For years I grew a handful of varieties of dahlias. I was particularly fond of the dark leafed types with single flowers, and mostly I avoided those with oversized and double blooms that seem a little garish to me. Dahlias are not cold hardy in my garden, so the tubers required lifting and overwintering in the unheated garage if I wished to keep them from one year to the next. This is not a complex process, but it must be accomplished before the tubers are frozen. I’m at my gardening best when I can plant and forget, so, as is too often the case when something in the garden must be done by a deadline or there will be dire consequences, there are no more dahlias.
Now, in summer, I occasionally miss the brightly colored blooms and I think about planting more, but I wonder if I can possibly be more responsible in the future. I dig the massive elephant ear bulbs out each autumn after the foliage has been nipped by frost, and certainly the small dahlia tubers are more easily dug and stored. In fact, I should admit that in recent years I’ve not gotten around to digging the monstrous ‘Thailand Giant’ elephant ears, so I fear I’m becoming less conscientious rather than more. There will be plenty of time over the winter to sleep on this one, to make up my mind and still have time to order and plant for next summer. In August, I think it’s worth another try, but I might be more realistic when I consider it in February.
I have great success planting most everything, but there are a few plants that I’ve sworn off, after repeated failures. I will not plant another tickseed (Coreopsis), though these are simple to grow, and can only be killed with great effort, it seems. Some gardeners claim that ‘Moonbeam’ is weedy and nearly invasive, but I’ve killed it several times. I would grow it again if I knew there was a reasonable chance for success, but there’s not, I’m afraid. I’ve tried the fine leafed ‘Moonbeam’ and ‘Zagreb’, and a few of the more broadleafed varieties, all with the same result. So, why bother?
For several years I was enamored with the perennial sunflowers on the dry bank below the koi pond in the rear garden, but rarely did they survive a third year, and seldom a second. These were not as hopeless for me as the tickseeds, but it is disappointing to continually lose a plant that you presume to be trouble free and so simple that even a child could grow it. The sunflowers were most delightful at the peak of summer’s heat when little else is flowering, but I refuse to replant a perennial every other year when there are so many that live almost forever without any attention at all.
The first of the toad lilies is blooming, and though ‘Sinonome’ isn’t the most floriferous, it has excellent foliage and it has spread nicely to fill a spot bordering a stone patio. ‘Sinonome’ will flower for most of two months, beginning several weeks before other toad lilies and ending with the others in early autumn. I have no trouble growing toad lilies, except for white and yellow flowered cultivars that were purchased through mail order in small sizes that wouldn’t tolerate the usual neglect given to all other new plants. I’ve discovered that deer will eat toad lilies when everything else is sprayed with a repellent and they are not, and after they’ve been nibbled the result is that they set buds later and begin flowering several weeks later. No big problem, but it’s best to spray them to keep the deer away.
I’m concerned that the late season Tatarian daisies (Aster tataricus ‘Jindai’, below) might be overwhelmed by the ‘Tardiva’ (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’) and Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) that have flourished in this cool summer. In prior years the vigorous and tall growing aster was more often the culprit in bullying its neighbors, but a woody tree or shrub will usually triumph over a perennial, and it is the gardener’s responsibility to keep the path clear so these can coexist.
Now, I can hardly push my way through the tangled branches, and the path to the clumps of Tatarian daisies is further complicated by its proximity to the large koi pond. Various this’s and that’s arch over the pond’s edge, and from the pond over the boulders, so that the route around is quite treacherous. Not dangerous, of course, since the fall is only into several feet of water, but still I’d prefer not to tumble into the snake infested water. This is the side of the pond where the resident water snake (or possibly two) seems to have fled to for shelter as my wife and I badgered it enough so that it moved on from the other side of the pond where the koi are fed.
The snake (or snakes) are not poisonous, but I’m more comfortable confronting them on dry ground, not up to my neck in the koi pond. In any case, I’ve not ventured deep into the snarl of hydrangeas to see if the daisies will poke up through to flower in a few weeks. They’ve been there as long as I can recall, which isn’t actually too very long, but it would be a shame for them to disappear.