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anntn6b

Gardening for a Lifetime- application to OGR gardens

anntn6b
12 years ago

I bought Sydney Eddison's book, Gardening for a Lifetime, in hopes that I could learn from her having to downsize her garden.

I find that the book is better read a chapter at a time with time off to try to figure how her obsession with perennials fits into my rose collection.

There are obvious similarities, but the background difference is that she has always had help with the tending of her gardens- to the extent that I had to get over some serious envy.

Right now I'm chuckling that her praise of Autumn Joy Sedum is as applicable to the Hudson Valley as it is down here. (And there's not a rose mentioned in her index.)

Has anyone else read this book from a POV of trying to control their own (rose) gardening future?

Comments (39)

  • harborrose_pnw
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    No, but I have a hold on it at the library. You're not making me want to buy it, Ann.

  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    So far the roses are controlling me.....

    I'm afraid reading a gardening book that isn't focused on roses would be a major disappointment for me. Also, compared to perennials, roses are a walk in the park. All that deadheading of dozens of teeny flowers on one bush, shorter blooming season and often fickle nature (they love to dry up and die on me) is just too much for me. I stick to a few stalwarts because I don't really have a green thumb and roses are more forgiving of my ineptness. I'm in awe of those of you here who can reel off the names of dozens of companion plants that you grow, but that will never be me.

    Ingrid

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  • holleygarden Zone 8, East Texas
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I have heard of this book, but not read it, even though this topic crosses my mind frequently. I am still enlarging my garden areas, but try to remember to design with low maintenance in mind (sometimes I forget, or buckle to peer pressure).

    The attached essay has some good lessons. Although roses are not named, they would fall under 'flowering shrubs'. I think OGRs are a natural for gardeners who want flowering shrubs with low maintenance.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Your aging and winter gardens

  • catsrose
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    At this point, it's not the roses; it's the rest of it, I was out hacking back the encroaching tangle along The Trickle that edges my property and was wondering how much longer I can continue. It's just me and the cats on 1.5 acres with 400+ roses and Other Growth. The fruit trees will need pruning; the grass (mostly crab grass and clover) needs mowing; the rain has brought forth a fresh crop of weeds; the veggie garden is a wreck, etc, etc. I'm thinking about getting a horticultural student from the community college to trade some maintenance work for some lessons in OGRs.

  • rosefolly
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I wish I could remember where I read this but I cannot, so I can't send you to the source. However, I once read that the famous rosarian Graham Thomas talked about having a smaller garden in his later years, and choosing only his very favorite few roses to fill it, along with his favorites of other kinds of plants. I sometimes think that the gardens of youth and middle years are merely the tryouts and rehearsals for the finest distillation of the last garden. Perhaps the garden we have in old age is not the garden we give up on, but instead the garden we have when we finally get it right? Smaller but more perfect, and without wasting space and effort on lesser plants.

    Rosefolly

  • sherryocala
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    That's what I've been thinking. To use and repeat the use of my favorite, most successful roses AND to have fewer. I mean do I really need one of everything - well, nearly everything? What an opportunity to have a (oh, I forgot that word again) grouping of one type of rose. I need to get control of the back garden. Maybe that would do it along with some evergreens. And, oh, I haven't read the book, but I'll check it out.

    Sherry

  • cemeteryrose
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Ann, I just finished the second chapter of this book, and have to agree that I don't have much to identify with so far. I thought that maybe when she planted shrubs instead of perennials that she'd sneak in a few roses - at least some species - but no.

    Do you really have to deadhead daylilies EVERY DAY the way she describes? I've never liked the weedy things but had no idea that was required! And she grew HUNDREDS of them!!!
    Anita

  • buford
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'm thinking that day lilies are more of a pain than roses. You don't have to deadhead (or I call it popping) them every day, but if you don't they look horrid. and then there are the dead leaves and stalks. Too much waste!!! But I have them and they multiply so I guess I'm stuck with them.

  • professorroush
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I've read the book and reviewed it on my blog (see link). I guess maybe I identified with it because of age and the fact that I garden essentially alone with a tendency to expand the garden too much. I'm always thinking about how to simplify.

