How Do You Rate Your Garden?

ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9May 17, 2014

I may not be the only one who looks at her garden with hopeful eyes, seeing small roses already as mature and sickly ones as healthy again as in past times, ignoring the fried blooms, etc., in other words with rose colored glasses.

What I'm curious about is how you would rate your garden now, with whatever deficiencies it may have, or more work to be done, or plants to be changed, but still looking at it with a clear eye as it appears NOW. Those of you who have had hard winters and don't have much in bloom yet are allowed to imagine it with bushes abloom, but other than that no cheating please! This is a difficult one for me with huge temperature spikes, the likes of which I've never seen in spring, and many small roses that I'm pinching the buds on or that haven't bloomed yet, and fried blooms from the heat. Taking all that into consideration I would give it a 65 to 70% rating.

How about the rest of you?


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seil zone 6b MI

Sparse. I lost dozens of roses and will only replace a few of them this season and those that didn't die completely are only stumps with a few new shoots starting to grow. I won't have any "spring flush". I may get a handful of blooms in June on some of the new ones but don't expect to see any of the existing ones bloom until July, weather permitting.

Besides the roses most of the perennials also took a big hit and had to be cut to the ground as well so for me this will be a sparse season. I will probably fill in with annuals here and there for color but otherwise I think of it as a rebuilding year.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 6:40PM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

Oh my gosh, seil, that's so sad and awful. I remember pictures of beautiful, mature Austins and other roses in your garden and it just doesn't seem possible they could be gone. I just hope enough is left that it won't be like starting completely over. Compared to that I have nothing to complain about. My heart goes out to you.


    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 7:00PM
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poorbutroserich(Nashville 7a)

Seil, hang in there. It's taken me years to get a flush! Just remember all those roots down there. I bet it rebounds more quickly than you think.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 7:47PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

I don't know how I would even go about rating my garden. I think they are constantly evolving and changing. I work with a very limited budget and friends that find things I just might "need" (like the offer of a bunch of plexiglass greenhouse roofing on Friday) I often think I am just at the point of being "done" and then have a brain storm and a new project. I have a truck load of cheap paver squares to replace my "urbanite" patio with so I can change the fire pit area to a wood chip padded area for a sandbox for my grandson. Of course that urbanite needs a new I must need a new stack wall and a pot ghetto walk-way for moms pots.

My fruit trees are all mostly young, so they have probably a good 4 years before they are close to mature. I have some areas I want different fencing. Change out some berry vines. A couple new terraces.....

But I am happy with what I see even knowing it has a long ways to go

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 8:15PM
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Hahaha Ingrid, I can really identify with your 'rose-coloured glasses' description if how you view your garden. I look at my yard and see the dense camellia hedge (which is yet to be planted), my grassy orchard under planted with meadow flowers and spring bulbs (but which is currently just grass and weeds), my blueberry hedge (plants are still in the pot ghetto), my forested hillside of hazel, viburnum, birch and redbud, with under plantings of hydrangeas, azaleas and ferns (but is currently bare weeds on an inaccessible slope), my citrus grove (also a weedy slope), and lush mixed borders filled with roses, jasmine, honeysuckle, iris, Russia sage, columbines, and innumerable annuals (but these beds are still in the digging/amending stage).

In real life, I would rate my garden very poorly. I've cut down most of the diseased, struggling and invasive trees over the summer, ready to plant with my chosen specimens, but the bare gaps are now covered with weeds over compacted clay. The trees that were cut down are in a huge pile in the orchard site, waiting to be burned and chipped, and there are still two larger trees that need to come down, but will require an arborist to do the cutting. There are piles of weeds and garden debris that I have removed from the dirt, sitting in little piles interspersed throughout the garden, waiting for green waste collection. I've planted close to 1000 spring bulbs in the front yard, but as it's still autumn, it doesn't look like I've lifted a finger. The beds that I'm preparing for the 30 bare-root roses and 15 citrus and deciduous fruit trees that I have ordered look like barren wastelands. And I'm collecting the fallen autumn leaves to put on my new beds, but at present they're just strewn all over the yard in varying stages of decomposition.

So at the moment, it's really just grass, weeds and dirt. Not very enticing. But I've only been working on the garden for 6 months, so I don't feel bad about it. And I'm thankful that I see it through rosy-coloured glasses, because if I didn't it would always remain a dull plot of grass, weeds and dirt.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 9:07PM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

muscovy, forgive me if I say I'm so glad it's you and not me. It sounds like a huge undertaking, but something tells me you're going to get it done. Yes, it will take time, but once you begin to see results that will create the impetus to want to do more. Very often in the beginning things look worse before they get better and you seem to be at that stage. I'll be very interested to see your garden this time next year.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 12:20AM
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So will I! Although I'm sure it will be in a similar state if dishevelment, just with a few more flowers.

