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Garden Bliss & Blunder, Issue #002
August 07, 2021
Hello there,



Not a wedding or party date; but saving the date it rained on my garden or where I put that incredible bargain plant or moved this one leaving room for that one.

If I don’t keep track of what I do in my garden, come spring, I may pull up a tiny plant I spent all the previous summer nurturing, now wondering where it went. Ouch, I’ve done that.

I often sit on my deck, half a story above my garden, and see blank spots… or too much of one shade of green; maybe a spot needing more colour or texture; a larger leaf or smaller flower.. And of course I’ll remember what I paid for that plant, or when and where I planted it… right?

Not usually.

Before we go back to the date thing, consider this: A lot of science says do this, or don’t do that and mostly, it’s valid.

But there’s another layer here. Lab work creates a basis for serious (and not so serious) gardeners but we are “citizen scientists”.

We have our knees and noses in the dirt… different zones, plants, rocks and soil… and we see what can't be seen in a laboratory.

Keep track of the bugs, birds, bees and plants and what works or doesn’t in our gardens.… because no lab can do this.

Keeping track keeps us learning. Some things will teach us, jog a memory, remind us why and where we moved that plant and what worked or didn’t.

Save that date: in a scribbler, a three-ringed binder, scrapbook or a gorgeous Italian leather-bound journal with hand-tied vanilla coloured paper.

Every summer, I jot down little notes, scribble sketches, take photos, bundle tags and receipts and when those cold, dark winter days overwhelm, I lug them out and sort them; like treasures.

Every plant tag shows me a colour, a snippet of info or a memory. And if the plant dies, I need to know why. I keep track of rainy days so I know how much watering I did, or didn’t do.

My scrapbook has pretty tags, a bit of calligraphy and some poetry, but also how, why and where I planted that tree, shrub or rose and its success or failure.

It’s fun looking back how my garden changes; that first bit of green in the Spring, or what’s next in bloom, what bugs are snacking and what I need to do next.

Keeping track keeps me learning. A three-ringed binder is easy to add or move pages. Those plastic pages for business cards are great for plant tags. I can see both front and back; jogging my memory when I read my notes and forget what a plant looks like or its Latin name.

I note the date I planted that rose, when it blooms, how tall it gets and when it needs some attention and I also have my photos.

And saving receipts?

Adding up what I spend requires a stiff drink or a really good cup of coffee… but it’s a good reality check. Sometimes that bargain plant is more than worth it. FOR EXAMPLE: Some years ago when the “Itoh” Peony (one with the best traits of an old-fashioned peony and a tree peony) was first advertised, I found one rather by accident. The price was $25 instead of $100, so I bought it. I could take a risk for that price. The scruffy, hand-written tag just said “Cora Louise” - but research did the rest and what a beautiful bargain it has been.

Another reason to keep receipts?


Some nurseries give guarantees for a tree or shrub if it dies. With the receipt you'll have a better chance for a refund when you can show how you planted and cared for it.

But receipts rarely name the plant so make your notes on them and you'll know what you bought for how much.


It pays to do your research before you shop. Carry a wee note book or put your wish-list in your phone.

Here are some questions to help you shop:

- will it grow in my zone?

- how much sun or shade does it need?

- how much water, feeding, pruning? - how hardy is it? (Meaning, will I have to overwinter it)?

If I have these answers, am prepared to take it on and the price is right, it goes home with me and sometimes I take a chance anyway just because I love it.

It’s in every gardener’s genes to accept a challenge or two for a stunning bloom.

Take regular photos of your garden and date them; it changes daily.

You’ll be surprised,looking back to see what happened when you weren’t looking. A photo sees more than your eye can ever take in.

So save those dates, tags, receipts, pictures and notes. It's really the history - the story - of your garden.


If it seems like I sit on my deck a lot, you'd have to define "a lot".

For me, it's looking, thinking and planning time. And recently, I noticed this sad little ‘island’ or triangle bed.

Hmm, some nice plants: Japanese Iris (that don’t bloom, a lot of ‘hens and chicks” (not my favourite but they fascinate me and remind me of my other Mother)… some random bits of Sedum, a few pieces of Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechioa)and a new Foam Flower (Tiarella)in lime green.

Oh and a sort of cage. Once put there to save a tender little “Lewisia” from the squirrels.

There is a lot of colour in the small beds nearby and behind but this bed seemed all one colour and a bit boring, poor thing.

I moved the Iris to a damper spot and replaced them with some soft grey blue grasses i rescued from another part of the garden where they were lost… little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium).

And of course, those rude "hens and chicks" decided to bloom… they are so awkward with a sweet little bloom on top of a long stem - then the host plant, supporting this tall reddish bloom, dies and falls away from the rest. Seems cruel,but Mother Nature knows best.

I wanted my eye to go from this little rain garden i call The Dragon Dog Bed, to the wee island beyond and then go on to the back of the garden…

.. to do this, I needed texture, shape and colour to flow from one bed to the next.

Here’s what I added: Variegated lavender (top left of cage) 4 Heuchera in shades of deep burgundy, red and copper - all echoing the colours of the rain garden.

I repainted the cage, set on a piece of found marble and a Blue Foo Dog behind.

This rain garden is lower than the rest of the garden and is nice and moist…. The Japanese Blood Grass loves it. (Imperata cylindrica rubra)and so does the Forest Grass as does the tapestry of sedum.

You can now just see the new plants in the triangle bed beyond and how your eye moves from here to there and beyond.

Look for ways to add texture, colour and shape to your garden.

Maybe different shades of one colour threaded throughout, letting your eye rove seamlessly from one space to another…. stopping only briefly to take in something intriguing but not stopping because it jars your eye.

I love blue - that intense cobalt that lets you sink into its depths. I seek garden pieces both beautiful and useful - like a birdbath, a pillar topped with a gorgeous plant and a tower of blue glass.

… and even a blue hippo - what garden doesn’t need a hippo?

…or a French blue bistro set for morning coffee?


Photos have an uncanny way of making it easy to see what could be better or what is lovely as is.


In the early days of my garden makeover I inherited a useful(but ugly) garden shed. I was giving a talk on garden design and sharing things we can do to start where we are - with what we have.

... and i used this photo to illustrate what the poor shed looked like AFTER I tidied it up and put the doors back on.

But what i didn't see, was the big yellow ladder on the roof - until I took the photo. Egads...

Oh, but with a little bit of paint and some yard sale gingerbread - voila...

And so, "save those dates", your notes and receipts

... and take lots of photos.

Bye for now....Lucy and I are off to the deck...

And thanks again for subscribing to my newsletter... I hope you find something that makes you think, or that you can use to give your garden the bliss you deserve.... and never be afraid of the blunders.... they too, have lessons.

Until next month, feel free to pass this on or tell a friend.

Please go out and enjoy your garden, but if it's a rainy day, go back to my site - see what else is there.



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