    Except the roses...the more the merrier, but I grow mostly shrubs and hardy roses and I don't deadhead...Life is too short. I don't even deadhead daylilies but as someone said, this time of year they look like heck. It helps to be able to just ignore them once they're done blooming...I can look at a border and never see the ugly daylilies right now, it's just the surprise lilies or the roses as far as I'm concerned.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Lifetime of Gardening; Garden Musings Blog

  • aimeekitty
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    "roses are more forgiving of my ineptness"

    I'm so with you on that one, Ingrid. ;)

    I'm shocked at the size of some gardens that people are keeping later in life, though. 2 acres! WOW.... so huge! I can't imagine taking care of that much now, so finding a way to do it when you're older is very amazing to me.
    Lots of good ideas in this thread, regardless, though.
    I'm still so new that I don't know what will do well... what's a survivor in MY garden,... and what looks pretty later in the year. I feel like I'm just throwing plants at the wall and seeing what sticks right now. (not entirely, as I try to research before buying a plant,... but still, not everything works!)

  • rosefolly
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Most people don't have anything like two acres to play with. Here in California, lots are measured in square feet, not in parts of an acre. In the Bay Area, land runs well over a million dollars an acre, if you can find any land at all, so the typical property is something on the order of 5000-8000 square feet. Take half of that away for the house and driveway, and you don't have enough space to get into much trouble with your gardening effort. Even in parts of the country where lots are considerably bigger, outside of rural areas few people have more than an acre. Most have considerably less. Plant a grove of trees and put in a seating area for entertaining and relaxing. All of a sudden you are down to a quarter acre or less to actually garden. If you don't want to garden much, just expand the grove of trees.

    Sydney Eddison is a famous daylily person just as we are rose people. I'm not surprised that she is out there every day deadheading her daylilies. Horrified, but not surprised. I'm sure she would be aghast at the amount of daily tending some of us put into our gardens.

    Rosefolly

  • berndoodle
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I'm already there. I've never wanted a rose garden. I want roses in the landscape. Realistically, this is the reason that trees and shrubs are the foundation of a landscape, not perennials. Assuming you pick the right ones and assuming you place them appropriately, the right, locally-appropriate trees and shrubs require little care.

    The same applies to roses in my climate. The keys for me:
    -plant at appropriate distance, so they don't crowd paths, doors, windows, roads.
    -limit underplanting roses because it makes maintenance more difficult or hazardous. Plant perennials around and near roses, not under them.
    -plant roses right the first time. That mean take real care with the soil, making sure that invasive weeds are gone from the area before you plop a rose in the ground. Mulch and keep mulching forever. Don't neglect large deciduous trees and provide light, filtered shade. Shade suppresses weeds!
    -if you like big roses, grow climbers as shrubs. There're reasons arbors, pergolas, pillars and arches have gone the way of the button hook: ladders in winter.
    -get rid of prima donnas before they even make it to the ground. Fungal disease, gone. Blooms fade to ugly colors, gone. Ugly habit, gone. Not enough flowers for ya, gone.
    -specialize in plant-em-and-fuhget-about-em roses. This is mostly climate-appropriate roses.
    -jettison the outdated and destructive advice of rose societies that suggest monthly fertilizing and weekly spraying of fungicides and insecticides. Care for the soil and ignore non-destructive bugs and those you can't do anything about anyway.
    -limit the number of roses that require annual pruning. This is easy in milder climates, harder in colder climates.
    -invest in automatic irrigation of a type appropriate to your climate.
    -if you live in a mild climate, listen to Carol: "We live in California. We can prune 12 months a year and the roses will still be fine." Except when the sap is running.
    -trim up roses year around, removing dead wood and unproductive growth. Reserve real, serious pruning for winter.
    -fertilize minimally for your climate. Mulch will supply nitrogen after a few years.
    -hire labor to do heavy lifting. It's cheaper than lost work, back surgery, physical therapy and chiropracty.

    If you do this, the rest is essentially doing what you can when you can. I prune those that like the feel of steel in winter. I fertilize every rose once a year in the late winter. I look after roses that need trimming up year round: dead wood and unproductive wood goes whenever I see it while the plant is leafed out. Each spring I check every rose's irrigation emitter and repair all leaks. The rest of the year, I just enjoy them.

    The biggest maintenance issue in my garden is weeding. I weed the immediate area around each rose in winter, when the soil is soft. Weeding will eventually be the end of my garden.