I think I will get it done, slowly but surely. I'm 28yo and not planning on moving until I can no longer get up the stairs, so (god willing) I'll have plenty of years to get it all happening.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 12:37AM
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bart_2010(8/9 Italy)

Muscovyduckling! Reading your post the first thing that popped into my mind was:DON'T THROW OUT ALL THAT GREAT ORGANIC MATTER! Be your own green waste collector,and make a huge compost pile with all those goodies! You say you have compacted clay, and speak of your property as looking like a wasteland; well, that's what I'm working with, too, and believe me,you can't have too much organic matter when you are trying to transform "desert" land into a garden. I myself have to spend enormous amounts of time and energy collecting organic matter and lugging it in. I'm SO grateful for all the rain we've had,not just for the benefits it's brought to my roses, but also because of the enormous amounts of 6 foot tall weeds,which I can cut and use as organic matter! Don't burn it, compost it! best wishes, bart

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 8:23AM
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Thanks Bart, I hear you! This clay just turns into concrete without a bit of help. I always compost my weeds and leaves, but there are a few (ok, a LOT) of weeds thet I have removed that are classified as "environmental weeds" and "noxious weeds" in this area (most notably tradescantia pallida, agapanthus, wild blackberry, and a small little bulb that smells like onions but has pretty white flowers in winter).

I am hesitant about adding these to my compost pile incase there are some seeds or segments or bulbs that don't break down enough before I use it. I don't want to risk re-introducing them to the environment here, because (let me tell ya) they're a right pain to remove!

Do you think it would be OK to put these nasties in the compost? I do worry...

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 9:09AM
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meredith_e Z7b, Piedmont of NC, 1000' elevation

Mine's a mixed bag because of the small size of many things, and this winter was a huge hit to that, too. It's funny, though, because my dad said the other day that many of my gardens are finally mature enough that other people can see what I saw when the plants were tiny, lol. I really could see it before :)

Some things aren't growing enough where they are, though, and have to be moved. I'd say that 80-90% of my ideas worked great, though. A couple of things worked too well! Those are more of a pain than the 'stunted' ones, because they are really hard to move when they are so large. (Who knew Kordes' Amaretto is a ginormous, basal-monster climber?! One of my absolute favorites, though!).

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 4:49PM
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My garden will never be finished, but I have a notion of the basic plan I want to have in place, after which I would, probably, mainly tinker around and do maintenance. I estimate four years more to finish basic planting and another five years or so for enough growth to make the garden look like a garden. In other words about a decade. I doubt we'll have that time given DH's age. But we'll go on as long as we can.
We've been working on the garden for 11-12 years and by now parts of it, particularly the roses, are mature. This year the once bloomers, the ones we planted back in 2007-2008, have been pretty glorious; and the Italian cypresses have always grown well and make a statement, though they have plenty of growing ahead still. The oaks, on the other hand, are mostly six inches tall and it will probably be thirty years before we begin to fuss about the shade they cast. I'll be an old, old lady by then.
So the effect in the oldest part of the big garden is still pretty spotty, but every year a bit less so. The last two years have been really rainy and that has helped. Other parts of the big garden are much younger and will need years to grow to make an effect, assuming we've even done our preparatory work decently. The shade garden is almost completely planted--yes!!--but still needs a few years for the shrubs to grow.
I doubt we'll be able to finish the job, but what we have is starting to resemble the Earthly Paradise I had in mind when I started. I totally understand muscovyduckling's vision: I have, and had, that too: steering by an internal compass, seeing the unseen! Muscovy, I'm glad you're starting so young: you have time to carry out your project. Good luck, and good gardening to all the dreamers.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 1:00AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I have several different gardens, all in various stages of completion. But overall I feel that with the work done in the fall and spring I'm about halfway 'there.'

Most importantly I've whittled my pot ghetto down from 65 down to only 20 roses. I made 2 entirely new rose gardens, I added some roses to a flower garden I made last year, and put 5 biggies in my new mixed hedgerow around the back yard.

My oldest fruit trees were planted 4 years ago and are starting to put on some size and look like we'll get good crops this year. My grapes are trying to take over the world, I think I'll have to change my training method next year. I tore out my Kiwi vines because the third female died on me and I decided to plant a pair of roses on the arbor instead. I overhauled and paired down my veggie garden, planted some new fruit trees to espalier, and I have begun arranging for irrigation to be installed.

