"Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity. " ~Lindley Karstens

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A New Gardener's Confession

For those who visit my blog regularly, you might have noticed that I have not posted anything for about one week now.  Although I can not say this won't happen again, at least it is not very common since I started my blog about four months ago.   The only thing I can say is that I am feeling a little down about the garden recently...

While almost all other gardeners are celebrating the leaping growth that the warm weather brought to their gardens, my garden seems not happy with the South Florida hot humid weather.   When I do my daily walk through my garden, there are hardly something that can catch my eyes in an exciting way.  On the opposite side, I often find something disturbing...

Now when I muse it over, I think most of these disappointments come with my new gardener label... Lack of experience, planning, knowledge, and patience are four things this new gardener is not shy to admit.

Before I started my love affair with the planting one year ago, I hardly had any experience. The little experience I had was growing some vegetables and a handful of flowers in the containers when I lived in my previous house.  Among those flowers, I managed to kill several orchids by over watering and putting them under the direct sun. During my younger years in China, my family lived in small apartment in the city with no land at all.  The only time I had more close touch with the land was when visiting my grandparents in the countryside during the summer vacation.  But even then, I never personally grew anything.

I thought I am not too bad of a planner.  However, when coming to the gardening, I found the planning needs to be made and acted on one or even two seasons before.  Like for spring flowers, I should have sowed seeds in the fall.  For some perennial plants, I should have trimmed them earlier so that they can flush now.  For winter annual plants, I should have replaced them with the summer annuals before the intense heat hits. 
As a result, I ended having some bare spots in the garden after the winter annuals melted down to the ground, and some tired-looking perennials like the pink pentas in the front yard.

Or geraniums that might not be able to stand the summer heat even it is still blooming (barely).... The flower dries up even before fully opening.

I know all of these can be quickly fixed by a few trips to the nursery, and shrinking the wallet a little bit more.  But I do wish I had planned better...

Lack of knowledge is another thing that constantly hits me recently.  I realized that a gardener not only needs to know the plants themselves, but also the environment around them, which includes bugs (good and bad), soils, and etc. 

When I bought the milkweed, I only knew this is a plant that butterflies love, and I LOVE butterflies!  The thing I didn't know was  that the Monarch caterpillars love its leaves too!  So imagine how horrified I was when I found seven of these fat Monarch caterpillars nibbling my only young milkweed leaves!  Only this time, I learned  from the lesson of hornworm on my angel's trumpet, so I did not remove them.  After searching over the Internet, I quickly found out these are the Monarch caterpillars.  I decided to leave them alone, and only one day later, my milkweed had nothing but bare sticks!  Now those hungry caterpillars started chewing the stems!  I do hope my sacrifice can yield some beautiful Monarch butterflies visiting my garden.  The only thing I am not sure is if my plant will ever grow back, or even blooming again? 

Last but certainly not the least, lack of patience...(did I say that?) .  They say the patience is a virtue.  I know lots of my anxieties came from the lack of patience.  I expect if I did what the book told me to do, the plants should flower or grow perfectly just like what they show in the garden magazine.  Now I knew there might be so many failures before you can get to that stage.

Do you still remember not long ago, I was proudly showing off the new Princess Flower (Tibouchina lepidota)  I got as part of Mother's Day gift?  Well, I have to tell you sadly that it just died on me early this week after three week life in my garden.  It just happened so quickly.  One day I came home after the work, I saw it lost all leaves, and the branches turned to brown.  I tried to water more often, but there was no use. 

Oh, how I miss those delicate purple flowers!

I know the gardening is all about trial and error, especially for the beginners.  So, I won't let all these disappointments hold me down.  Like what they said: "There is always a next year!"  So this weekend, after I spit out this confession,  I will spend some time to do some clean up, and then move on with a new spirit!!! 

Here are something in the garden that brought the smile to my face ...

I got this Variegated Devils Backbone (Euphorbia tithymaloides 'Variegatus') after our January freeze with good discount since it had some leave damages.  Now it recovers pretty well.  I planted it in front of the hibiscus.  The orange and the variegated leaves contrast quite nicely.  Don't you think?
Variegated Devils Backbone (Euphorbia tithymaloides 'Variegatus') with Hibiscus
I can not help snapping pictures every time I pass by this Double Delight Rose bush!

