMATE BEFORE GROWTH SPURT, THOUGH IN YOUR CASE I WOULD PUSH THE MIRACLE GROW A BIT…PERHAPS THE QUALITY OF PLANTS IS LACKING AND YOU SHOULD CHANGE NURSERIES? IF ALL ELSE FAILS SEND THE LITTLE BUGGERS OFF TO PRIVATE BAORDING SCHOOL, MAYBE THEY WILL HAVE GROWN BY THE TIME THEY GRADUATE….

  2. WritingbyEar said,

    Friday, July 18, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    You surprise me, Kev. I had you pegged for a “yank it” vote! Yes, I did just Holly Tone Frick and Frack and various other acid lovers, and I’ve been Miracle Gro-ing some others. We’ll see. Hmmmm, there are nurseries beyond Lowe’s and HD? Interesting.

  3. robbie said,

    Friday, July 18, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Plants have tags with growing instructions? I thought those spandex cords with something attached were to hold branches together. Some people talk to their plants (Prince Charles and Janie) and others pet their plants (not sure what that is but just read recently some plants like a little stroke, but then again who doesn’t?). I say just throw the plant into the ground and cross your fingers!

  4. WritingbyEar said,

    Friday, July 18, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Maybe I should try your pragmatic approach, Robbie (throw and hope), as my “following the instructions” approach doesn’t seem to be working so well.

  5. mel said,

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 10:32 am

    I’d say prune that azalea for sure (the big’un). You can cut it waaaaay back and then it’ll fill out but hold shape, at least for awhile. Hopefully.

    I’m so accustomed to having a black thumb that all your pics look like huge successes to me. Sorry–no help, I know.

    And yes, “real” greenhouses offer better advice from their people than any of those little tags. I never have luck with tags, but usually have luck with the pros’ advice.

  6. WritingbyEar said,

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Well, I’ve taken the pruning advice and cut quite a bit off Godzilla (I would have done more; Mike is more squeamish). ‘Zilla does look much better already (maybe I’ll sneak in a few more cuts this fall). I’m thinking lots more fertilizer everywhere this fall, too. I guess that qualifies as “maintenance” — chores are my downfall (indoors and out).


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