There is a lot left to be done, but I finally have some beautiful spots to admire instead of just imagining what could be.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 9:33AM
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

I've really enjoyed all your comments about your gardens. The one recurring theme seems to be that they're works in progress, although all in different stages. I wonder if there's a single person who could say they're 100% finished and happy with everything. Given nature's whims, that hardly seems possibly. I thought that Tea Rose Row at least was finished but now find that William R. Smith's flowers don't like the heat and in the last two years have been shriveled, with only a short season of beautiful flowers in the spring. With the water I've given it that's not satisfactory. Souvenir d'un Ami has always been a sporadic bloomer with flowers that often disappoint. I thought age would change that but it hasn't. I've now ordered Duchesse de Brabant and Mme. Antoine Mari from Chamblee's although they won't arrive until the cooler weather of November. I hope they're fast growers and will quickly fill the big gaps that will be left.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 1:44PM
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Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

This is what I was working on this weekend

The "urbanite" wall started out as a side walk that floated out to the street and was a trip hazard. Then it was a patio. Now a wall. The bed has agapanthus in the front and behind is filled with roses that will one day swallow the area. A good thing. But I am sure I will be crying what what I thinking probably sooner than later. Next weekend I hope to make good headway on a little tool shed. Going to need it

My mind sees what I wish it to be.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 2:17PM
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Arrgh! My side flowerbed was put in a few years ago, had 60 yards of "good" soil delivered to correct a drainage problem. It did that, but has the atrocious nutgrass taking over. It seems like that's all I did last summer was dig that stuff out, and here it came again with a vengeance! Tried cardboard under mulch last fall, and that area is a little better, so this year it's going to be double duty cardboard over the whole area.

We had a late freeze which did some damage to new growth on the roses and the spring bloom was not what it usually is, although Cl. Pinkie did its usual show. Josh had pruned back the dead wood for me and it showed its appreciation! Belinda's Dream was fine, but GNabonnand, Souv de la Malmaison and Duchesse de Brabant were sparse. Oh well, there's always Fall!

Ingrid, my Duchesse de Brabant grew to full size in about three years it seemed. Wonderful rose!

I tried two hybrid teas for a change, Gentle Giant and Steven's Big Purple; not very happy with the blackspot, but will give them some time.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 2:24PM
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minflick(9b/7, Boulder Creek, CA)

Less than 50%, truthfully. Some things are coming along nicely, FINALLY. Up front, my 3 gal. Blush Noisette, 2 years in place, is getting a lot prettier and less skeletal, and her flush this year is lasting 2+ weeks so far. Louise Odier, 1 gal, also 2 years in place, is also starting to look 'real', and on purpose, rather than skeletal. The much repeated "sleep, creep, leap" has helped me have patience for this slow progress! Other things up front are either too new, or too new in 'this place' to have done much growing, so aren't amazing to look at. The irises are getting thicker and doing well, but they're over so fast!

Out back, where I hesitated planting anything because I thought we'd replace the septic tank (which I'm not entirely sure of its location....) I have given up waiting for DH to make a move, and I stuck most everything into the ground over this past winter. My 2 citrus trees, while still dinky, are showing signs of loving the dirt life, and they are blooming a lot more than they ever did in their pots (big pots, but still only pots). Cornelia who has been puny and floppy and unlovely, is also enjoying being in the ground, and is sending out more robust canes and laterals (still thin, but a big improvement). I have hopes for her. My hydrangea is looking good this year (also 2 years on site, one of my first plantings), and we'll see if my 'bluing' amendments do anything whatsoever. Madame Alfred Carrier is finally big enough to need some support, so I need to work on that. She bloomed nicely this year, but briefly. I'm still permanently behind on the weeds, and I know that I always will be to some extent, as I am surrounded by weeds and it gets breezy, so weeds blow in. Such is life. The back is starting to pull together and look decent.

I'm happy with it all. I look forward to 5 years down the road when it will be that much prettier than it is now!


    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 2:42PM
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I'm in the process of redesigining my entire garden. I left a chunk in place in front of the house, but everything else is shuffling. Fortunately, I have a tiny garden. Unfortunately, my plant collector persona clashes with my design and budgeting personas. After 12 years at this location, I finally have a vision that is becoming reality. The process has involved dozens of late night sketches and corrections, of course. If I could stay in town for five minutes, I might see real progress. But alas.... Photos coming someday.

This is a fun thread, especially given that my garden is more a product of imagination than a current composition. Ingrid, I send sympathy for yet more trials along the Tea Walk. I'm beginning to think the spirits behind our rose gardens must continuously thwart our efforts, at least a little, to keep us digging and supporting OGR nurseries. I've been pondering posting on Duchesse. She's one of two teas I grow and is pretty healthy and happy (for a tea in Portland). Oddly, Rhodologue Jules Gravereaux, my other tea, has been vigorous, nonballing(!), floriferous, and healthy here. What a complete surprise! I hope the fires have backed away from you. I've been thinking of you and your slice of CA paradise.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 3:39PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

