Friday, 8 November 2013

We all love a trier.....

....don't we?

A few months before I began blogging - I was in a sad place.  Whilst Summer 2013 will be forever remembered as the perfect summer (here in Scotland at least), the previous summer will be forever remembered as one of the wettest on record.  Gardeners in Scotland are a real hardy bunch, taking on the chin, whatever the weather throws at us.  Summer 2012 was, fingers crossed, an exception.  I've a small area in the garden that does get overly wet during the April rains and a few plants do take it in their stride.  With no long term break in the weather the ground was so saturated it had nowhere else to go and the complete top end of my garden and shed was under water for a heck of a long time. 

It may not surprise you that I've no pictures of the demise of my sunny border - I've gone through all my photos and the only one I can come up with is of Mrs Blackbird enjoying a welcome bath.

I watched on an almost daily basis as plants began drowning - frantic efforts were made to rescue what I could.  A few of the shrubs were too large for any containers I had to hand.  Besides, there would be little point in going out to purchase more pots - money would have been better spent replacing the plants.  Which I did do and am more than pleased with how the border looks this year, despite the fact that they are all moisture lovers, they have coped well with this dry summer.

A few of the plants I managed to save have flowered well this year and thrive in their new homes but there was one or two that I had almost given up on and had it not been for my sheer neglect might otherwise have ended up in the compost bin.

One such example is Cotinus coggygria Golden Spirit - it was not a mature plant and easily removed from the ground.  The spade went in - accompanied by a squelching sound - out popped a sodden mass of roots.  The tops of the stems were droopy and very soft.  The leaves were all but gone!  I took a chance - I removed all the compacted wet soil from around the roots and cut the stems right back, leaving only a few inches of old wood.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained right?  Potted up and popped into a sheltered spot - I would see what transpires.  It was left and come spring - there was still no sign of life.  I did the scrape test on the stems and they were indeed green.  A sure sign of life.  It took well into June until it produced new leaves.   It has made steady progress all summer and whilst it may not be the most splendid looking plant it once was - it's alive! 


Cotinus coggygria Golden Spirit
It's partner in crime - Cotinus coggygria Grace, however was not so lucky.  She was a much bigger specimen was left in situ but sadly didn't make it.  She has been replaced but certainly not in the same position.  Seen here in all her glory with a beautiful West Country Lupin - Red Rum.  Coincidently, they never made it either.


Stokes' Aster (Stokesia laevis) is a hardy evergreen perennial which can and will flower from mid summer until the first severe frosts here in Scotland.  Preferring acidic conditions it thrives or should that read thrived! in my garden.  However, it does not like waterlogged conditions and will succumb to root rot if conditions are not adequately drained.  It disappeared completely and was given no more thought, as you do.  That was until mid summer and few tiny green shoots appeared.  Dare I hope that against all odds it had survived.  As it became apparent that it had survived and not wanting to risk loosing it again, I lifted the tiny remains.  It didn't come away very well and indeed the small root ball crumbled in my hands.  There really was little to work with and I planted what was left in an area I knew it would be left well alone.  I watched as it died back yet again - gone!  Hey ho!, that's gardening, right?  As I was clearing up some fallen leaves and other debris yesterday - look what I found, the distinct flower stem a dead giveaway. 

Stokesia laevis
In late spring 2011, I planted a pretty little Saxifrage - Saxifraga fortunei Black Ruby.  It wasn't until I got it home that I read it was fussy, like the Stokes' Aster - moist but well drained situation, the winter wet will do for it!  It never thrived and disappeared.  I allowed a nearby Ajuga to take over it's spot - after all it was doing remarkably well (as they do) and was far more reliable.  I did a double take the other day - as I spotted those distinctive deep purple leaves reaching from under the Ajuga.  I will leave it there for winter - perhaps the Ajuga will provide shelter from the rain and wet this winter - time will tell.


