There comes a time when one is gardening, that one realizes that gardening lessons are being taught by the garden, and it is time to ‘listen up’.
For instance, I love hostas. I’ve seen plantings that were lush and gorgeous, and contrary to what some writers of articles may say, the flowers of hostas are just as lovely as the foliage, and much to be appreciated. I’ve seen photos in those same articles and in catalogues and oh, my, how striking. But not in my garden. In my garden, the slugs and snails feast, no matter what I do. I have applied diatomaceous earth, crushed pecan hulls, everything that is supposed to prevent snails and slugs, and still the holes in the leaves appear, still whole leaves disappear, still the plants fail to thrive. So, in the midst of concerted effort to get an accumulation of too many plants in pots out of those pots and into the ground, this year we are potting up the hostas. Simply took them out of the ground, shook the roots to get rid of any hidden pests and potted them up and voilà – they are doing better.
I came to this conclusion shortly after I rescued my beloved heuchera sanguinea, which is a lovely plant I prefer to the more modern heucheras with colored foliage. Oh, I have nothing against many of the plants with colored foliage, it’s just they do not thrive for me. The sanguinea, with perky green foliage, thrives and blooms and is quite tough, unless they are in the ground, where they, too, are salad for the same snails and slugs that enjoy hostas. It should be noted that in the same bed where the heucheras and hostas were planted in the ground, ferns and calla lilies and an elephant ear and Japanese roof iris all live happily and unconsumed. The heucheras are now thriving in their pots. One plant was nibbled right down to the ground and indeed I thought it was lost, until one little leaf peeked through. I immediately rescued it to a pot and am being rewarded by its courage and its determination.
If you pay attention to the plants, observe their reactions to microclimates and their responses to too much sun or not enough, too much water or not enough, everyone is much happier. I seem to have to be frequently re-taught that while self-watering pots are very useful, particularly in a climate where the summers spend way too much time above the 100-degree mark, they are not useful for all plants. It appears that fibrous begonias and those same hostas and heucheras are delighted with the self-watering pots, but those same pots can be death to daylilies and amaryllis. We nearly lost a new daylily, which had thrived heartily all fall and winter and early spring, to such a pot. And I knew better. But when the yellow leaves came, I thought, ‘hmmm, thirsty.” Finally the memory bulb lit and we stopped watering it, let it dry out a bit, then put it in the ground, with, thank goodness, a good root system even though the plant leaves were distressed and I had to cut them back. Now it is putting out new growth and I go by to check it and give it an encouraging thought, as well as enough, but not too much, water and a little food. And all my amaryllis are going to be moved out of plastic self-watering and into clay pots. And all those clay pots are going out into a shady area where they’ll get lots of light and chance for growth. And then we’ll wander around the garden, which is most glorious early in the ‘coolth’ of the morning, and see what else we may have been missing by not paying attention.