Gardening is not an instant fix

I am learning that some plants are taking a while to settle down in this garden. I don’t know if it is the site or the soil but some plants just don’t do much the first year apart from exist, if I am lucky. It is only when they get their roots down that they grow much. I am not an impatient sort and am happy for plants to take their time but it is slightly odd how long some things take to grow here.

Of course some plants are always slow starters, others have struggled because they are probably being pushed too far in being planted here.

Albizia ‘Summer Chocolate’ is probably the same size it was when I bought it, about ten years ago. It spent a good part of its life in a pot but has been in the ground here for three years. Planted to the south of a cotonester hedge it gets as much sun and shelter as I can provide, but it really wants a warmer spot. I almost dug it out this spring, to put it out of its misery but by the time I got round to it it had put out some feeble shoots. Now it is looking so good that I am ashamed to have had such a thought. But I know that by the end of winter it will look a poor little scrap again. Perhaps, as the hedge grows, it will get more shelter and improve. I would love to see the pink, powder-puff flowers but that may be a dream too far. It is nestled between two roses with rather glaucous leaves and it would be wonderful to see them all flourishing.

Rather more pedestrian, but one of my favourite plants, nandina has struggled, largely because of the wind which strips the leaves in winter. It has taken a while to get going again this summer but my patience has been rewarded with new leaves and several flower clusters. Expecting these to set berries would be far too much, but one day perhaps.

The asters and hardy chrysanthemums that I was so desperate to add to the garden are beginning to show some colour. I used to grow them, in my youth, and I was eager to enjoy these rather old-fashioned plants in the garden here. I do understand why they are not more popular because some do take a interminable time to perform. They are green, with little excitement, all summer when other plants are paying their way. They are a bit of work too and some get mildew, and mine are just showing signs – to be expected with the soil so dry. But the flowering period is not always late and some have been in bloom for months already.

Eurybia divaricata ‘Eastern Star’ is a new one to me and I have been enthralled by the display of fragile-looking flowers that started in August. I confess that none have been staked – next year they will get better care when I don’t have so much construction to do. So the stems have flopped with the weight of the blooms but this has encouraged new shoots from the base with later flowers. The ‘blooms’ open with yellow centres that age to brown and completely cover the foliage. I am delighted with it.

Of course, Aster amellus is best known for blooming early and for providing colour for many months.

‘Brilliant’ is almost pink and has been looking good for ages.

Aster radula ‘August Sky’ blooms just when you would expect and although there are lots of brown, fluffy seed heads now, these are not ugly and there are still lots of flowers. Both these are short, at about 30cm.

Although it is not common, aster experts unanimously praise Aster pyrenaeus ‘Lutetia’ for its neat habit and crisp flowers. They are a delightful silvery lilac and there is no mildew, in common with all those mentioned so far. The long, crisply coloured ray florets and pale discs make it look refreshing and bright.

Towering above these are the Novae-angliae asters, though they are not asters at all now, of course. There is not such a wide variation in colour or habit and none are dwarf (thank goodness) compared with the New York (Novi-belgii) asters.

I don’t like these as much as the Novi-belgii asters but they are already making a splash and they don’t get mildew – a big advantage.

‘Violetta’ is one of the darkest. The advantage of this is that the ugly, brown dead ‘flowers’ don’t detract from the fresh blooms as much.

‘Lou Williams’ is a good red/pink and less strident than the more common ‘Andenken an Alma Pötschke’ which is bright but such a searing colour I never know what to do with it!

The first of the Novi-belgiis is ‘Elizabeth Hutton’. She is big and bold and a rich pink, and a taster of what more is to come.

5 Comments on “Gardening is not an instant fix”

  1. Annabel finnegan
    September 19, 2021 at 8:49 am #

    Tell me about plants that take ages to settle and flower! I planted geum and gaillarda from early sowing and no flower, hopefully next year. On the plus side the perovskia has at long last bloomed (sown in 2019!). I nearly binned the star jasmine that is struggling for the last 3 years, but instead gave it one last chance and moved it to a more sheltered and even sunnier spot where it actully looks happy but completely out of site and smell from me!
    Wind is my big challenge here too, still praying for my magnolia ( planted in 2018) to one day flower and look healthy rather than looking like it’s coming out of the tumbler dryer

    • thebikinggardener
      September 20, 2021 at 11:16 am #

      Some plants need a winter chill to promote flowers: whether you sow most aquilegias in January or June they wont bloom till the next summer. But I would have expected gaillardias to bloom. Well done for growing perovskia from seed – and that is not long to wait for a shrub to bloom. I have sympathy for your wind problem! I have only planted magnolias in the most shelter I can afford them and they are not too bad. I have my first flower buds on my mimosa but as most of the leaves get ripped off in winter I will be interested to see if the buds survive till spring.

  2. tonytomeo
    September 19, 2021 at 5:09 pm #

    ‘Summer Chocolate’ is not as vigorous as the straight species. Even very healthy specimens grow somewhat slowly, and do not get very big. That is actually an advantage where the scale and aggressive roots of common silk tree would be problematic. Since the particular specimen was confined for a few years, it likely needed to take some time to disperse roots and recover from confinement, which is normal. If it grew well this year, it has likely recovered, and should be as happy next year. However, it does not grow as vigorously as the straight species.

    • thebikinggardener
      September 20, 2021 at 11:13 am #

      I think you are right about being in a pot for a long time but it is also because it takes a long time for it to start to grow in spring – it makes hardy hibiscus look impulsive!

      • tonytomeo
        September 21, 2021 at 6:48 pm #

        There is a young specimen in the neighborhood here that was staked up on a trunk, like a ‘normal’ tree. It seems quite healthy, but the interesting foliage and bloom are up out of view, on a dinky canopy. To me, they seem to be prettier if branched down low, with the foliage and bloom visible from above or at eye level. Larger trees of the straight species are nice also, with their moderate shade. My favorites lived at the old San Jose City Hall. They provided light shade for the motorcourt plaza below, and their grassy green and flat topped canopy, which was sometimes in bloom, was visible from the third, fourth and fifth floors.

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