Managing expectations

One achievement of a well-established garden is having a full, lush garden with constant interest throughout the season… or so that’s what my fantasy always said! I was looking for relief from feeling the need to have all the blank spaces filled with gorgeous foliage and color. Having always been on a budget, here are some of the ways I’ve been able to fill in spaces and provide interest without spending a bunch o’money.


Alcea rosea (hollyhock)

1. Growing from seed requires a bit more patience and planning. For example, here are the hollyhocks.  I have ‘Nigra’; the other is a pretty pink (as pictured).

Hollyhocks are biennial, and will bloom the second year only, in my experience. They self-seed, so after growing the first year, you can discard or move plant colors to a location that works for you. They are tall and well-behaved. These grew to be nearly 6’.  I’ll let the seed heads dry out and then replant in  another spot for blooms in 2015!

I do the  same to propagate Asclepias, butterfly milkweed. This is an important plant for monarch butterflies, and can be found alongside highways and roads. It is a protected plant in NY state. I have two varieties:


Asclepias curassavica

This is Asclepias curassavica or “red butterfly” which is taller than the other I have – Asclepias tuberosa. I let the plant die back and in the fall when the seed pods brown and split open, I replant the escaping seeds that have a winged feather attached to help disburse it. Once established, they’re perennial bloomers.

2. Another means is by purchasing packets of bulbs and tubers from places like HD. The caladium(s) (caladiae?) I planted earlier in the season are coming up. Very happy with how these are faring and will get more next year. The white and green ones would be especially nice. Inexpensive with in-season gratification for not a lot of cost or care. (P.S. This is how I have also built up my crocosmia collection too.

Caladium “bicolor” (don’t mind the garden ornament!)


Caladium “fancy”

3. By trading with friends and neighbors, you can propagate many species. The gooseneck loosestrife were gifted from another’s garden… the friend of a neighbor, actually. When in bloom and planted en masse, they are cheery and seem to bob their heads in unison when a breeze blows. A caution about this plant: it propagates like crazy and can be hard to control as it sends tubers out and will sprout up in shrubs and other plants.

Lysimachia clethroides "gooseneck loosestrife"

Lysimachia clethroides “gooseneck loosestrife”

Other plants I’ve received this way (and also shared in turn) are the irises that bloom in the spring: Two varieties from an aging neighbor who has now passed, and two smaller varieties from a dear artist friend.