Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Planting Problems

[Note:  I wrote this piece last week, after a particularly frustrating day.  Since then, I've planted some of these plants, purchased others, and been given even more. Thank goodness it's been a slow spring so far!]

Okay.  It's confession time.  I find that planting - actually putting plants in a specific place in the ground - is getting harder and harder to accomplish.  In fact, it's getting downright painful.

It's not that I'm getting older and stiffer and fatter - although all 3 of those are, unfortunately, true.  No, it's different from physical difficulty.

I'm experiencing a mental disability about planting....

Let me backtrack just a little so that I can try to fully explain what I'm fighting against.

I am a plant collector and I have a plant collector's garden.  To those of you who don't know what that means, just imagine "One here...one there...3 over here...one way back there..." on a garden-wide scale.

My plant passion is basically "native" plants - here in south central Kansas, that means prairie plants.  While the idea of gardening with native plants has caught on fairly well in many other areas of the country, it's still in its infancy here in the heartland.  For that reason, there aren't many places to find native plants around here, especially native plants that have any local provenance, which is ideally what I'd like to have in my gardens.

Oh, the garden centers carry a few - mainly just the perennials with horticultural varieties that create a splash.  Even the box stores have a few plants that are native to the prairies, but they are even more likely to be horticultural varieties.  My two best sources are 1) a man who lives a county or two to the east of us, who drives in each Saturday morning during the spring and early summer to sell the plants he's grown at the Farmers' Market, and 2) a biannual weekend sale held at Dyck Arboretum, about an hour north of us.

With such transitory sources for my plant material, I tend to buy... 1) what I intended to buy - if they have it with them or in stock, 2) anything that looks particularly healthy or good that I think I can use, 3) anything that might work in place of what I wanted to buy that's out of stock, and 4) anything that's particularly interesting or unusual that they may never have again.

Thus, I always end up with more than I intended.  And all of it is COOL, COOL stuff.  Stuff I can't just waltz down the street and buy at 123 Nursery.

Now, here comes the hard part.  I'm home.  I've got a couple boxes crammed full of plant material, most of it unplanned purchases.  Much of it is actually something I've only seen in books or, if I'm lucky, out in the field.  Sometimes the only reason I come home with it is because Kevan says, "Oh, you'll love this!  You've got to try it!"

Now I actually have to find places for all my new plants.  Places that give each of my new little sprouts a chance to grow and mature and strut their stuff.  Places where they can be seen, where they won't get lost or hidden by their neighbors.  Places where they look "right", where they look like part of the garden and, better yet, like part of a plant community.

Most of the time, the plants I planned on purchasing were sought to fill specific holes in my flower beds.  Okay, those go in quickly.  That 20% was easy.

Now to find spots for the rest of them....  "This one will be perfect here, at the back of the bed.  And this one will slip right in there, near the front.  But I've got 12 Liatris of 3 different species!  Damn!  What were their differing requirements?  I know that mucronata is basically like punctata...but I don't really have any open spots that are dry and sunny.  I used some of those for the common milkweed...and there's that area of the corner bed, but there's still some crown vetch lurking there and I don't want to accidentally Round-up the wrong plant.  Hmmm.  I'll have plenty of room when I get the Bermuda weeded out of that new bed I've outlined, but can I get that done before the plants die on me?  I've been wanting to put a couple perennials out in the tallgrass under the fence!  Would these work there?"  And on it goes...and goes...and goes.

With luck - and good weather - I might get them all in this spring.

Each planting day, though, is filled with decisions and counter-decisions, with research and tentative placements, followed by more research and rearrangements.  Then, to make matters worse, as I start the tentative placements, I start finding the tombstones.  You know what I mean - the little tags left over from the last plant you tried there, the one that didn't make it.  "Oh, blast.  If Jack-in-the-Pulpit didn't make it here, will rue anemone fare any better?  And will THIS spring's Jack-in-the-Pulpit's - which look better than any I've seen for sale look before - do okay over there?  Or will that site be too dry for them?"

I remove the tombstones and put them in a pile.  Some day I'm going to go through and figure out which plants I've tried - and killed - and tried - and killed - and tried again - and killed again.  Maybe I'll remember not to buy them again, then.  Meanwhile, as the pile mounts, I start feeling depressed.  "Why am I even bothering?!  It is so hot and dry and cold and windy and awful around here!  Why do I even TRY to garden?  Why don't I just give up, plant grass, and let Greg mow it while I sit inside and read?"

"No. No. No. No.  What would I read about?  I read about plants!  Besides which, I'd go stir crazy!  Okay, I can do this.  Next time I won't buy so many plants, though.  Let's see...."

And the agony goes on.  Am I the only one who experiences this planting pain?  Please, tell me that others share my neuroses in this regard!  Misery truly would love company.  And maybe, then, Misery would feel less depressed and could even get all her plants in the ground in a particularly timely manner this spring!


Melanie said...

You are funny!! I have been wondering the same thing this spring! BUT. .I figure you can't be a GREAT gardener until you have KILLED lots of plants. .it's my motto!! Each time you learn another little bit. .and I think over time, We (at least me)start desiring more of the plants that will do well here. .and research out other things that we haven't thought of before!! I agree that it would be REALLY nice to be able to go into a nursery and KNOW that what you buy will do well REALISTICALLY here..and not just on paper!! I am also less likely to pick up a plant on a whim and find out later that it will need babying. .now, if I don't know anything about it, I leave it there and do my research!! This year I did pick up a fuscia, a hibiscus and a mandevilla plant. .but I ALSO bought self watering containers with LARGE resevoirs to keep them in. .So hopefully BOTH plant. .AND gardener will be happy with the arrangment!! Hang in there. .and next time the native plant guy shows up. .email me with a warning. .I would LOVE to shop from them!!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Even if you're just trying to make me feel better - suffice it to say that I do feel better after reading your comment, Melanie!

Jason said...

I don't think about all the plants I've killed. Why dwell on the past? Every dead plant is a chance to try something new, after all. And if you want more sources of native plants, have you tried Prairie Moon Nursery, which sells native plants online?

Gaia Gardener: said...

Jason, I wouldn't be thinking about the dead plants...except for the tombstones I come across!

Yes, I know about Prairie Moon - it's an excellent resource, but I'm trying to find more locally sourced plants. Being in Wisconsin, they are much further north than we are here. With the extraordinarily hot, dry summers we've been having, I'm tending to look south and west, if I have to go far afield, rather than north and east. They would be an excellent resource for you, though - really not particularly even out of area, so to speak.

Thanks for the suggestion, though! It's a great company.

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

OK. First, stop putting the tags out in the garden so you don't have proof that something was planted there and died. Ha!
I felt this way earlier this week when I had a collection on plants on my patio and no time to put them in containers.
I'm getting better at planning what goes into the beds in the ground, but you have more space than me so I'm sure you're thinking, "I have space for all of these."
Glad to read you got some planted. What about a 'nursery' area for some plants until you know where you want them or how tall they'll get or if they should have followed you home at all?
Happy planting!!!