Constructive criticism

Our to-do list in September is blissfully short. The gardens are as lush as can be and just need to be coaxed along until frost or until we’re ready to start moving plants around (musical perennials) and preparing for winter. It has been so dry lately that the weeds have slowed down slightly, so we’re left with more contemplative tasks such as deadheading here and there and watering everywhere. We can take the time to observe the activity and make any little tweaks and adjustments that enhance our experience of the gardens. (After shooting this quick video of a hummingbird working a blue porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) in the middle of a sea of gaura (Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’), I edited out some of the gaura to improve the view of the hummingbird’s favorite plant for the next observer.)

All season long we look at the gardens with critical eyes and make adjustments as needed but September is when we collect our thoughts. Gail leads the charge in assessing successes and identifying problems that we’ll spend the winter trying to solve. For instance, in the Rose Garden (pictured at the top of this post), which everyone has applauded for being in constant bloom since May, we all agree that there might be an over-abundance of Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ and Zinnia ‘Profusion Apricot’. In the case of the latter, Gail asked the volunteers to deadhead with a heavy hand to keep the plants (they’re huge!) from being solid blocks of orange. We’ll replace the zinnias with something else next year (we always like to switch it up anyway) and will think about taking out a clump or two or four of the anise hyssop. And looking at the picture above, I wonder if we shouldn’t also move the Agastache ‘Acapulco Orange’, which have overwintered there for the past few years and become enormously healthy, a little further back from the edges.

In the North Garden we’re still thinking about formality and are talking about moving the coneflower (Echinacea spp.) out and delphinium spires in. We love the tuteurs though and are entertaining the notion of introducing other formal elements such as containers, urns, or clipped boxwood balls.

the northeast bed in the North Gardena long view of the long west bed in the North Garden

The other reason we spend time assessing the gardens now is so that we can make wish-lists of plants for next year’s gardens and start taking cuttings of our favorite tender perennials to winter over in the greenhouse. We need to make a plan because it’s very hard not to want to take a bazillion cuttings of everything and greenhouse space is always at a premium. That said, this year it might be harder than ever to hold back because we’ll finally have a dedicated space in which to grow all of our cuttings and seedlings. I have been been remiss in keeping you up to date with the progress on the new planthouse. It’s coming right along and the builder (Stephen Wacha of Heritage Greenhouse Builders) expects it to be complete around the end of the month!

The Planthouse 9-5-14Inside the Planthouse looking towards the Propagation House

Are you spending time assessing and critiquing your garden right now too? What kinds of changes are you thinking about? Care to share any constructive criticism of our gardens?