Lessons, not Mistakes

African Mallow

What a difficult year to start a new garden. A darkness over everyday life. A terrible drought. An early frost.

Yet here is the African Mallow I bought from Annie’s Annuals. An optimistic plant, if there ever was one. It was about 10 inches tall when it went into its container, and now is 4ft tall and 3 ft wide , even after three frosty nights. It did not shiver in our chilly June, it started blooming and growing and blooming more. I am going to cut it back, and bring it inside. It has all the qualities I want in a tender perennial asked to adapt far from its original climate.

Its equals in spunk and toughness are Salvia “Amistad”, still blooming on October 7th, and Euphorbia “Diamond Frost”. Almost as good is Salvia “Mystic Spires”, a small version of “Indigo Spires” , but an earlier and better bloomer. The latter is a laggard that blooms so much later in the season that its best fall display comes too late in this climate.

My beloved salvia “Phyllis Fancy” never bloomed as its buds and leaves froze. It is of no use where frost comes this early. Being sentimental I have potted it up, hoping that next fall I can grow it in a container and protect it.

Of the three nicotiana I grew only one had merit. As lovely as the candelabras of “Only the Lonely” were, the plant was out of bloom more than in, and its big leaves browned and and left its tall stalk naked. Nicotiana elata, a smaller plant bloomed better and kept its foliage respectable, but was not my choice for next years lease on limited space.

Nicotiana “Mutabilis” also from Annie’s Annuals in California was the best, and as long as I garden I will find it indispensable. It needed to be clipped and cut back only once, and it is still going. Its only flaw is its need for staking of the main stem. Its leaves never browned or dropped.

But gone from next years plans – Cleome and Dahlias. Cleome , to steal a phrase from Winston Churchill ( describing something far sadder and more serious) was a” good starter, but a bad stayer”. I do not want plants that collapse in the first week of August, leaving giant open holes that can only be cured by stuffing in something large and potted or buying something expensive at the garden center that might resent its new situation and sulk.

My two large dahlias had one bloom each, then looked like boiled lettuce after the three cold nights. After the frost, as I was vacationing on Cape Cod, I saw the dahlias in the wonderful small front gardens of Provincetown. They were magnificent in the sea air.

But I will not waste space on them again.

Here are some photos of a garden in Sandwich on the Cape. It has bloomed out its Siberian Iris and daylilies, but it is still beautiful-

Published by talesofanashvillegardener

Professional gardener, Experimental Cook. Constant Reader

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