Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Post Where I Wonder If I've Completely Lost My Mind....

I really, really hope I'm not the only gardener who does this -- strives to achieve a certain effect in the garden, only to decide once it's been achieved to scrap it all and start over with something else.

Now that I've made some good progress on the front garden, and the fall rains have returned to water everything in, I've started working on the back. I'm not done in the front, but I've got a lot of changes I want to make all over both the front and back gardens, so I've got a lot of work to do. And I want to get it all done right now, in the fall, between the raindrops, so that anything that gets moved has a good part of fall and winter to get re-established (then maybe I'll start doing some housework...).

In the last three years I've worked hard to put together an area of self-sowing, en masse Columbines in the back garden. They flowered very prettily this spring.

But after they flowered I cut them back, and the area became just a jumbled mass of Columbine foliage, which was looking quite ratty and powdery-mildewed.

So --  I've yanked them out, roots and all.

I have all kinds of interesting foliage plants for shade that I'm putting in here instead.

It's a shady area under some Douglas firs, and when we first moved in, I thought it would be a perfect spot for Columbines. It is. But I also planted some other shade-lovers there -- ferns, Hepaticas, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Heucheras, Pulmonaria, a mini Hosta  -- and over the past three years those Columbines took over and were crowding everything else in there.

This bright caramelly Heuchera loves the part shade, but was completely overtaken by Columbines

Hepatica foliage until recently completely hidden under the Columbines

Disporopsis will make a nice contrast with the Hepatica and Heuchera foliage

Autumn fern

Farfugium japonicum 'Aureo-maculata'/Leopard Plant
I also removed and divided some Pulmonaria, Heucherella, Tiarella, and Heuchera, and potted them up to be redistributed eventually in the bed.

And all summer whenever I went shopping at the nursery, or explored a new one, I bought more shade-loving stuff to put in there too.

I bought some new ferns at Fronderosa back in August, and nursed them in the pot ghetto.

Dryopteris filix-mas 'Fluctuosa/Dwarf Crested Male Fern

Polystichum neolobatum 'Alpine Form'/Asian Saber or Long-Eared Holly fern

Polystichum setiferum 'Congestum cristatum'/Congested Crested Soft Shield Fern

Asplenium scolopendrium 'Cristatum'/Crested Hart's Tongue Fern

Hosta 'Fire and Ice'
There's more besides the classic Hosta/Heuchera/fern combo that borders on cliche in shade gardens.

Cyclamen hederifolium

Heuchera 'Lime Marmalade' and Carex morrowii 'Aureo-marginata', which I'm hoping will bring out the golden dots in the Leopard plant, as well as the row of now-dormant Dicentra 'Gold Heart' behind them

I'm hoping this variegated Petasites and Acanthus mollis 'Hollard's Gold' will also set off the Gold Heart Dicentras

Impatiens omeiana

Saxifraga fortunei and Bletilla striata 'Big Bob'

Am I just a little bit crazy? I guess everyone who fanatically engages in a hobby is. But to put so much work into establishing a patch of Columbines, only to yank it all out?

Ah well -- given how prolifically and promiscuously Columbines self-sow, I have a feeling they'll never really be completely gone. I'll have to keep on top of things if I don't want all the new foliage plants to be swamped by sweet, frilly flowers.


  1. I don't think you're crazy at all. I've done very similar things too. I actually pulled up a bunch of Columbines this summer because they can sort of take over and they don't offer much after they bloom. I'm always redoing something in my yard, to me that's part of what I love about gardening.

  2. I know what you mean about having to re-do beds, there is always the drive for us fanatic gardeners to improve something, and plant something new. Your new shade garden will have appeal for most seasons instead of that spring burst of bloom that is gone the rest of the year. However, I do have a garden that was originally supposed to be a miniature rose garden, and was for a while, after I bought literally hundreds of roses when a rose nursery went out of business. It turns out that little mini rose plants are delicacies to rabbits in winter. Most are gone, except a few in pots. Meanwhile I had planted columbines there that I grew from seed, frilly double blooms like fairy petticoats, and they put on a magnificent show every spring like a Hobbit garden. So, I encourage other compatible plants like geraniums and Anemones nemorosa and japonica, to extend the bloom, and a few tough ground cover roses.
    But my former daylily beds are getting major revamping this year... and maybe when I'm done I'll get around to some of that "housework"... too.

  3. I think that's what makes gardening so's NEVER done.

  4. I'm going to echo what Sue said! Gardening is wonderful because it's never done. It's the most beautiful canvas because it is every changing. You're not crazy, you are on a journey and you're past the columbine stage. (BTW, I always thought your columbines were really cool! I suspect like you, they'll be back!) Cheers, Jenni

  5. Oh I would love columbine in my garden! You see everyone has plants that grow like weeds in their garden that others find so exotic! I can understand though how they have to be contained if they are taking over - is there some way that you can confine them to their own little area? My garden is nothing like the original plan - I sit there on my swing mulling over things I can change, while my husband rolls his eyes. I think we are continually enticed by new idea - that is the way of the gardener.

  6. I love the constant change and creative challenges in gardening. As Sue said, 'It's NEVER done."

  7. I echo everyone else, it's our prerogative as gardeners to change things at any time, on a whim, if we feel like it :-)

  8. This post made me laugh. In 2007 I worked hard to establish columbines in my round garden between the white birch trees, then ripped them out in 2010 as my design completely changed. I do still get columbine seedlings, never the same ones, so now it's fun to see what columbines come up each year. But the garden is no longer what I originally wanted! At all.

    You have some great shade plants going in your newly designed garden. How about some Hakonechloa for a different shape (fountainy spiller) and for bright foliage color? Love the hardscape edging and rock.

  9. No crazier than the rest of us, Alison dear. :) I've done some really ridiculous things in the garden. One of the most labor intensive was when I made the decision to preposition a gravel pathway. All of the gravel needed to be scooped up into the wheelbarrow and moved and dumped...over and over. It was a ton of work. I think it's all part of the process. We're learning as we go and eventually, when we get things looking just right...then it will be time to start over. Your plant selections are great. I love them.

  10. Hello Alison, I had a good chuckle reading this post. I'm just the same as you and all of your commenters, constantly revamping everything. I have the same issues with columbines; they are beautiful, but really love to take over and for some reason, in my garden they are constantly devoured by some sort of bug. Can't wait to see your new beds in bloom!

  11. So, you've lost your mind. I'm perfectly happy without mine as it was seldom used anyway. It's fun to make changes in our gardens and I think your foliage plants will look great under your Douglas Firs!

  12. Oh, yes, I change my mind and move plants around all the time. I think you'll be very happy with all the different shade plants you will have now instead of just the columbines. And if not, well, you can always change it!

  13. I have also done the columbine battle, so two of us are crazy. I'm afraid you last comment is correct, because they will not die.

  14. I do not think you're crazy at all! I've done this and will be doing this until whenever the day comes when I will need to move on...

  15. If you're not thinking about changing things or actually doing it, I think you've come to the end of your gardening life. I mean, who wants the garden "done"? Not me, and apparently not you, either!

  16. We've all heard the "fifteen minutes of fame" remark. Well, beware the plant that is experiencing its brief shot of perfection just when you happen to visit. I have hunted down many such plants, later to rue the rash infatuation. Crazy for sure. Welcome to the loony bin of blissful potterers!

  17. I guess I have done the same thing, pulling out plants that are taking over the garden bed, but it caught my breath when you said you pulled up all the columbine. hahaah
    I have a Farfugium, not spotted though. mine is struggling a bit, we haven't had rain since the first of October. It is really dry!! Love the cyclamen... a lot.


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