Saxifraga fortunei Black Ruby and Ajuga Burgundy Glow
Many moons ago, when the builders were finished my kitchen extension I planted a couple of clematis either side of the back kitchen door.  Their first year they were gorgeous (no pictures).  They never did return.  Autumn 2012, I revamped one of the little plots - mainly with spring flowering Primula and bulbs all under planted beneath a golden Physocarpus.  By now the Physocarpus is dropping it's leaves but I took notice that something had began twining it's way up through the branches.  My first thought was bindweed as the Clematis had long gone from my memory.  Closer inspection - yes, Clematis, I'm sure it is.  Which one it actually is will have to wait until next year, providing it comes back again, that is!  I've raked out a box of old plant labels and have determined it's either C. Scartho Gem or The Duchess of Edinburgh.  I can't for the life of me remember which was planted where!

recovering Clematis

The last trier on my list today is a pretty little Skimmia, S. japonica Snow White - to be precise.  It really never thrived in the garden.  Soil ph wasn't the issue, I suspected that it too had suffered in soil that was a bit too waterlogged.  It began dropping it's leaves at an alarming rate and the stems too were soft and very droopy.  When I dug it out the ground, my suspicions were confirmed, it was drowning. It spent the remainder of 2012 and 2013 in a pot of ericaceous compost and has slowly turned itself around.  The leaves are not the darkest of green they once were, I've recently read that a magnesium deficiency might be the problem.  I gave it a dose of Epsom salts a few weeks back and I'm not entirely convinced it's making much of a difference.  Perhaps I was a bit late in coming to the party with that remedy, of course, if you have any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Skimmia japonica Snow White
Writing this post has made me wonder, especially as I was going through the box of old labels, just how many of the plants I promptly removed from the garden suspecting them to be dead or dying could have been saved with a little TLC or even neglect as has been the case in a few instances. 

Of course, to many of you, I'm probably stating the obvious.  The term, teaching my grandmother how to suck eggs comes to mind.  It does go to show that plants are much more resilient and determined than we (I in particular) give them credit for. 

34 comments:

  1. Plants often do have a fierce determination to survive. March of 2012 we spent a glorious week on the shores of Loch Ness, Warm and sunny days where we could go for a walk without a coat, The week after the places we visited were cut off by snow - we were really lucky with the weather as the summer was generally a washout that year in most places.

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    1. Sue - Loch Ness, a beautiful place to visit. Boy, were you lucky choosing the right week to spend there.

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    2. We even got a photo of the monster,

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  2. Those are such interesting stories of plant survival. It is amazing how plants will try to find a way back even if it takes a year or so. Your patience (and neglect) has been rewarded.

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    1. Shirley, this lesson has made me realise not to give up so readily in future!

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  3. It is so satisfying when a seemingly-dead plant finally has survived. These are the good things of gardening.

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    1. Janneke, extremely satisfying - we all love a happy ending don't we :)

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  4. I never cease to be surprised at how tough some plants are and at their sheer bravery as they stand up to the elements, glad you managed to recue some of your plants Angie,
    hmm I am in Scotland and the summers up here have been the reverse of yours, after 8 months of rain 2011/12 we had a very welcome 3 month drought, May, June and July 2012, then the rains started again in August 2012 and more or less kept going as we had a very wet spring, summer and autumn and winter doesn't seem likely to be any better, at the moment my garden in flooded in places and very, very wet I just don't want to go out there, Frances

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    1. Sorry to read you are flooded Frances - I'd not like to be out there either. Strange how our experience of 2012 is the complete opposite. I know that friends down south were also complaining about the wet in 2012 - ever since the Hosepipe Ban!

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  5. Hurrah for the Stokesia and other survivors. I have also on occasion thought that a plant was lost, only to see it reappear, sometimes a season or two later.

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    1. It's nice when that happens, isn't it Jason. I've learnt my lesson and won't give up so readily in future.

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  6. I visited Scotland for the first time in July 2012. Had a horrid day of rain at the Edinburgh Botanical Garden, but otherwise we did okay. Glad to see so many of your plants made it through the tuff times. Love that 'Golden Spirit'.

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    1. EBG is a wonderful place to visit whatever the weather! Glad you had a good time.