This Dipladenia pink is my all time favorite in the garden, never failed to add the color into the garden.
Dipladenia pink
Caladium bulbs start popping up out the ground!  Should have planted more!
These two double layer Kalanchoes are my delightful surprise.  I thought they are cold weather bloomers.  So, after they finished blooming, I just stuck them into a shady corner.  See what I found this week!
These purple/blue verbena flowers really bright up the front yard flower bed.
My first African Lily (Agapanthus africanus) bud of the year!
First African Lily (Agapanthus africanus
More Needle Flowers are showing up from this little plant.
Needle Flower (Augusta rivalis)
Family: Rubiaceae
Garden creatures are definitely enjoying this weather...
Brown Anole flashing its dewlap

Dragonfly on rose bud

White Peacock Butterfly
 Have a great weekend!


  1. Dear, dear Ami ~ Your post touched my heart. Do not give up, do not despair too much. No matter how long we garden, we have our joys and sorrows, our disappointments, our successes. In spite of it all, there is always something that makes us smile, something we didn't see before. We just have to go with the flow, with the weather, and not beat ourselves up too much when things don't look so great. Losing plants that we love is always hard to take.

    You still have lots of beauty there in your lovely gardens.

    I wish you joy and many years of gardening pleasure.

    Hugs ~ FlowerLady

  2. Dear Ami,
    I wish I could give you a big hug and tell you it is all going to be alright. Really. You've got some beautiful blooming plants and some great combinations that are working just fine together. Your new header is delightful. Mandevilla and Diplademia are some of my favorites as well. Every confession you've made each one of us could have made (or we're still making it) at some time or another. Please don't be too hard on yourself or your young garden. Gardening is full of ups and downs and it does take time to learn, plan, execute and then the weather, the elements ... and so many other factors like 'available time' have to cooperate for it to all turn out like we wish.

    You are doing great! And you've done so much in only one year. I hope for you to refresh your spirit as you garden this weekend. Breathe it all in and give yourself a big pat on the back for all you've accomplished. Hugs***

  3. It looks like there are plenty of great things in the garden! Well, as I'm sure you now realize, planting annuals is a huge part of the problem. Although they are nice for filling empty spots in winter, I honestly don't have the money or time to spend on them when they start to decline. I do know that you've found and shared some great choices that do well there such as bulbine or florida friendly gold sedum, so at least you know a lot of what works.
    I know you saw some of the stuff I've been dealing with in my last post, so I know how you feel! Thanks for your very personal and thoughtful post.

  4. Well, at least you call it a confession and not a complaint session. I'm usually one to go into a rant on my garden misfortunes as though it were not a result of my lack of planning or care. I have a similar confession to your tibouchina story...I let the camellia my son bought me for Christmas completely dessicate on my porch during winter. I was so distracted by our cold marathon. It still had some leaves on it when I finally planted it, but I was never able to revive it. I feel so guilty since it was a gift he bought with his own money. : ( I wanted to sneak out and buy a replacement, but the whole family soon found out about the fiasco.

    On the bright side, you do indeed have a lot of beauty in your garden. And I love those insect photos!

  5. Ami, thanks for all the gorgeous flora pictures you posted here. Do not despair. Failure is the key to success in gardening. Despite all the knowledge we can gather from books and the internet and even wise words said through the times, it is the personal experience that matters most in gardening. Take photos of your glorious blooms and baby seedlings when they are alive and bury the dead ones. Replace them with new ones or whatever that catches your fancy and watch magic happen before your eyes. Plants are like people and a garden is like the home. Let's all share this adventure together at Blotanical.

  6. You have some very pretty combinations. I really like the hibiscus.
    When we look at blogs we usually only see the good things that are happening. However, every gardener has mistakes, disappointments, etc. I have my fair share of mistakes. What is that saying...if you don't have any mistakes then you are not trying hard enough.
    I love your new header!

  7. Thanks all for your encouraging words! I knew that is what I will get from all of you when I post this. We gardeners cheer for each other's success, and comfort each other when things do not go as what I wanted them to go. That is what made this gardening world even more facinating and enjoyable.

    I have been learning from all of you. Thanks for being there for me!

    Flowerlady: That is so true what you said "In spite of it all, there is always something that makes us smile, something we didn't see before." I am sure I will experience more of this. Thanks for the hug!

    Meems: I can feel your hug from your sweet words! Knowing others also have similar experience somehow give me the comforts and the courage. I am surely learning a lot from this one year gardening experience, but still a lot unknow and new things ahead of me.

    RFG: Yes, your recent "Garden negativity" post was one of reasons that inspired me to write this post of my own. It is almost equaly important to share the failures with others as to share the success. You are one of those who is always so generous to share those. Thanks!

