Friday, November 3, 2017

What's Happened to My Garden?

Hibiscus paramutablis 

If it's small consolation, I hope I'm not the only one who has had a lackluster year in their garden. I'm starting to realize that the unpredictability of climate change is making it darn hard to figure out what to plant where. Our weather year so far has been one strange trip indeed - only one hard freeze in early January followed by incredibly mild temperatures the rest of "winter," rains throughout spring AND summer, followed by almost drought-like conditions in September and October. We had our first freeze last weekend but now I'm wearing shorts and flip-flops. Is it any wonder the garden is suffering?

Former willow oak tree and numerous smaller trees that were in the way of the saw

I'll show you a few of the misfortunes in the garden. First up was the once large, old willow oak tree on the side of the carport. About two years ago I noticed some sawdust at the base and suspected borers. When I was finally able to get someone out to inspect, they determined the tree was on its last legs but they weren't sure it was the borers' fault (he said many old willow oaks were succumbing around town to something unknown). Unfortunately they had to cut several smaller trees that had created privacy in order to take this one down. It's hard losing such a tree!

Jalapeño plant with some kind of virus or fungal blight?

Every pepper plant I purchased in spring had some kind of virus or blight. I wouldn't be surprised if it was a fungal blight given the rainy summer we had. So although my pepper plants produced, they were not prolific.

The disaster that my front side garden became this fall

Because of several things happening in September and October, I somehow didn't realize how badly the drought was affecting this bed. Since I can't see this bed from my backyard, it was very neglected. Almost every single black-eyed Susan died (if you have experience with Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm', you know how hard it is to kill them!). And my 'Martha Gonzalez' rose was looking terribly puny so I ripped it out. The ornamental grasses hung in there though. Good thing since they had been divided early in the year so they weren't up to full capacity yet.

Fall fence garden looking kind of shabby

The garden along the side fence is always a challenging area. It sits under a giant shortleaf pine tree that likes to grab available moisture. But because this garden is also downhill from the rest of the backyard, it's the last to drain if we've had a lot of rain. So I have both moisture-loving plants like Joe-Pye weed that you can see bending over in the back, and plants that tolerate drought like Eryngium yuccifolium (rattlesnake master). I guess that means at least something will survive! In spring it looks okay with the purple coneflower blooming and then the daylilies. But sadly, I lost two roses here just this year. That makes three roses in one year, a new record for me.

Rock wall garden with sweet potato vine taking over

This year I didn't have to plant this sweet potato vine because the roots survived the mild winter. Small favors! More exciting to me though is the fact that the mild winter means I'll get lemons off my tree this year.

Back boxes in October

Not much happening in the boxes now except for the Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida) blooming away. One of my asters, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, commonly called fall aster, did its usual good job.

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium aka fall aster

Yay for fall asters! There have been some successful things in the garden.

Green Lynx spider with a successful catch. This is on a ‘Deuil du Roi Albert’ dahlia.

Like this kind of large spider on my dahlia. It's a Green Lynx spider. It will eat pollinators but such is the cycle of life. When I cut this bloom after it was spent, I discovered the spider had an egg sac on the old bloom that it was tending. So I carefully placed the cut bloom in the middle of its web hoping it would stay there. It did and here's the result!

Mama Green Lynx (can you see her?) with her babies

It's been fascinating to watch the lifecycle of this spider. But kind of hard to watch the slow death of several beloved plants. I'm worried that gardening is just going to be a matter of luck for me from now on. And I fear climate change is going to be our constant. Sigh...

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2017. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.


  1. It's always affirming to hear someone fess up to the difficulties and plant deaths all gardeners face from time to time -- or more often. I have no doubt your garden will get its groove back, but yes, there's a lot of trial and error with wonky weather patterns these days. It's also nice to see that even when the garden isn't looking the way we want, it's still a place of refuge for wildlife, right? Thanks for sharing, and here's to a lemon-producing winter!

    1. Yes Pam, thank goodness for the wildlife or I'd consider myself a total failure in the garden!

  2. We had an incredibly wet spring and then drought in Aug. and Sept. I could not believe it wasn't about to rain any day and put off watering until too late. I don't know any gardeners who doubt climate change. Pretty obvious in all our gardens.

  3. Indeed, this has been the hardest garden year ever! And despite the losses/despair, I do think you have lots to celebrate! Well--that's what I tell myself every day. Your garden is still lovely and we're all in the same weirdo weather boat and you're paddling along mighty fine!

  4. Good old Mexican mint marigold and fall aster. They seem to be failsafe. I pull them out by the thousands but maybe I should just be planting them everywhere so that it will be cocking a snoot at the unpredictable weather we are all having. I'm sorry about your tree loss. That is one enormous trees tump to deal with. Have you any ideas for what you will do in that area? Here's hoping we now fall into a more normal weather pattern-whatever that is.

    1. I'm thinking of extending the fence another 16 feet or so. Although I don't technically see that area much, when I go to our back patio I still feel exposed to the street and the backyard of the folks on the corner (where the frat boys currently live!).

  5. It's been a very strange growing season here in S. Wisconsin, too--I think the plants are confused! Your Fall Asters and Dahlias are so pretty!

  6. Oh, I agree - for us, it's hit or miss, especially in the spring or fall when seemingly anything can happen. We were having temps in the 90's here in September and I was harvesting tomatoes until only a couple of weeks ago!

    And I feel your pain on losing that tree - we have an ash that has been looking decidedly sick with many leafless branches in the past couple of years. The culprit is likely the emerald ash borer so it won't be long before it has to go.

    1. Sorry to hear you're dealing with the emerald ash borer, Margaret. :(


Thank you so much for visiting! I truly appreciate your visit and comments. If you ask me a question in your comment, I will answer it here.