Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Correcting My Gardening Mistakes

Redhot poker in heather before removal

I confess. I make gardening mistakes. I don’t think I’ve ever read on article about correcting mistakes in the glossy gardening magazines that I read, but I suspect every gardener makes some.

I corrected two mistakes yesterday afternoon. My ignore-ance caused the first. My inattention to detail caused the second.

Three summers ago a volunteer redhot poker (Kniphofia spp.) seedling began growing just inside the edge of my heather. I could easily have moved the seedling or pulled it up, but I ignored it. Two summers ago the plant expanded significantly in size and began crowding the heather. I ignored it again. By the end of last summer the redhot poker was crowding the heather to the extent that the heather wasn’t growing where the volunteer shaded it.

Heather after redhot poker removed
So yesterday—at least two years after I should have removed the redhot poker—I took shovel and tried to move it. That, however, was impossible without doing more damage to the heather, so I chopped and dug out the redhot poker and added it to our compost pile in the woods.

There’s a hole in the mounded heather where the redhot poker was growing, but I hope the heather will begin filling in the void this spring and summer. The problem took three years to develop, and I’ll be happy if the slow-growing heather makes the repair that quickly.

Daisy (right) crowding 'Blue Star' juniper
The second mistake involved a Shasta daisy plant that I started from Burpee seed two years ago. I just didn’t pay attention, I suppose, when I bought the seeds. I intended to buy seeds for Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Silver Princess,’ a dwarf, compact, mounded variety that, with flowers, grows to about 12 inches. Instead I bought seeds for ‘Alaska,’ a vigorous grower that tops out at 36 inches.

'Blue Star' juniper after daisy removed
The plant grew well, and I transplanted it into a small space next to a small ‘Blue Star’ Juniper. Last summer I noticed my mistake. The daisy was growing rapidly and beginning to tower over the short, slow-growing juniper. The aggressive ‘Alaska’ would shade the juniper and seriously disfigure or even kill it in another year or two, so it had to go. I used my shovel to cut it into two sections and moved them into larger spaces where they’ll be able to grow without harming their neighbors.

The moral of this story: When you discover you’ve made a gardening mistake, fix it—the sooner the better.  And when plants are dormant or nearly so—such as right now—is the best time to do it.

Yes, Bob, remember that sooner is better.

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