  • zeffyrose
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    This is so interesting to me----the last 10 years have been rough for both DH and myself----too many surgeries---the gardens are a mess-----he is 8 years younger but he is also having problems-----assisted living is looking better to me all the time---LOL
    After my recent back surgery the Dr has ordered no more gardening--no more housework ( that part I really like)--LOL

    DH has always been very good about doing all the heavy work but it is now too much for him also---
    so we have to be realistic-----I try not to get too upset about my enforced limitations---try to be grateful for all my blessings---I can still pick my roses and walk without a cane ----for that I'm happy----
    I will walk around like Lady Astor with my pretty hat and the basket over my arm----
    Maybe I should write a "survival" book----LOL LOL
    I'm reading all these posts with much interest---

    I'm still "hanging in there"----LOL I'm pretty sure I'm the oldest one here----
    Florence

  • olga_6b
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I love different kinds of perennials ;) looks like I need to get this book. Thanks a lot, Ann.
    LOL, I am deadheading my daylilies every day. But I have a small garden and this is really something I enjoy. Every morning before leaving for work during daylily bloom season I do my stroll throught the garden. I enjoy the new flowers and deadhed the yesterday blooms. This is one of the most enjoyable times for me, equal in pleasure to early spring stroll through the garden when all roses get new shiny leaves and first blooms start to open. I have a lot of daylilies. I also don't mind ro pull yellow leaves and dry skapes when the bloom season is over. It doesn't take much time in my opinion and the daylily clumps look good this way. I don't grow ditch lilies, they can be really messy looking.
    Olga

  • lori_elf z6b MD
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Rosefolly,
    I really like your (or whoever you read's) perspective of Graham Thomas's final garden. I have grown a lot of plants and different varieties of roses, and I am already scaling back and thinking in terms of keeping only the very best and my very favorite. I am less interested in the size of the garden as much as making it better in quality and the "specialness" of each plant.

    Although roses are my favorite and most numerous flowering shrub, I enjoy growing lots of plants including perennials, bulbs, vegetables, herbs, and other flowering trees and shrubs.

    I hope I'll someday have a smaller but perfect garden that I will retire to care for. I know that even with more time on my hands I will need to think in terms of lower maintenance when I get older. I am still learning and trying out many different varieties now, but I think no effort is wasted because even the plants that fail teach me something, and I will carefully observe those that fail or flourish to keep the very best.

    Lori

  • melissa_thefarm
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I think the thread holleygarden gave the link to is excellent; so are berndoodle's suggestions. Lord knows I'm not one to supply ideas for a low maintenance garden, as I'm out in mine every hour I can be weeding and mulching. But I've always had gardens that I could leave alone for weeks and still have a garden when I got back to them. I believe in shrubs, trees, bulbs, self-seeding herbaceous plants, and durable low-maintenance perennials like peonies. And there is a lot of garden fussing that I don't do and get along without just fine: spraying, fertilizing (I use mulch instead), watering established plants. Selection of plants adapted to one's conditions will eliminate a lot of labor. I'm doing a lot of weeding, but I think this will diminish as my ground is more thickly planted and the weeds get shaded out.
    Melissa

  • harborrose_pnw
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Just thinking out loud -

    I wonder whether Ralph Moore's method of gardening for a lifetime isn't a good approach - Just keep working until you die. His roses seem to be doing fine. Maybe neatness is overrated.

    I read a short story by Edith Wharton, "Mrs. Manstey's View," the other day. An infirm woman lives for the view outside her window. She's alone, but not lonely, because of the unfolding of the seasons outside her window. Her view becomes threatened, she fights back in her own way, and dies peacefully, deluded in her belief that she has preserved her view. Edith Wharton is a masterful writer.

    Maybe I'll be like Mrs. Manstey, watching the roses from my window, not caring at all about the henbit or the grass, but only watching the roses bud, bloom and scatter.

    I'd like just to watch them, when I can't pull weeds any more. That's probably my idea of gardening for a lifetime.

  • hoovb zone 9 sunset 23
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    There's a house down the road, and its garden consists of:

    1. Native oak trees
    2. Dirt
    3. An Adirondack chair.

    Nothing else. The shade and root system of the Oaks means no weeds at all. I looked. Not a one. No maintanance. No watering. No sweeping, or fertilizing, or composting. No pesticides or fungicides. No green waste. No mowing, no blowing. Just a place to sit under the canopy of the oaks.

    I'm thinking that yard is the definition of "sustainable" and "green".

  • buford
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    But kinda boring :)

    I know we will downsize when we retire. I'd still like to have a garden, just less of one. I'd rather have a few plants to fuss over than as many as I have now.

  • elemire
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I suppose it comes to the kind of garden you like and the availability of free/paid labor. My garden is some sort of chaos made from roses, perennials, shrubs and easy annuals, so even if there is a weed somewhere, it generally does not look to be that much out of place. I also avoid perennial plants that stay small and can't compete with the weeds. If it is something that I really really like, I can always have it in a pot, otherwise my ornamental plants pretty much smother the weeds.

