Garden mysteries

There are simple questions concerning my garden that I cannot understand, try as hard as I may to find the answers.

HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW

By Kit Flynn
Columnist

A dear friend of mine grows lots of special daylilies, many being varieties that I also include in my garden. Yet, there is a tremendous difference: Her daylilies are far more profuse than mine. Her clumps expand until she must divide them. In other words, her daylilies are sublime while mine, while perfectly respectable, fail to achieve the same glorious heights.

Her soil contains more clay than does my loamy soil so at first, I thought that her daylilies relished the added moisture clay soil is so good at retaining. Yet, during a rainy growing season – and yes, we occasionally have them – my daylilies failed to expand in girth as hers do. Each of her daylilies spew forth twice the number of blooms than mine.

She doesn’t apply fertilizer to her daylilies so that doesn’t explain the difference. We both have many of the same varieties and while her younger garden probably provides more sun than does my aging one, that doesn’t explain fully the variance. The only difference lies in the quality of our soils yet I have seen daylilies prospering in sandy soils so I’m not sure clay soil is the key.

Looking up the requirements for daylilies, all the pundits say that daylilies need very little besides a sunny spot with well-draining soil, all of which I have provided. Yet, this mystery persists. If my plants were weak and paltry, I would recognize that perhaps daylilies didn’t belong in my yard. However, my plants are healthy looking, respectable and robust but they refuse to expand to an appropriate size warranting division.

I grow lots of roses, most of whom perform beautifully. However, this same friend grows one variety that refuses to grow for me. ‘Olivia Rose Austen’ is a relatively new introduction that David Austen named after his granddaughter, proudly stating it was the most disease resistant rose he had ever produced.

Now my ears always perk up when I hear that phrase “most disease resistant” pertaining to roses. Naturally I acquired two specimens as did my dear daylily friend. The result? Hers prospered, looking fabulous while mine remained on the pathetic side. Why won’t this disease resistant rose perform for me while other roses bloom with abandon? I have no idea.

Sometimes, however, hope rears its trusty head on occasion. For years I tried ‘Kim’s Kneehigh’ echinacea and for years this echinacea refused to thrive. Niche Gardens held me up as that rare specimen of a gardener who couldn’t grow echinacea. I tried the species, one that flopped. I tried others, all to no avail. When it came to echinacea, I could not, as a gardener, hold my head up high.

Then I discovered ‘Delicious Candy’. Finally, I found an echinacea that not only refused to look anemic but actually thrived for me. With puffed up feathers, I bought some more and finally the awful echinacea curse that hung over my gardening life dissipated, much to my relief.

However, the depressing refusal of ‘Kim’s Kneehigh’ to bloom hangs over me. I get leaves – echinacea leaves are not the reason to feature it in the garden – but the blooms remain elusive. This leaves me with the question: Why does one established variety elude me while another variety prospers in my garden?

I wish I had the answers.

Sometimes taking a “wait and see” stance serves you well with perennials. After all, Baptisia isn’t going to do anything until it’s established that taproot. Some rose varieties insist on taking their time whereas others jump into the fray immediately. Yet, after ten to fifteen years in the ground, my daylilies never perform like those belonging to my friend.

Some popular rose varieties bloom beautifully whereas others, ones such as ‘Olivia Rose Austin’ and ‘Beverly’ that bloom prolifically for others, scorn my touch. All my roses are treated the same so I have no idea why these garden guests attend my garden so reluctantly.

In a perfect anthropomorphized world, plants would tell us what is wrong. Obviously, that isn’t going to happen, forcing gardeners to accept the fact that some plants will work beautifully for them while others will for no fathomable reason spurn their hospitality. My advice is this: Do not take it personally.

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