    FloridaGirl: Your side bar picture of tibouchina was one of reasons I came to know this flower, and when I saw it on the fairchild plant sale, I just had to have it. I thought I have put it in a ideal location, and watered it reguraly. Losing it was kind of hard for me, for the same reason this is a gift to me. Have you ever replaced yours? Someday I may get another one, but I need to know what I did wrong this time first. BTW, your comment also made me realizing that I got the title wrong! I just changed it. THANKS!

    Autumn Belle: Thanks! I totally agree that "it is the personal experience that matters most in gardening. ". I am still accumulating those personal experience. There are so many factors playing roles in the gardening success. I still have so many to learn! But the adventure itself is a fun journey, and I need to learn how to enjoy the journey as well :)

  8. Amy: Thanks for the wise comforting words:"if you don't have any mistakes then you are not trying hard enough". I love it!!! I can use all the encouragemet I can get. Thanks!

  9. Ami - Your garden still has plenty of beauty in it. The heading of my blog says "learning and growing in a Florida garden" for a reason. It's hard to do, but good for us to look at our gardening failures as lessons learned and go on from there. Work with those plants that work in your garden. Look at the new spaces that open up as new opportunities. Having said all that, I can understand how you feel. When a plant I love dies it sure isn't easy. But it happens.

    BTW, your milkweed should come back eventually. This summer it may keep being eaten away because as it tries to come back the butterflies will find it again. I keep several spots of milkweed in the garden behind other plants. They always come back in the same spots. It is so pretty when it is "undiscovered" but that look doesn't last. It will bring the butterflies though so it is a keeper. It will reseed itself too so look for those little seedlings when you weed and leave them there.

  10. Ami, it was the camellia I killed, not the tibouchinas. Camellias do extremely well in my garden. The death was purely a case of non-watering and not planting soon enough. As for my princess flowers, they are still alive. They get cut back by freeze in cold winters, and though mine have recovered leaves nicely this year, they are still waiting on first blooms, which I think should be soon. I couldn't guess what killed yours, if it was watered daily after planting. They are pretty tough up here in Central Florida, other than cold hardiness. I've had mine many years.

  11. Ami - Keep at it. Not only are you learning to garden, you are learning to garden in Florida, which means half the stuff you read in books will be wrong, at least for you. Fortunately you have a bunch of experts ready to give you advice when you ever you need it, which I always thought was the best part of having a blog.

  12. NanaK: Thanks! It is good to know that the milkweed will eventually come back. Before it was eaten, it has several seed pods aleady. I collected those seeds, and some of them already fell off to the ground. It will be great if those seeds will sprout. It is a good idea to keep them in different spots, and behind the other plants. I will try that. Thanks!

    FG: Oops, I should have read the comments more carefully :) I planted the princess flowers in a area that might receive 6 hours morning to early afternoon sun, and got late afternoon shade. I watered it everyday for the first 10 days. After that, I might skip one day watering. Now I think since the weather is very hot, and the plant is still young, I should have watered more, or put it in a less sunny location. What kind of spot did you put yours? Thanks!

    WG: That is so true! Since I started this blog, I feel I have a great outlet to share my joy and disappointments with other gardeners, and often got lots of great advices from the experts. Thanks!

  13. Well, it looks great to me!!!

    I'm a fairly new gardener too and patience is defintely important. Hope is required too, and there's a lot to be said for plain old experience! When I was very discouraged in my first couple of years, someone said that all the best gardens are kept by older gardeners. I think it's just the years of trying things, re-working things, etc. that come from experience that make all the difference. And honestly, I think that even though perhaps my garden looks OK to the passerby, and I'm very pleased with it, I still look around and survey what needs to be done, what needs to be moved, what's being eaten alive, etc.

    Anyway, your blooms look really good! :)

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  15. It looks like you have lots of activity in your garden...beautiful flowers and creatures. That devil's backbone and hibiscus are a great combination. Don't be so hard on yourself...it's all a learning experience. After 30 years of gardening I still make plenty of mistakes and end of redoing parts of the garden. The garden is always evolving and changing...and that's part of the beauty of gardening. There's no better time than "now" to fill in the gaps for summer color.

  16. Wendy: Thanks! Lack of impatience is exactly what led me to the disappointments. The kind comments I received from all of you really make me feeling better. From now on, I will definitely try to be more patient!!! LOL

    Trassydicosta: It is nice to have your stopping by my garden! Thanks for the kind words.