    Another thing I suppose is organized approach. It is always easier to do major jobs (like hardscaping) with a help of everyone you can muster for that particular weekend. Otherwise I also agree with berndoodle, it makes sense to hire somebody to do the heavy job - it usually goes faster, does not result in traumas and you often can start planting what you want, instead of cursing whatever mess you need to remove first.

    Speaking about organized approach, there also is a trick that small bit of heavy work on daily basis often is more fruitful than a lot of heavy work in one day. If I need to do some daunting task, I try to divide it into smaller peaces and do just small bit of it, what I can do without feeling horribly exhausted. If I need for example to remove some lawn, I divide in into small stripes and do only one stripe a day - then I am not dying from muscle pain the next morning and it gets done in a week or so anyways.

    I think it is also important to admit to yourself, that some jobs you just can't do and then see how to solve it in some other way. It is at least a huge part of the reasons why my parents garden is falling into neglect, since my father would not admit that his health is not what it used to be and it would be much easier for everyone, if he just hired neighbor's kid to mow his lawn and do other simple but necessary tasks. Instead, he postpones it indefinitely, until it is all grown through with weeds and can't be fixed easily, and again he then plans major changes in the garden (like spraying everything with round-up and then replanting the lawn... sigh), which are even worse if started, since it never gets finished and the mess is bigger than it was before.

  • mendocino_rose
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    It's difficult for me to weigh in here on a subject like this. The garden is more than 2 acres, more than a thousand roses. There are other plants, trees, a shade garden, water features. It's all on a steep hillside. When I say it's my lifes work I'm not kidding. It seems that I use whatever labor saving ideas that I have to enable myself to plant more. Right now I'm going at it like there's no tomorrow. I do know that someday I won't be able to keep up. For now I'm just driven towards what I do, which is this garden all day almost everyday.

  • saldut
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I don't have 2 acres, but do have lots of 'stuff' to tend.... abt. 100 roses, and papayas, and mango trees, and other citrus and fruit trees, and pepper and tomato and other edibles..and I'm working up a Butterfly and a Hummingbird garden... and everything is now organic and no-spray....... I am 83 and have a bad-back and worse legs, but have learned that "if you don't use it you lose it" so I get out every morning before the sun and diddle until the sweat is running into my eyes..... my cane is my hoe... when my hubby died in '06 I had to hire a Lawn-guy and I'll get him to come do heavy-lifting, and my Grandson will dig for me, the charges are minimal but have to be budgeted.... I do all my own house-work and live alone, and love the peace and quiet now that the kids are all grown.... I can't imagine not having a garden and they'll probably have to haul me out feet-first...... sally

  • everyrose
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Here's a few things I've learned about making rose gardening easier on my "aging bones":

    Make the roses the star of the show. Sure I want to grow dahlias, day lillies etc but I have to admit that I only have so much time and energy. Its easier to grow a lot of one type of demanding plant, than growing a little of several types of demanding plants. In other words--specialize.

    Wide paths,narrow beds. This has made gardening so much easier. I know "they" say make your beds and borders 8 to 10 feet wide, but then you have to wade into them to care for your plants and to weed. You wind up playing "Twister" as you carefully step around stuff. Its exhausting and being twisted around and off balance is an accident waiting to happen. Not to mention roses have thorns and they will snag you no matter how carefully you try to avoid them. I try to keep my beds only 4 to 5 feet wide and the paths between them 3 to 4 feet wide. This way I can easily reach into the bed from either the front or back without stepping into the bed. The paths are wide enough that I can easily bring wheelbarrows through, or spread out a tarp or all my tools. In late summer when, the roses are large and leaning, I can still walk down the paths and not get snagged.

    Keep the individual beds small. Keep them to a size that you can easily manage in just an hour or so of work. Its easiy to get overwhelmed when you think 'I have to go out and tend the whole garden'. Instead, think 'in just an hour or so I can have the north bed done'. It also helps in knowing when to stop. Instead of trying to do too much and barely be able to move the next day, you can plan on just doing one bed and stopping before you get too tired and sore.

    Edging--neat edges make your garden look tidier even if its been while since you weeded. I reccommend concrete blocks. There is a wide variety of landscape blocks, some look like stone. Once its in; its maintainence free. Someone above reccommended boxwood. I don't because once it has grown up, you have to bend over it to reach into the bed. Working for a long time while bent over from the waist is a good way to throw out your back (voice of experience).