I just realized my blued up hydrangea looks horrible with the red-foliaged Acer palmatum. Things like that. Always room for improvement. I would like an all-white garden (iceberg!) outside the kitchen window; it would be spectacular on moonlit nights, but that would mean moving a large, very well established Belinda's Dream and a large very well established Barcelona and that doesn't seem wise at all. One's tastes and aspirations and fancies and abilities constantly change--how can the plants possibly keep up?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 4:42PM
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nippstress - zone 5 Nebraska

Interesting question, Ingrid. I don't think it's the nature of a rose gardener (or perhaps any gardener) to be 100% satisfied, because if there's no work to be done in the garden there's no play either, and no excitement about unknown possibilities. Loving something that's such a dynamic process means that things are constantly changing, even in a relatively established yard. The crocuses finish, the daffodils start, then the tulips and lilacs, then the iris and columbines, then the peonies, then the long parade of roses and other perennials, all constantly in a state of flux. If I had to rate the garden, it would have to be in a particular bed at a particular moment in time. For instance, my the tulips this year were quite lovely - 80-90% maybe - but if I don't replant them we're down to the miserable 20-30% of last year. The west side of my hot sun bed is a much higher percentage than the east side of the same bed, since I find it much more challenging to overwinter and promote vigorous growth in the "hot colored" roses than the more traditional cooler pinks and whites.

All in all, I'll probably always hover around the same percentage rating for my total yard as my winter survival rates for roses - around 70-75% each year. Of course, all of this is subject to change. And when I take the time to look at little windows and interactions between plants in the yard, for a brief moment I get glimpses of 90%+ satisfaction. For me gardening is about enjoying those little moments of synergy and peace, and making sure I stop in all my Fixing the Problem tasks to simply enjoy what's good about the yard (even in my days of 10-20% satisfaction).


    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 4:23PM
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It is not a quantifiable thing for me. My garden is a place of dreaming, scheming (planning) , wonder, surprise, despair (almost), physical pain (muscles and joints - I am getting on in years) and delight. I don't think that I really look at it analytically, just as one no longer looks at the face of one long loved, rather one looks into the mind and soul. Sometimes I get an inspiration for a new plant or approach or design that I think will bring improvement, so there is some analysis, but the garden and growing things is more a way of life that makes me happy.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 11:05PM
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meredith_e Z7b, Piedmont of NC, 1000' elevation

A guy from the car insurance company had to drop off a truck for us this week, and he went wild for the garden others had commented on :) Absolutely wild! He wanted a tour and said I needed to design for a living, even giving suggestions for photo angles for a portfolio. That made my day :D I've never had anybody go so wild for my gardens, and it was a total stranger.

I see it every day, so it's hard to know what it looks like to folks just stumbling on it. Pretty cool :) That's the garden where the perennials are most mature, although the roses really aren't anything like they will be with more age.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 2:22PM
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aviastar 7A Virginia

muscovy, I could have written your posts! We're rehabbing 3 acres of long neglected property- we're 31 and 7 years in; really only 2-3 years in for new plantings The first several years were spent just reclaiming it from poison ivy and 6 ft tall weeds.

While some of the oldest beds right up next to the house are coming along nicely and I would rate them at 60-70% matching my vision of them, the majority of the property is still in the infrastructure stage. We're carving out beds, deciding on which trees stay and what trees will be added, working on water management, laying stone pathways, etc. We have several unmowable slopes that will be converted to a terraced veggie space, or ground covered perennial beds that are multi year projects. So there is a This Year To Do List, a 5 year To Do List, and a 10 year To Do List. All managed by our limited time and budget, of course!

I don't think it will ever be 'finished' but I do think I have a good 10 years until the property, as a whole package, gets to the 60-70% of the vision stage. But since we never plan on leaving and hope to have at least 50 more years here- that 10 seems like a reasonable tithe to the Garden Gods!

I actually get a great deal of pleasure out of all the small triumphs and the individual progress of plants, so in that sense I'd rate my garden at 90-100% for pleasure giving, even if it isn't very mature or full yet :)

Here's a photo from the front porch looking down the property to the creek from last year; we've mulched out at least five new beds, taken down the green shed on the far side, and cleared substantially outside the fence which will stay fairly wild, but we'd at least like access to hike around down there.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 4:31PM
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Campanula UK Z8

who knows? who cares? It can swing from a crapulous 0 to fabulous11 (out of 10) in less than an afternoon. The same spot. None of them are ever going to be done....none of them are ever going to be even remotely like any of the numerous visions, scams, wheezes and whims I have on a daily basis. I can't even manage a season's loyalty to either plants or styles - more obsessions and delusions,(shameful seed collections - literally thousands of them - classic hoarder) have the boredom threshold of a toddler with attention deficit disorder helped along by totally selective vision and a short memory. On my better days, I can get quite boastful while on my worst days, I tell myself it is all about 'the process'.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 5:01PM
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