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  7. It is wonderful to plants overcome all odds to make it through such harship to bloom again.

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    1. Charlie, wonderful indeed! Thanks for visiting my blog.

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  8. I think most plants are determined to survive, despite us gardeners! A few times when I have tried moving things, the plant that I had moved has died, but the roots left in the soil have survived, to be even better than before. Love the colour of your Red Rum lupin, such a shame it didn't survive.

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    1. Pauline, I'm gutted the lupins didn't surpise. I've been unable to source them since. They were beautiful!

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  9. Hi Angie, successes and failures - that's gardening! When I think of all the things that died on me -which I don't do too often- I get depressed. My husband secretly rescued plants I had written off and sometimes they made it, mind you, and I often have to listen to him reminding me of it. I ddo hope you'll never experience such a flooding but the weather is odd. We certainly are having a very wet year and two years ago the land was brown with drought. Have a good weekend :)

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    1. Annette, Good that your OH rescues things for you but not so good that you need to be reminded! Have a good weekend yourself.

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  10. Death and rebirth is a constant theme around here, so I read your stories with both interest and empathy. Another theme: there's always next year.

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    1. Ah, Always next year! I know it oh so well Ricki!

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  11. I've had plants that I just knew were dead rise again like Lazarus. Or maybe they were just zombie plants out for revenge. Either way, I'm always impressed with their ability to bounce back. Hopefully, future summers will have the rain spread out a bit more. I also have Stokes aster in my garden. They are indeed tough plants. :)

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    1. We are used to the rain here in Scotland but don't want quite so much again! Stokes aster is a lovely little plant isn't it

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  12. Gardening always brings supprises with it. Late in spring a Malva did not give any sign of live but two weeks later when I wanted to dig it out because I thought it was gone a saw a tiny green leaf coming out of the bark and this summer it brought me more flowers than it did before.
    Have a wonderful sunday Angie.

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    1. Marijke - it seems we all love a plant that surprises us. Glad to read about your Malva.

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  13. Enjoyed reading about all your trials and tribulations Angie. Never had much success with Cotinus planted in the ground up here in Aberdeen, not bad at all planted in a tub and overwintered in the unheated greenhouse. We have been lucky having free draining soil, I wonder what is lying ahead for is with our Cheshire move.

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    1. I think the issue with the Cotinus is the drainage - Grace survived for a few year with no bother! I hope your Cheshire garden has perfect conditions.

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  14. Hi Angie, what a lovely advert for the sheer dogged determination to survive so many plants demonstrate. So glad so many of your favourites came back from the dead. That problem with plant labels is one I recognise, I am trying to be more disciplined in my new garden.

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    1. Janet - good luck with your new regime and plant labels. I always do start out with good intentions!

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  15. Sometimes all they need is a change in conditions or a bit of loving attention from us humans.

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  16. Hi Angie, interesting post as it often amazes me, after parts of the garden have been flooded, just how well the plants survive and come back again in the spring. Cotinus coggygria 'Grace' is one of my favourite shrubs but is always a very late starter, everything else in the border can be growing away strongly even before the buds appear but when it does start it goes off like a rocket putting on about 4' of growth in the year. It is a loose grower so I virtually pollard it each season which means that I miss out on the flowers but make the most of the wonderful foliage.

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  17. I'm always surprised when a plants rises from the dead. But enough of them have that I don't ever dig out a 'dead' plant quickly. I let it sit a year or so. I think floods are some of the worst things for plants. We deal with droughts a lot here, but I would rather deal with it than with floods.

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  18. I lost many plants in my flooded areas...I replaced those that never surfaced and those that looked dead. I have been too quick to think a plant is dead instead of giving it time. I have learned since to be more patient although it is hard to do. I love how you have shown all the plants that were saved.

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  19. True that plants are much more resilient than we imagine. Skimmia is an interesting plant--I enjoyed seeing a couple of varieties at Helene's garden in London. While you were having floods, we were having drought last year, and now it's sort of switched. Strange.

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