Our friend Trudy liked to say – “If you can’t fix it, feature it!” And that is how my latest gardening adventure came about. Because of a hole in the wall. It all began when T.M. decided to replace the small downstairs bedroom window with a double pane, never imagining that 120 year old plaster could be so unforgiving. And so he cleverly decided to build a planter box around the new window, featuring by concealing whatever it was he was unable to fix. If you follow.
And since the latest garage sale had recently yielded two half barrels, I started creating plant combinations in my head and decided to start the day with a stop at the local nursery. The first tip-off that I was still thinking California and not yet attuned to my new clime, should have come when I noticed with some annoyance that what I had judged in May to be a splendid horticultural heaven was now dreary and mostly depleted. But I pluckily persevered, pulling and filling my cart with what I imagined to be appropriate partly shade and zone 3 tolerant plants, which also balanced color and harmony and various heights and textures. The second tip-off might have come if I had stopped to realize that I was the only customer in the place. And when I asked about lightweight planter soil for a wall box and whether they had an appropriate vine to add to the mix – the not busy clerk hesitated, looked at my cart, and asked if I didn’t want to settle for annuals. But I had picked HARDY perennials, I said, feeling somewhat proud that I had known enough to go for zone 3 and not 4. But if they were going into a planter and not into the ground, she said, there is no way they can and will survive the winter. Gardeners around here ONLY plant annuals in their containers. And they do it in May to get the most bang for their bucks. Of course. I should have thought of that. And here I was, not only with a cart full of perennials, but faced with only a few months to go, and the further annoyance of being directed to Impatiens as my lone and singular choice. And I won’t go so far as to say I loathe impatiens, but they have never been my plant of choice.
Needless to say, I thanked her for her help, mumbled something about being new to the area, didn’t dare admit I have a Master Gardener Certificate, and went home empty handed to re-group and re-think the hole in the wall planter.
And so, after some deliberation, we decided that I should combine some annuals with a few perennials, even if they DO succumb to the throes of winter, if only to satisfy our need to see the hole in the wall celebrated and properly adorned, and Home Depot was having an end-of-season Sale. We’ll see how it all works out.
My first choice in fact was something labeled “Swedish Ivy” and the tag said “weather tough, chosen to stand up to the toughest weather conditions”. But my Sunset Western Garden Book lists it as an inside or tropical tender vine and so I’m confused, as well as by the other two (also labeled “weather tough”) – Sweet potato vine and Jewels of Opar?
For one of the barrels I used fountain grass and double impatiens with licorice plants –
For the other – a Russian sage, more impatiens (oh well) and a ground cover that was not listed in any garden book of mine.
In fact, the plant names were most unfamiliar – “Joyas de Opar”, Hiedra Sueca”, “Batata”, “Floracion Verano-otonio” – on the Russian Sage and the Fountain Grass – and “Floracion primavera-verano” on the chartreuse ground cover. Home Depot, it seems, has out-sourced. But the plantings look good for now and I will say thank you to Trudy and to T.M., but the very best thing is that I have satisfied my inner planting fix.