    Susan: Wow, 30 year of experience! Your garden is one of those gardens that I admire. Thanks for the encouragement. Maybe with more knowledge and experience I acquire over the time, I will be able to handle the "undesired" things much better. Actually I feel much better already after receiving all the encouraging words from all of you! BIG THANKS!

  17. Ami you keep going girl - just look at that fabulous photos you posted - there's the proof in the pudding that you're doing great.

  18. Hello Ami! For a garden you feel is not doing so well, it looks pretty darn great to me! I think you are doing a fabulous job and I have even more respect for what you have achieved when you explained that this is the first time you have had access to a full garden. Amazing! I have had years of access to a garden, which I have pretty much wasted until recently...so you are light years ahead of me :)

  19. Hi Ami, i am sorry for being late here. You are not alone, there are many who share your experiences and disappointments. As the cliche goes "it is not the end which matters, but actually it is the journey". We learn a lot from these disappointmnets, and we move on again and try. Don't worry too much, at least you are dealing with annuals, which are easily replaced. In my case, because of these long drought, the fruit trees my late father planted and we inherit are suffering too much. Two of the six citrus trees might not be able to recover, 2 lansones trees, few avocados and banannas. Many trees died already. We dont count the annuals anymore, anyway they are easily replacece, but years of nurturing, waiting are gone. I am so sorry and depressed, but i found also some strenght from you. Thanks for sharing your feelings. Visit my firy post today and you will be amused and might find some amusement, come on...let's go!

  20. Been there done that and will do it again and again. I find that gardening is a learning process that never ends. On the bright side when you loose a plant it opens a spot for something new. Regarding the milkweed it will come back before you know it.

  21. I'm still learning about gardening.Thankfully I still have my dad to pester when I run into a problem.I think that's part of gardening.Trial and error.And we all learn something new every year.
    And my brand new mandivillea just up and died.Oh well.....
    hang in there.that's what the rest of us do.

  22. Rosie: Thanks! You always can make me feel better :)

    GippsLandGardener: Thanks! I actually did have full access to my garden in my previous house, just at that time I have not really been into the gardening yet :)

    Andrea: I will remember to enjoy this "Journey" as much as possible :) Sorry to hear about your loss of the trees. I know it is even more difficult for you since it came from your late farther. Wish you find the strength again, and take care!

    Rusty: Good to know that the Milkweed will come back. I also saved some seeds so that I know I can grow more from the seeds :)

    ChrisC: Isn't it great to have your dad to guide you? Sorry to hear about your mandivillea. Mine seems grow very well in my garden without any problem even receiving much care from me. I put it in a location that next to a fence, and receive morning sun only. It must be a "right" location for it.

  23. Ami, my friend, keep your chin up! Look at all the wonderful things you posted about! Your garden truly does have much to boast about right now. Also, don't fret about the lack of experience. I share your pain on this one as I've only been gardening in this climate for a few years now. It's quite different from my native northern climate where winter temps reach well below zero much of the winter. I've had MANY failures. BUT...focus on the successes! Your blooms are beautiful, as is your wildlife!
    AND...planning, in my opinion, is over rated. I'm a professional plant relocater. I research as much as possible before I plant, but if the plant is not thriving in it's location, I move it. It's that simple. No worries, Ami! We live in paradise!! Enjoy your life and your garden!

  24. Kimberly: Your "professional plant relocator" title made me smile :) I like to relocate my plants too. Sometimes I keep the new plants in their container a little longer, so that I can move them around to find the perfect spot for them! Thanks for all nice words, and I shall focusing on success more from now on!

  25. Ami, I understand how you can have those feelings about your garden, but gee...you have many more things blooming than I do! I don't think you need to feel badly at all...we all have constant disappointments when it comes to the garden! I can't tell you how many plants have died or been eaten by 'critters'...or how many other disasters have occurred here in my own garden. I am learning that one never really 'gets there', when it comes to gardening...that perfect, magazine picture doesn't exist without a bit of behind-the-scenes 'tweaking'!! At least not the whole garden at once. Maybe one plant will look picturesque on an occassion, and that's a great time to take a photo. Anyway, I can relate to your post, except for the fact that I don't have the gorgeous blooms that you have! So keep your chin up. It all is a 'process', an ongoing process that ebbs and flows, like life itself. Nothing is engraved in gold and there are really no 'shoulds' in the garden...it's all about experience and personal taste, and a LOT of LUCK;-) Much of what happens in the garden isn't even in our control, no matter how hard we might work!! Nature doesn't always cooperate with our 'plans'...as you well know;-) Take care and keep gardening;-)


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