Flexibility key to accepting new garden ideas

The steady rains of late March and April created lush and verdant spring green to our gardens. They also caused us to get frightfully behind schedule. Well, that is what I am blaming for my current dilemmas.

All the trees and shrubs that were to have been moved out of what one might call a "nursery holding area" are still there. And it is definitely too late to move them now.

So I have lots of room for vigorous vegetables like hubbard squash, winter squash, and probably a vast planting of peas for an autumn harvest. Bring on the trailing nasturtiums and rows of sunflowers of all types.

There are not many seeds left over in my seed packets this year. And this has helped to soothe my annoyance for not getting the permanent plantings done.

Gardens do teach us, if we are willing, to become more flexible with our ideas. Surely you have had the experience of envisioning the perfect scenario only to have one or more key elements fail. Perhaps it was the neighborhood dog that decided to chase the cat. The cat got away but your perfectly formed, first time ever slug-free and ready to bloom hosta was mashed beyond recognition.

Thank goodness that they have made so many different and exotic shades of color for the ever-blooming impatiens. They use to just be available in fire engine red or a sickly pink. Now there are wonderful salmon and dusky rose shades. Half a flat of those will fill the bare spot this year.

We have also been fortunate to see a dramatic increase in Asian pots for use within our gardens. Usually the Vietnamese ones are glazed with iridescent colors that shimmer in our northwestern light.

Don't be dismayed if some of these pots do not have holes drilled for drainage. It's very easy to do this if you want to fill the pots with plants. But I use them instead as glistening water features throughout my garden and also in those embarrassing holes created by plant failures.

It is difficult to get them positioned so the water is level at the top. But once that tedious job is done, I love the reflections that are thrown back into the landscape. The water has a gentle ripple with our summer breezes, and the cats enjoy sipping from them.

One evening, many summers ago, a guest asked me why and how the cats were choosing which pot to drink from. I told him that the one to his left was liver flavored, the one on the porch chicken, etc.

Also I realize that I am off-schedule this year because I have been spending a great deal of time heavily mulching all the planting beds. This simple act of planning ahead is worth more than an ounce of prevention. Even with abundant rains this spring, western Washington rainfall is still somewhat below normal.

This is not the first time nor will it be the last. Statistics show that the region has learned the lessons of conservation very well. But there is always more to learn and to do.

If you are using cedar grove compost materials for mulching you will find that when they become dry on the surface, any applied water seems to just roll off. I call this the dry sponge phenomenon. Have you ever picked up a dry sponge at the kitchen sink and put it under the faucet? Most of the water ends up on you as it bounces off the dry sponge.

The best way to counteract this is to gently spray a modest amount of water over the dry compaction. Wait for a while and then do your deep irrigation. Just as a slightly damp sponge will readily absorb water, the surfaced-dried compost needs to be slightly dampened before it can once again absorb water efficiently.

We may be challenged this year with a water shortage. Hopefully it can be seen as a viable learning experience for those of us who garden, whatever the challenges may be put before us.

I realize now that my nursery holding area will actually be a safer place for my trees and shrubs. I have had great amusement thinking up solutions for the bare areas.

I hope that these words have inspired new ways of thinking for you. We still remain so fortunate to be able to have such a relatively benign climate in which to pursue our garden scenarios.

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