Saturday, May 4, 2013

Sleep, Creep, and Leap--How the Garden Grows

Johnny Jump-ups
There is an adage for gardeners that reminds us to be patient as a new garden gets underway, and it goes like this: The first year they sleep; the second year they creep; and the third year they leap. There are, of course, some plants that grow more quickly and others more slowly, but it is still a good rule of thumb.

The period of "sleeping" is when plants are settling in and putting most of their energy into developing strong root systems in their new homes. During this time you will see little growth topside, but if we could view them underground we would see a lot of activity.

The "creeping" phase is when the root system continues to develop, but the plant is established enough to divert some of its energy to above-ground growth. You will see some new stems, new leaves, and more fullness (well, barring any catastrophes along the way--freezing conditions, not enough water, etc.).

The "leaping" phase is when the root system is so well-established that almost all the growth occurs above ground--and that's when plants really show their personalities. The ones that are going to take over the whole garden will make their intentions known at this point. Others may be more well-mannered in their growth.

I usually wait to make any transplanting decisions until the leaping time, because it is hard for me to visualize a what a plant might look like at maturity until that leap phase. Being three years into growth makes for a more difficult transplant, but I have had success so far. More experienced gardeners will no doubt plant well in the first place. But for me, it is always a matter of experimenting--sort of like rearranging furniture to see what looks best next to what, and in which location.

Foundation bed just after planting in April 2012

Same garden bed in May 2013--the euphorbia (center) is taking over; the apple tree and box hedge remain about the same; the wooly thyme is spilling over the rockery; and two rose bushes are doing well at the far left
So here we are into the second year of the front garden, and I'm seeing the "sleep, creep, leap" adage in action. I tend to buy big and over-plant because I don't have the patience to look at compost with spindly twigs in it while plants are gearing up for the "leap" phase. I like instant results! That usually means I end up doing a lot of transplanting as plants grow and crowd each other in the too-tight spacing I initially forced them into.

Like a proud mama, I'm showing off my bodacious, herbaceous offspring! As you can see, several of them are real overachievers, having gone directly from sleep to leap. The euphorbia, in particular, has really jumped the fence and is completely overshadowing the dainty primroses beneath it. Another attention hog is the wallflower (rather inappropriately named I might add...). It also has the annoying habit of leaning so far toward to sun that one side is exposed clear down to the stems. I don't know why my wallflowers are leaning to the sun since the entire bed has full-on southern exposure.

Garden bed, April 2012, with newly planted bachelor button, rockrose, rosa rugosa, ornamental grasses, black clover, and wallflower. Neighbor's lilacs at the back.

Same bed in July 2012 already showing some good growth.

The lavender are also doing well without being overbearing. The montbretia are just starting to come up, so pretty soon we'll see if they are creeping or leaping. My violets and johnny-jump-ups have self-sown and are now all over the garden and that's fine with me--I love them! The box hedge is growing quite slowly--as box does--but having planted a similar hedge at our old house, I know it will shape up nicely within five years.

Lavender just planted in August 2011 before we moved the angel into place.

Same area in April 2012

We are also including a lot of edible plants in our new garden in hopes of becoming self-sufficient for some of our favorite and most frequently eaten produce including berries, parsley, chives, garlic, and lettuces. The strawberries we planted in the front garden last year are thriving and the apple and cherry trees are doing well although not likely to fruit for another year or so. MTH is erecting a small greenhouse in the back yard to grow tomatoes and cucumbers, but I'll cover that in another post.

For now, I hope you enjoy this year's creepers and leapers!

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