A thorough clean-up in spring was followed by the spreading of mulch; plants growing too close together were dug up and relocated. Unhappy plants, yes I have a few of those as well, were moved to, hopefully, better spots. I made my rounds at local nurseries, picking up annuals to fill pot after flower pot. Coleus, an amazing annual known for the many different colors and leaf shape it comes in, was bought by the dozens by me. Rather than buying larger plants, I buy small plants in a six or eight pack, paying a pittance. Cutting off the tops to encourage growth of a bushier plant, these small plants grow into sturdy, healthy plants in just weeks. A month after planting them in pots, it is hard to remember how small they were when potted up. A dark corner literally lights up with its foliage. Flowers, if they appear, don’t do much for the plant and most of the time I just cut off the flower spike.
The Rose of Sharon, the bane of my existence, has been reduced in height by about 8 feet. Rather than three leggy shrubs, they were cut down to 12 inches from the soil. They promptly re-sprouted into a ball of green, to be followed by flowers. While I still will have to pull out seedlings, no longer will their seeds be dispersed over a 20 foot area. Using Preen, a garden weed preventer, also seems to stop these Rose of Sharon seeds from germinating, making it an aid to be used on that side of the garden. But where three tall shrubs once tried to hide a neighboring house, now I have an unimpeded view over their fence into the yard. Various willows on our boundary have done a great job providing shelter from prying eyes, providing shade in the midst of summer.
Salix integra Hakuro Nishiki, or as it is more commonly known as Japanese dappled willow, sprouts in spring after its annual haircut with a multitude of supple branches. White, green and soft pink combine their colors in its small leaves, turning to creamy white and green as the seasons progress, dropping leaves in fall and amending the soil as they decay. A quick trip to a nursery brought me face to face with a standard Hakuro Nishiki willow; a strong, nearly 5 feet tall trunk, at the top of which the Japanese willow was grafted and growing. Not nearly as full as the other two Nishiki willows in our garden, this willow, once planted in the garden and after next spring’s haircut, will become fuller in a short time. Within a year or two at the most, the view will be impeded, willow branches will sway softly in the wind, while the colors will brighten up the garden. A few plants will be moved to make room to dig a hole and plant the willow. This is a job suited well for the combined efforts of the head gardener as well as the under gardener, The Spouse, who will have the job of maneuvering the willow in place, giving him ownership of a piece of the garden.
Foliage is taking an ever increasing role of providing color in my garden. Red Japanese maple, yellow as well as rosy red barberry plants, purple ninebark, Japanese willows and regular willows weave a tapestry of color. Perennial plants provide blooms, but once done, their foliage plays an important role in providing shape and texture to the garden. More understated, yes, but a show which lasts well into fall. I think I just entered a new chapter in my gardening life.