    The lost art of cultivating. A quick once over once a week with a cultivating hoe or your weeder of choice to cut or uproot weeds as soon as they sprout saves hours of back breaking weed pulling later. Its funny that the gardening gurus seldom mention this. The image of being out in you garden with a hoe seems so old fashioned and "grandpa" even to those of us who have grandkids of our own. How did we forget this tried and true method of dealing with weeds?

    Stick with the tried and true. Sure continue to experiment with new plants and techinques but start small scale and then if something works, do it some more but if it doesn't work, get rid of it. Don't baby finicky plants; get rid of them. But when you find something that does really well, get some more. It sounds obvious but I tend to forget this. Another thing is to try things on a small scale first before committing to a grand scale scheme.

    Containers. Some of the older folks in my rose society are growing their roses in containers. They find them easier to deal with. Containers are a great way to grow annuals or to experiment with the lastest and greatest and expensive plants that the garden centers are always tempting us with.

  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    This has been a wonderful thread with a rich mixture of great advice, personal experiences and different approaches. The bottom line it seems is to work out what is best for your situation, abilities and time of life. I was clever enough to marry a wiry guy five years younger than I am who plants everything, does the other heavy work and helps with the hand watering. At the same time, I'm ever cognizant of the passage of time and am trying to simplify every activity as much as possible. I don't spray, the garden area fortunately has few weeds, and I fertilize with alfalfa twice a year. Mulching is done when I have the time and energy for it, and I'm buying multiples of roses that do well in my difficult microclimate. Fiddly little plants don't last here, although every once in a while I'm beguiled by a pretty face. The roses are the stars, although not by any means the whole show, and it's become the mission of my gardening life to find the ones who like it here. To simplify, while at the same time having a garden that nourishes all living things, and to still have beautiful things that nourish me and make me eager to go out in the garden first thing every morning, is the dream that I follow now. I do believe it is attainable, and many of you seem to agree.

    Ingrid

  • cemeteryrose
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Miriam Wilkins' garden was overwhelming and overgrown but I'm told that the view from her kitchen window was always roses, roses, roses. Things had been cleared a bit when I went there this spring, after her death, but I was told that you felt like Alice in Wonderland stepping under the canopy of climbers that once covered the area. What a wonder to live in such a place until the very end of her life. Harborrose may be exactly right.

    I need to read that Wharton story. She was a great gardener, you know.

    I'm still reading the Eddison book - easy to do since it's short and she summarizes what she just told you at the end of each chapter. I'll have some thoughts to share on it in a day or so.
    Anita

  • luxrosa
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    due to having a spinal injury and getting older every decade (joke) I planned my new garden on a small lot near San Francisco, Ca in this manner

    Set priorities:
    First priority: Old Garden Roses
    -long bloom season in California= plant mostly Tea roses and China roses to take advantage of this.
    -love of once bloomers, but in a small space: Plant Apothecary Rose in center of herb garden, give "Albertine" to someone who has space for it.
    Color: add a few Pernetiana roses for flame colors.President Herbert Hoover" for fragrance too.
    Environment: drought in summer. Plant all roses on the perimeter on a drip line and replace 70% of lawn with drought tolerant groundcover,possibly Mother-of-Thyme which will never need mowing.
    -low maintenence. China and Teas can do what they please.

    From my front door the walkway will pass through French Lavender, then Tea roses on either side coming to an arbor with "Marechal Niel' and C. Forestier" on it, a line of mostly white roses next, Westside Road Cream Tea, Nastarana, White Maman Cochet,with purple Alyssium planted below them.
    My two dooryard roses are "Mlle.Cecille Brunner" for the love I have for my maternal grandmother, Hazel Anne who grew that rose in the early 1900's and that same plant still (in 2010) blooms in my mothers garden.

    I've had twenty years to plan this garden, and now that I bought the property I can finally have my dream garden, with low maintenence.

    Lux.

  • roseblush1
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Wow ! Does this thread speak to me !

    I have finally gotten all of my roses planted. I started there because they are trully the bones of my garden. I am not going to put companion plants in the rose beds ... I don't need the extra work. I am letting self-heal take over the lawn. It's in the neighborhood, so I will never get rid of it. It doesn't need to be mowed and needs less water than lawn, and is considered "ground cover" in England, so it can have the lawn.

    I am moving some of the plants I inherited when I bought the house. They survived here for Mrs. J., so I figure they will survive here. The moving is just to place them where they are easier to care for. I have dug my last rose hole in glacier slurry. Yeah, I'll have to shovel prune some roses, but new roses will go into holes already dug. But the pot ghetto is empty and I am going to keep it that way. Sure, there are lot of roses I would like to grow, but that's not going to happen simply because I am done with digging holes.

