January 11, 2016

Before and After January

~New Year musings and rambling thoughts~ 

I've been thinking how (quite unintentionally) my January has acquired a distinctly before and after undercurrent...starting with the theme of the makeover article of my front garden in GARDEN GATE MAGAZINE this month (read about it here)...and (it being January and all)...with resolutions front and center...how I, like many, am interested in the process of the before and after of habit change....and how habit formation improves, or worsens, our quality of life...

and the control we do and do not have over their formation, their 'stickiness', if you will, and their characteristics relative to our individual natures. Before the adoption of a habit and after its adoption.....the topic of Gretchen Rubin's new book BETTER THAN BEFORE, Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (here).  But there is also the inevitable before and after of the passage of time...a process over which we may have limited control...but worth heeding and documenting and appreciating as we contemplate the future...and how we choose, within time's limitations, to shape and influence it. The good and the bad of it. What was best left behind, and what is worth revisiting. The before becomes the after; the before informs the after... and may ultimately become the after once again. Ah, the circle of life.

Shortly after completion of the two arbors framing my potager.

In January...after twenty years of maturity

The twin arbors last summer and this fall

Case in point: the arbors of my potager. The growth and beauty of age and maturity is overall a marvelous thing. How a common plant like Heavenly Bamboo nandina can transform a space is a wonder to behold...as is the softening of the edges with ivy and Carolina Jasmine and variegated euonymus. But the density of foliage and the deep-colored stain of the arbors also makes it voluptuously dark and a bit foreboding. In looking at the 'before' image, I see that I want to re-introduce some of that lightness and airiness and thus recapture some of the innocence of the space.

Judicious pruning and introducing more light and less shadow are in order. Something to contemplate over the winter. How to get something back that I've lost.

When I first took up gardening, I was, like most, seduced by lots of flowery color and the charm and grace of self-seeders like the Hesperis matronalis or Dames' Rocket (left, above), (find it at Swallowtail Garden Seeds here) and the often aggressive self-seeder,

Shirley Poppies (find seed here). Over time, I craved more structure and order. And more simplicity...as self-seeders can be labor intensive and demanding. Despite their beauty, I tired of the thinning and staking and replacement-after-bloom that they required. But I miss their numbers greatly, and the very few I have continued to grow over the years are not enough to sate my appetite for them.

Consequently, like before, I must find a way to grow more than a few....but in a more disciplined, less rampant manner......the after better than before.

Originally, I grew 'Peace' and 'Red Blaze' roses over the front arbor. But despite their beauty, they were thorny and too prone to disease for me. Consequently, I now grow Zepherine Drouhin (here), an uber fragrant, thorn less climber 

that merges beautifully with the Climbing Old Blush Rose (find at Antique Rose Emporium herethat cascades over the back studio. Pink ultimately trumped red, a change I will NOT reverse. 

The passage of time can be ugly as well as beautiful, of course... maturity sadly all to frequently in the garden leading to death or decline rather than vigor. 

For whatever reason (clematis are SO fickle), this beautiful Henryi Clematis (find one here) eventually just gave it up...despite much love and attention on my part. I have not been able to recreate her beauty...at least yet...in any form. But taking a look at these old pictures gives me new resolve, and a renewed yearning to recapture the beauty of her white form.  Maybe in another location, in a benevolent spring and summer, starting with a very large plant, I can recreate the loveliness she had before.

January is all about possibilities, isn't it?


  1. I so enjoyed seeing the before and after of your garden. We all make decisions, and the passage of time changes our gardens too in ways we don't expect. About your clematis, you might try one of the cultivars hybridized in Poland like John Paul II (white) or Huvi (pink.) They are very resistant to clematis wilt which destroyed so many of my other clemmies. Just a thought. Happy New Year my friend.~~Dee

    1. Great suggestion, Dee. Thanks for the info.......do you have a source for clematis you especially like?

  2. How do you keep your roses so beautiful? I am not sure what I am doing wrong. I have planted 14 David Austin roses, of which only about 10 have survived but do not flower so lovely as yours do. I am having my soil tested, but I hope that you will, please give some tips as to what you do. When in bloom, I use them as subjects for my oil paintings, so I would love to have more of them blooming more regularly. Thank you for sharing all the wonderful photos and source of inspiration. Happy New Year! Carolina

  3. Ooooh, and poppies. I can't tell you how many times I have thrown poppy seeds in the back our of yard with no results. How do you do it?

  4. Here goes Carolina! Start with good quality roses that are disease resistant...like your David Austins or heirloom roses. (I order from D. Austin or Antique Rose Emporium.) Follow all good cultural practices at planting....a large hole, compost amended soil, in an area with good air circulation, etc. Each spring I top dress with a good dose of compost, clean up any debris from dropped and diseased leaves (black spot!); prune for good air circulation when necessary, and secure canes to whatever support they are growing on. I also like to remove the leaves on the bottom quarter to a third of the canes.....to help prevent blackspot spores from using them as a means to travel up the rose itself. I typically don't spray, but when I do it is with something organic. That said, ALL ROSES ARE HIGH MAINTENANCE...not to mention the recent scourge of the rose killing rose rosette virus. Get a good reference book on organic rose culture and refer to it when disaster strikes!

    As for poppies, I allow to go to seed, or sow them in the fall. Search some of my previous posts on poppies and roses....it may help. For easy planting......locate a large, sunny area. Spread a
    bag of compost or potting soil thinly over the surface. Mix seed (it is very fine) in a spice shaker
    with sand to disperse the seed...then sprinkle on the surface. Let Mother Nature do her thing! With adequate moisture they should germinate and appear in spring. Will probably require staking and thinning. Then enjoy! Hope all of this helps...

  5. Thank you so much. I am adding this information you have so graciously shared in my gardening journal. The removal of the leaves in the lower portion of the canes is so very new to me and I can't wait to try it. It makes perfect sense. THANK YOU so much!! Kindest regards, Carolina


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