Garden Winners and Losers


First, he ate at the feeder ...

First, he ate at the feeder …

Now, he headed our way!

Now, he is headed our way!

On this Thursday in May, I indulged a bit. I still have end-of-year work to do, but devoted today to personal pastimes. For several hours this morning, that meant puttering around in my garden, partly cutting out things that had died.

It was a very hard winter, and although the winter of 2014 is well behind us now, I’m still dealing with its legacy.

For example, one of my redbud trees mostly died. It has a few shoots at the base, so I only cut out 99 percent of this 8-year-old tree. I am surprised it expired after surviving so many winters well. Two other redbuds, thankfully, pulled through.

What else died?

A dead tree.

A dead tree.

A Hawthorne tree. That was, for me, the most painful loss. The dead tree was of the save vintage as the redbud (they both came in the same Arbor Day Foundation group). I actually placed among the top photographers in a “call of the colors” contest in the local newspaper last fall with a photo of leaves of this tree. It never bloomed—it struggled and still was not large enough, having lost about 2/3 of its growth in the previous winter—but I was hopeful. A Hawthorne tree is not an unmixed blessing—they live up to the “thorn” part of their name—but they are very pretty. No more. It’s dead, Jim. I had even planned to ask you, dear blog readers, to help me choose a replacement—but I already got it. An unusual redbud—unusual in that it has almost red leaves. Picked it up at the store today—tomorrow the Hawthorne comes out, the redbud goes in.

Several flowering bushes. I don’t recall their names, their tags were lost—but two bushes in the garden at the base of the retaining wall were bone dead.

The butterfly bush. These bushes are iffy anyway, and often have to be replaced. I bought a new one. I love butterflies and this kind of bush lives up to its name—producing mid-summer flowers that draw lots of butterflies.

Several burning bushes. They did not die of cold. They were attacked by rabbits. They also aren’t technically dead, since sprouts are coming from their bases, but all the old grown is gone.

Bluebell in bloom. Not all plants suffered.

Bluebell in bloom. Not all plants suffered.

The jury is still out on a few plants. Some Clematis came back, some seems dead. Of two new crab apple trees, one came bath with gusto, one is still MIA and presumed DOA. Three hibiscus bushes are being coy, but may not be dead—there are buds. There are lively looking buds on the sweetgum tree, but it has not leafed out even though all the oaks are awake, and oaks are usually the last trees. We’ll see.


Two new hostas. Above, the one that has been around longer. Below, this poor struggling plant was buried under wet leaves, but I rescued it today.


So part of gardening today was the unpleasant job of dead plant removal. Still, later on there was the buying of new plants. And many things are doing well—I think I have new bluebells that have appeared this year. They don’t look like they’ll bloom, but that’s OK if they really are bluebells. Asian lilies that my two 3-year-old grandchildren helped plant are coming up well.


Cobra lily? I think so, and don’t know what else this might be. Below, a young cherry, one of 4 threes that cost us a total of $5 last year. Only 2 survive, but were still a bargain.


I put in two hosta roots in a front garden, and thought only one came up. But yesterday, I moved some matted leaves and the other was under there, trying. I hope I uncovered it in time, but hostas are tough and it doesn’t look dead, so I think there is reason to be optimistic.

And so another garden season beings in earnest. Or in Cedar Rapids.


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