    I'll plant some bulbs for companion plants, but I want the kind I don't have to work at growing. Anything else added will be mostly foliage plants. I like contrasting foliage and they don't take as much work.

    I know I have to work on paths and that I did it backwards, but I didn't know what shape the rose beds would be ... I am not good at "design". I am going to take that in small bites.

    I have found that weeding is easiest in the fall after it's cooled down and the rains come, so that's when I hope to do that kind of work...until it gets too cold to garden outside.

    All of the efforts I am putting in now is clean-up and preparing for the time when I just don't have the energy to work so hard.

    I read a book by Ruth Stout titled "How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back". There is a lot of wisdom there. She gardened well into her 90s. She was also a pioneer of many of the garden practices we use today.

    I want to enjoy my garden and not always be working at gardening. So, that is my long term goal. I'll never have the garden of my dreams because I started too late in life, but I will have a garden that I think I will like and hope that this continues to be a fun part of my life.

    Of course, there will be some experiments, but that's just for fun.

    No container gardens because they are too much work with summers of triple digits for weeks at a time and the need for winter protection. Sure they look nice, but too much work.

    I am not lazy, I just know that as I get older, I am not going to be able to keep up the pace I am working at now. I can live with that.

    Smiles,
    Lyn

  • harryshoe zone6 eastern Pennsylvania
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hi Ann,

    Great thread. So appropriate for late August as I gaze over my mess. I can't believe gardening requires so much strategic planning.

    My little world is controlled by many factors. The damn age keeps increasing. The energy is decreasing. And it hurts to crawl around the beds.

    DD went and produced the greatest grandson I could imagine. He just turned one and likes spending time with me. He spends many hours here as long as I carry him around the yard. When he leaves, I'm too tired and sore to do anything outdoors beyond testing out the patio furniture.

    Now, everything I do in the garden is based on the need to reduce maintenance. Every plant I add has to look good Easter to Thanksgiving and be maintenance free. Siberian Iris, hosta, heuchera and grasses are on the rise. Roses are on the decline.

    Things might change next March when I retire. Everyone in the office asks: "why March"? I bet nobody here has any problem figuring that out!

    Gardening is a pleasure. I need to keep it that way.

    Enjoy your lives my friends.

  • lavender_lass
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I love the idea that you work towards your perfect garden all your life. This is such a good thread, I'm copying it off for my mom. She recently retired and has put in a lot of time with her gardening, but wants to downsize a bit, for a couple of reasons. Thanks for all the great ideas :)

  • bbinpa
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Well, speaking as one who is in this process of downsizing, and who does what I can in the garden and leaves the rest, I must say that some roses are lower maintenance than others and lower maintenance than other plants. This year I have identified several roses to sp based on maintenance or rather what they look like without maintenance.

    I have also noticed that my late spring fertilizing of Espoma and alfalfa seems to have lasted the entire year. I may decide to give them all some bone meal before the season ends. Or maybe not.

    Having rose midge has made me reluctant to deadhead or fertilize. Why should I encourage growth or bloom if I'm only giving a new home to rose midge? I have pinched new growth from those roses that seem to attract the midge the most. But right now, without any more fertilizer or much deadheading, my roses (the repeat ones) are blooming their heads off. This in a year when I have had little energy or time to spend in the garden.

    As many of you know, 3 years ago (or was it 4?) I stopped spraying fungicides and pesticides and started spraying AACT. This simple act has made for less maintenance for me. I still have the weeding and even that doesn't always get done. The only other thing I do in the garden is spread horse manure when it is available. So far, I have not managed to cover all the beds yet. And, I almost forgot, I have not had the discretionary funds to buy mulch. The horse manure has had to play that role, and it does not last very long.

    I think for most gardeners this downsizing amounts to what degree of mess can you tolerate. If you find something intolerable and cannot find the time to fix it, out it goes. I think some of my bearded irises are in that category, certainly a few roses, a few garden phlox, monada in too much shade, some nepeta six hills giant. All these for various reasons of maintenance-ugly by mid summer, mildewed, prolific seeder.

    I agree that edged garden beds do look neater even with weeds, but a physical barrier such as cement blocks or stones don't work for me. The grass just grows under them, between them, around them, and then I have to remove them to get the stuff out. The old fashioned edging without the physical barrier works best for me.

    Where I have holes in my garden beds, I'm starting to think evergreen, but even some of those need that constant clipping and shaping. Yep, OGRs are looking better and better.

