plant strong "rosie the riveter plantingsâ for your later ye
PLANT STRONG "ROSIE THE RIVETER PLANTINGS” FOR YOUR LATER YEARS
Do you ever wish gardening was easier? Would you like to do almost no new planting at all yet still have a fabulous garden? I often wish I could be like one of those Victorian ladies. They never perspire as they walk around their perfect gardens in stiff brocaded gowns, and carry baskets for their cuttings. All they do is snip, pinch, and lightly prune-and their gardens look perfect.
When I was younger, I think (I know) I was a mindless gardener. Because I had so much energy, I planted everything and anything I got my hands on. I planted many needless plants and so many plants that needlessly died. Because I am now older and wiser, I find I tire quickly, have less strength, can’t kneel down, can’t easily bend, “Me ol' bones ache” and I know it is only going to continue (and I shudder to think) - get worse! Therefore, I must simplify and make gardening easier and longer lasting...if I am to continue…
Hopefully, you have arrived at your ripe age and already have a decent garden. Realistically, you know you are going to add plants to your garden, but because you cannot handle fussy annuals and perennials like you did when you were younger, what should you steer your energies to planting?
I have now come up with a way to get the look and feel of flowers in your garden without having to plant annuals or a lot of fussy perennials. You have to plant “Rosie the Riveter Plants” or “We can do it plants”-- strong perennials, confident flowering shrubs, determined compact small conifers and evergreens, and flowering small trees with loads of blooms and beautiful leaves.
ANNUALS- ARE THERE STRONG ‘ROSY’ ANNUALS?
For me, at my stage in my life of gardening, the answer is ‘no.’ I used to plant flats and flats of them. I still love the color and look of flowering annual plants but I just do not have the energy to “deal” with planting them anymore, so, forget about them. I cannot even get down to plant them. My knees were replaced a few years ago. I keep my annuals for window boxes and large planters. If I desperately need some in a bed, I just wack my forehead and say to myself “think about something else.”
WHO ARE THE “ROSIE THE RIVETER SHRUBS” OF THE GARDEN WORLD?
In the deciduous shrub category, they are strong shrubs. I call them my "Rosie the Riveter “workhorses of the garden. These "Rosie" gals must have a good strong body and a good shape. They must be shrubs that are tidy and not invasive. Shrubs that you need only lightly prune to keep in size. The shrubs must have good flowers, beautiful leaves, and a good show in two or three seasons. Above all, they should not flit around like wild floozies. They must be serious.
Who are the strong "Rosie the Riveters" of the garden? A few good ones are: all the evergreen and deciduous azaleas, enkianthus, crepe myrtle shrubs (good arms and legs), all viburnums (they often even smell good), Rhodes (good bones and showy), hydrangeas (full and buxom), pieris andromeda (good early riser and show no wear and tear in all 4 seasons), Vitex shrub (instead of a butterfly bush) butterfly bushes can get ratty looking as the season goes on, daphne (a strong but dainty looking plant that loves perfume.) These are only a select few of the great deciduous flowering shrubs which look better and fuller year after year. You know who they are. They are the ones who work well for you too. Also, I especially love Oak leaf hydrangeas “snow queen” and Aucuba. I Iove and have loads of Korean boxwood lining beds and in strategic areas along with conifer shrubs.
Do I have any wild floozie shrubs in my garden? Yes, but I stare them down daily, give them tough love, and prune some of them weekly. Who are these wild girls (which I incidentally dearly love)? They are named Wisteria (nicknamed Hysteria), forsythia, and you know all the others who cause you heartache and grief.
Azaleas and Rhodadendrons (need dappled sun or afternoon shade) Why do so many people only plant azaleas and rhodes in the front of their house? If it is flowers and color that you want, not only plant them in your front, but also fill your back garden with tons of them. They require almost no work. Unless you really want them rounded and sheared as they sometimes do in Japan, let them grow 4, 5, 6 feet tall and naturally blossom out. What is more breathtaking than walking through a garden and being enveloped with millions of fairy bells of pink, lavender, and white? Azaleas and Rhodes of five and six feet tall?
