Don’t Worry, Be Happy Gardening

I’m so sick and tired of the hatred, the violence, and the unstoppable virus, all of which have become frighteningly pervasive in the news. My husband and I are retired, so the pandemic hasn’t affected us financially, but we can’t hug our children and grandchildren, which, for us, is huge. With all the sadness and anger surrounding all of us, I have not escaped the depression so many others have been feeling these days, and I finally had to admit to myself that this is what is going on, so I turned my attention away from the sad and angry to the beautiful: my gardens. With the quarantine, we now have more time to spend at home on the gardens instead of going other places. The plan according to Denny is”: “She points, I dig”, which is exactly right.  The soil in North Carolina is red clay. Add to that the rocks and stones turned over into the soil during the construction of new homes, and you have a dig job that I can’t do for large areas.

We have accumulated quite a few gorgeous plants and bushes in the 2 ½ years we have been in the house, preserving what was here already from the builders. The first year in our home we decided to plant above the ground and opted to buy a dozen half whiskey barrels for planting and it was quite a success. We defined the border of the barrel garden with landscaping bricks and it became a unique mixed sun/shade/part-shade garden. We have gotten so many complements on it. Several of the barrels are home to a beautiful selection of five different species of lilies.

One of my favorite plants is the Midnight Marvel Hibiscus. It produces the most magnificent show-stopping crimson blooms on leaves of deep hues of red and green. I bought one and put it in a barrel in a part-sun, part-shade location. It did well but the next spring there was nothing but dead branches. It wasn’t showing any signs of new growth in very early spring as were some others, and I assumed it didn’t make it through the winter. As guaranteed, Spring Hill Nurseries replaced it, and low and behold, now I have two! It was just a little slower starting than others.

When the bottom leaves started getting yellow and drooping frequently, I was afraid they had become pot-bound and the roots had eaten up all the soil, but they looked so nice in the barrels. Of course, it is quite warm in North Carolina to begin with and these plants require more watering than I was probably providing them last year, especially if they were becoming pot-bound. Today I decided to conduct a little experiment. I mean, they are lifetime guaranteed, so what did I have to lose? My husband hauled the heavy barrels over to two spots that get more sun, carefully laid them on their sides and removed the bottoms of the barrels, which was not hard, as they were all soft and mushy already. He loosened up some soil underneath and put the barrels on top of the loose ground, and I watered them thoroughly. All we could see was root after we removed the bottom, so now I’m hoping that they will have some room to breathe and spread. I’m going to try to work in some coffee grounds and compost to the soil, if I can, and use a little mulch on top this time to hold the water better. If this works, in a few weeks I should have a stunning display of Midnight Marvel Hibiscus. If it doesn’t work, they go in the groundIt’s the little things that make me happy.

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