    Barbara

  • saldut
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Barbara, what is AACT? is it organic ? tell me, please.... I had the same headache with edging, and here in Fla. the darn grass grows year-round... so I went to HD and got some of that black plastic edging, 4 " wide, and dug a shallow trench and set the edging in it, it comes in 20 - 30 foot lengths and it has spikes you drive into the ground to hold it... well, it works GREAT! it stops the grass and when you run the mower and edger you can go right over it... I have it all along the walk-way and around all the beds, and use pebbles next to it along the walk-way and in the beds I bring the mulch right up to it... I recommend it completely, it makes a nice neat edge...... thanks, sally

  • Campanula UK Z8
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Containers constitute the biggest tyranny in my garden, hanging baskets causing the most trouble and grief - once a plant is in the ground, they can, to a surprising extent, fend for themselves whereas a plant in a pot is completely in your hands and they can not be neglected for barely a day. If I was going to do one thing to lessen the work, it would be to get rid of containers but, if they must be used, to get the biggest you can buy so they become miniature worlds in themselves. I also like to plant thickly so there are no spaces between plants for weeds and they also support each other so do not need staking. Finally, foliage is ultimately more important than flowers. The flowering period of, say, paeonies, may be only three weeks but the foliage is an important aspect and will have a prescence from early april until late October. I now tend to buy plants which will look good for the longest period - daylilies are invaluable because their fresh green shoots start in January and make a green architectural clump until the frosts finally turn them sere and brown. Siberian iris leaves look good whereas bearded iris leaves look sordid half way through August. Evergreens are not always such a boon either as they drop their leaves continually rather than all at once. On the other hand, many grasses look terrific all year round - stipas, festucas, heliotrichon, carex. They have largely taken the pace of flowering shrubs for me. Finally, as well as secateurs, my most useful bit of kit is a good broom - cut and sharpen any lawn edges,and have a good sweep: this has a huge effect in a short period of time.

  • bbinpa
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    AACT= Actively aerated compost tea. Go to the KIS web site (just google it) and it is all explained there.

    I have tried the landscaping cloth in the beds. It works for about one or two years but deteriorates rapidly after that. Also, I find particularly strong weeds and grass will grow up through it. I have not tried the edging, yet. The only thing stopping me is the expense. That is the other thing about down sizing. It usually goes hand and hand with economizing. Thanks.

    Campanula, you are absolutely spot on about foliage. Peonies are a wonderful example. Also for shade and wet areas, ligularia, Desdemona.

    Barbara

  • cemeteryrose
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I've finished the Eddison book. A lot of wisdom, well-said, but not very applicable to me for several reasons.

    She says that gardeners are perfectionists. Anybody who sees my garden, or the Sacramento cemetery, knows that I am not. I do strive to grow every rose as well as possible, but I am a "good enough" gardener. I can focus on the things that please me, and block out the things that do not. Eddison's lowered standards probably are still much higher than mine!

    Being such a perfectionist, probably there are few roses that would have suited her. She likes hot colors, which would have driven her to modern roses. She says in the book that probably the only more labor intensive garden than a sunny perennial border is a rose garden. I'm pretty sure that she'd have made roses a tremendous job, deadheading them every day just as she does the daylilies, and feeling the need to spray or fuss in pursuit of "perfection." I do think that Albas or species roses would be fabulous in her garden, but don't think such a thing ever occurred to her. (She does mention grubbing out wild multiflora, a good thing!)

    Eddison gardens on a scale that few of us have the space, finances or energy to do. She had help all through the process, too. She has woodlands, shade gardens, sun borders, etc. She describes her "little" woodland garden as 175 by 70 feet. That's about a quarter of an acre, huge by California suburban/urban standards.

    She talks about pruning being terrible for the hands, and choosing plants that don't need it. I'm blessed with very little arthritis so far (nearly 60 yrs old), and wonder if decades more of wielding secateurs will take an inevitable toll. I had some bursitis in my hips, which was keeping me awake at night, but no longer have a problem now that I do water aerobics several times a week. Being in the water has made my hands, back, shoulders, etc feel better, as well as improving my overall disposition!

    She advocates container gardening as being an easier strategy. I've been intrigued by the differing views of containers in this thread. In hot, dry Sacramento, watering containers is a major chore. I also find wrestling things into/out of a pot is a problem. I just had a plastic pot shatter from old age, and its Japanese maple has grown into the ground. I asked my husband to build a box around it, because otherwise I'd kill the tree (and my back) trying to repot it. Overall, I don't think that containers are a strategy for MY old age, unless I end up somewhere with only a balcony.