I cannot live without planting the earliest bloomer, purple PJM azaleas throughout my whole garden. I plant a group of three lavender PJMs in each bed and one pink PJM alongside them. PJMs bloom weeks earlier than the other azaleas. They are my harbingers of spring. I love to stand and slowly “zoom/gaze” from one section of my garden to all areas and pick out the 30 or so strategically placed PJMs and see that they are everywhere and blooming in all the far corners and areas of the early spring garden. Each year I try to put in three more PJMs to get that visual effect when nothing else is blooming.
“Oh, but Azaleas bloom for only such a short time…” No they do not. I get flowers mid-March, if it is warm, till June. So what if azaleas do not flower in the summer or fall. Do tulips bloom in the summer or fall? Not only are azaleas and Rhodes a spectacular effect in the spring but even in the winter with snow on them they add structure , yet are not overpowering.. They also are full, lush fillers in the summer. But remember, if your garden is in full sun-forget them. Oh come on, you don’t want a garden in complete full sun anyway. It limits the time you can be with your Rosy gals. It gets too hot. So explode with Azaleas and Rhodes. So now you have to get some small trees to get that precious dapple shade you and your plants need. (Hopefully you have a few tall big trees already matured.)
SMALL TREES -
I do not like to walk through a garden that is in total full sun. By planting small deciduous flowering trees, you will have dappled shade and you will have added height to your beds .Vertical structure is what flat gardens need. These trees should not give heavy shade but "grades or variations of shade.” These trees should not have large leaves as a sugar maple tree has. A few good small leafed trees to use at the ends of your beds are; try the rarer maples such a Sango-kaku, cherry trees, crepe myrtles, dogwood, sweet bay magnolia, lace leaf maples, stewartia, full moon maple, paper bark maple, styrax, vitex tree, stellata magnolia, and cercis (red bud). These trees are delicate girls and will not over take your beds. If they do start to get too large, a light trimming and lifting is all they need. However, best of all, these sweethearts wear flowers in their hair-and a few of them smell real good. This year treat yourself to a yellow magnolia. Not many people know about this relatively new arrival.
Also, include in your garden, larger flowering trees. Depending on the layout of your garden, these larger trees may best be placed on the edges of your property. The following trees not only give you shade in the spring and summer but also spectacular fall color and good bones for the heavy snows to rest on.
Good choices are: kwanzan cherry, styrax, franklinia, southern magnolias, soulangiana magnolia, crepe myrtles, dogwoods, fringe tree, golden rain tree, sourwood, holly trees, and my favorite non-flowering trees; china fir 'Cunninghamia', limber pine 'pinus flexis', umbrella pine, dragon's eye pine, sugar maples, and the stately soaring dawn redwood 'metasequoia'. Buy yourself a stately dawn redwood if your property can take the size. They are a wonderful tree for so many reasons (that is another article.)
USE JAPANESE MAPLES AS SHRUBS
The normal garden has a Lacy leaf maple (Acer palmatum) just in the front of their property. Plant them all over your front and back garden. I have 14 Acer Palmatums throughout my 2 acre garden. I use them as shrubs. Actually flowering shrubs, if their coloring is gorgeous and most all of them are, especially in the fall.
Strong Perennials- These perennials are easy. Include a few of them as you are able; bulbs, jack in the pulpit, may apples, day lilies, lilies, all of the hydrangeas, hostas are great fillers, knockout roses, ferns, liriope for edging, and my favorite new flower- Hellebores. Plant as many as you can afford.
FALL GARDEN If the date today was November 6 in South Eastern Pennsylvania, zone 6-7, most of the large deciduous trees would have already dropped their colorful leaves and all the flowers are gone. Even the sugar maples are bare. Is there any color in this garden? It is filled with it. I still do have 14 Acer palmatum dissectums in full leaf and brilliant red, yellow and orange, four paperbark maples (Acer grisium), are brilliant red. My 10 oak leaf hydrangeas 'Snow Queen' and 'Alice' are glorious mottled shades with all the leaves still on and all the large brown flowers still on. If you have a funny bone, spray paint the brown flowers on the plant, gold and silver and deny that you did it.
The enkiantus are brilliant red and all azaleas have leaves that are maroon and yellow in color. The foliage of the mentioned trees and plants seem to me to keep their bright and colorful leaves the longest. There is nothing in the fall garden that one must coddle or give much attention to. It is almost magical to walk through a full fall blooming garden. Best of all, everything returns in the spring.
I end with this advice; Slowly remove all your “not worth the trouble plants ‘cause I cannot handle them anymore” and plant “Rosy the Riveter” plants.