Friday, June 2, 2017

Return of the tame-flower bed

Actually, since it's mostly weeds at the moment, I guess I can't exactly call it tame. Perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a lame-flower bed.

A quick recap: Back in 2014, after pulling out the overgrown shrubs to the left of our front door, we planted the area with a wildflower seed mix we bought from American Meadows. This blend was a mix of annuals and perennials for the Northeastern gardens, and the site promised "show-stopping color all season long, year after year." And, after an unpromising start in spring of 2014, the seeds did actually burst into an impressive mix of blooms by mid-June.

But sadly, this triumph was short-lived. One particular flower in the mix, the bachelor's buttons (aka cornflowers), grew up to a height of about four feet and then, in the first heavy rainstorm, flopped over, burying everything else under their stalks. We attempted to compensate for this problem the following year by installing a grid of stakes and string that we hoped would keep the flowers corralled, but that turned out to be too little, too late. The grid wasn't enough to keep the flowers from flopping, and moreover, the bachelor's buttons had spread beyond the borders of the original bed and were flailing about with no constraints. One year later, they had pretty much taken over the entire area, and pulling them all out left us with a pitiful, scraggly mix of a few poppies and black-eyed Susans looking sadly around for all their friends.

So in 2016, we came up with a new plan. We bought a different wildflower seed blend, this one containing only perennial plants. That, we figured, would remove the overly aggressive cornflowers from the mix. Last fall, we pulled everything out of the bed, planted the new perennial seed mix in place of the old, and crossed our fingers.

And now, nearly six months later, here's what we've got:


What you might notice about that picture is the conspicuous absence of flowers. There's a lot of green stuff, but only a few tiny wallflowers blooming. Worse still, those tallish stems that look like they're ready to bloom before too long are actually....wait for it...BACHELOR'S BUTTONS! These things are like the monster in a horror movie! No matter how many times you kill it, it just keeps coming back!

Now, maybe I'm being too hasty in calling this attempt a failure. After all, at this point in June of 2014, all we had was a patch of baby's breath with a few scattered dots of color, but two weeks later, the bed was a full-on riot of color. So maybe the perennials will undergo a similar transformation (once we get the damn cornflowers out of there).

Unfortunately, we'll have to wait quite a while to find out, as the American Meadows site warns one reviewer that "perennials do typically only show green growth in the first year." So we might not know until next summer whether we're actually going to get any blossoms...and by then, it will be too late to do anything about it until the following year. Which means we might not be able to get anything decent-looking into this area before 2019.

All in all, I'm feeling kind of disappointed with our attempts to grow a pollinator garden in this area, as the landscaper we consulted back in 2012 recommended. I'm wondering if maybe we would have been happier just replacing those big, overgrown shrubs with some slightly smaller shrubs—maybe a couple of hydrangeas or small rosebushes—and calling it good.
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