    I've never read her other books, but do love how she writes, and she truly is a real gardener, even if her garden in Connecticut has very little resemblance to mine. Hostas and primroses are tatty and short-lived for me.

    I have to say that she seems largely oblivious to the fact that many people garden in different climates from hers. Reminds me of those maps of NYC, where Manhattan is very large and everything to the west is miniscule. One thing that I love about this forum is how it's made us all very aware of regional differences.
    Anita

  • cweathersby
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I love the IDEA of moving to a smaller garden (I'm on 2 acres) and starting over with all of the knowledge I have now. Because when I first started gardening I was such a newbie that I thought a double impatien was a rose. There are a LOT of mistakes I would like a chance to rectify.
    BUT I've got so many plants that won't be mature for another 20 years. I can't imagine starting over with baby plants. I've been in my garden for 8 years and some of the little camellias are just now as tall as I am! Other michelias haven't matured enough to bloom and they are taller than me! I just can't start over with these easy to grow- no water or pruning or fertilizer required - plants.

    I've always planned for winter blooms, always planned for structure in the winter, and am very happy with the result.

    I think I've thrown every plant available in the US market (and some that arent) at my garden to see what sticks. Suprisingly, a lot of things that are delightful and rare are easy as pie down in Texas.

    At this moment I'm only 33, I garden on 2 acres, but my wrists are to a point that I can't even prune my roses.
    I'm also at the point that watering in August is taking it's toll on me. I would like to swear on a stack of Bibles that I will not plant one single more thing until Augusts are just another month for me to enjoy. Every single plant I put in the ground will eventually be trouble free. Even the roses can live without constant attention and water. But every single year since I started gardening I make additions. A plant here, a plant there, spread over 2 acres is hard to get established when it's 105 every day!

    As for the easiest way to keep out weeds- in my rose gardens, there are big shrubs enclosing the gardens, and no grass or weeds allowed inside. It's easy enough to do, but you have to plan it that way. Round up, cardboard boxes, and mulch before putting the first plant in the ground.

  • berndoodle
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Yeah, Anita points out something important: beware the tools. They're essential, but they also encourage repetitive stress injuries from overuse if your joints and connective tissues are so inclined. Everyone's joints will be so inclined at some point....

  • roseblush1
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I decided a long time ago that the only plants that can stay in my garden are the ones that can survive my climate and my gardening style. By gardening style, I mean the amount of work I can put into the garden. Triple digit temps for weeks on end really do make more work. I love cleaning up a plant or a bed and making it look it's best, but I can't get the whole garden to look it's best at one time. There is a point where I am happy to just keep things alive until it cools down.

    As for tools and tasks, I try to get the best tools I can afford (and take care of them properly) and change up on the tasks so I am not doing just one kind of work all of the time I am in the garden on a given day to save my joints and tendons. So, some roses don't get pruned extremely well this year .... I'll start with those next year. Even with watering, I find myself reminding myself that even God doesn't water on time. Forget the schedule and do the best I can. The plants that can't deal with that take themselves out of the garden.

    Anita is right about exercise. Taking the time to do any kind of exercise has helped with my agility, my endurance, my strength and more.

    But the hardest lesson I have had to learn is to be kind to myself. A garden is a work in process. I have to look at what I have accomplished rather than all that still needs to be done to achieve the garden in my dreams.

    A friend asked me the other day what will happen when I can't work this hard and I told him that I would have the opportunity to see what a "wild" garden looks like, but in the meantime I will have had the fun of creating something wonderful.

    Smiles,
    Lyn

  • jim_east_coast_zn7
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hi Ann,
    Very interesting thread and see it has quickly received a lot of responses. Volunteered in the library at a local botanical garden yesterday and checked out the book. She writes well so it is an easy read. Already covered a few chapters last night. As stated above many times, gardens are local so have specific needs. I think the one thing we can all draw from the book no matter where we live is that with age, we need to simplify and cut back. Like so many of us on here, I went overboard with roses but need to cut back to those few that I really like. Have been on GW almost since its inception and have seen many changes, including the "acquisition" stage where many of us felt the need to have every rose,LOL. At 73, I am seeing a decline in energy and strength and realize I need to follow the author's general principle of simplify and less is better!
    Thanks for the post.
    Jim

  • Campanula UK Z8
    12 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Well, 'less is more' is a phrase never far from my lips when conversing with customers....but an adage I am woefully unable to apply to myself.

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