Bring out your dead

deadboxleafAaahhhhh, we’re coming off the rarest of the rare here in Western PA — two glorious sunshiny days in a row ON A WEEKEND! Actually three, as today promises to be beautiful as well. So beautiful I won’t even complain about the record-breaking heat (87) in April because the low humidity and steady breeze and a lot of sunscreen made it bearable.

While productive, it was also a little sad. Time for the annual garden episode of Survivor — as in, who did and who didn’t. This year: several confirmed casualties (two boxleaf euonymous [seen above], a pink coreopsis, and a pretty blue groundcover I don’t know the name of, a couple thyme plants [curiously a couple other of these did great]) and several potential casualties (a hydrangea, three ‘Wild Thing’ pink sage planted in border with Russian sage, which itself looks like it could use a few shots of vodka, or had a few too many). Also lost some things that had been fine wintering in big pots before — most sadly, a beautiful blue trailing Veronica.

Plus I think I figured out why Frick and Frack the hydrangea brothers haven’t progressed in four years: They must be a variety that blooms on old wood, so because they die back to the ground every year and have to start over, they’ll never bloom (frickin’ frackin’ shrubs).

You’d think I’d learn by now, but I’m always taken in by those blasted plant tags and something different blooming at the garden center. I need to be ruthless in not buying anything that claims to be hardy to “0 to -10” because invariably we get a few nights below zero (though rarely -10) and it must be too much for them. That would explain the dead euonymous, the surely-dead-but Mike-says-give-it-a-chance pink sage (“I’m not dead.”), and the never-blooming hydrangeas, including another two non-hardies I planted last fall. (OK, I think I get it now. Finally. Fortunately, the two oakleaf hydrangeas and the dwarf Pee Gee called ‘Pee Wee’ seem to be doing fine.)

But, of course, never say never. I took an expensive chance on something I’d never heard of — Siberian Bugloss — and have been thrilled with it in the shade garden. Beautiful silvery leaves, charming tiny forget-me-not flowers. It’s lovely. I know now this is what they had in mass plantings around Fallingwater that we saw last spring. Just stunning. I hope I can find more, as these plants were a chance find at the Lowe’s in Somerset.


I’ve also (sort of) learned, to save my receipts so I can take dead soldiers back to the store within a year. Managed that for the euonymous ($17 credit at HD now, thank you) and will do the same for the surely-dead-but Mike-says-give-it-a-chance pink sage and possibly its neighboring, iffy Russian sage (so much for that lovely border on top of the new side retaining wall).

On the good side, the big bag of daffodil bulbs from Sam’s Club I planted last fall did wonderfully — many varieties that bloom at different times and very long-lasting. I’ll for sure be doing another bag come fall.


More good — all of the 10 or so boxwood we planted are doing fine, along with probably 30 other shrubs or perennials planted last year (and many more planted in previous years). We’ll be here four years next month, and I can hardly believe how much we’ve transformed the garden.

But….so much more to do. It was a working weekend for Mike as well — back at it on the porch/sunroom project. The lawn is a disaster — giant bare spots out front from last year’s big-dig sewer project and more weeds than lawn in back. I think we’ll be forced to hire professionals when the time comes to dig it all up and start over.

But that’s another project for another spring. In the meantime, I’ll be working hard to avoid more casualties (not really — I’m more of a “you better be hardy because I’m not babying you” gardener) and Mike will be working hard to make progress on some of our ongoing projects. In other words: Business as usual in fixer-upperhood.

Hoe while it is spring, and enjoy the best anticipations.
It is not much matter if things do not turn out well.
~ Charles Dudley Warner

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