Garden with a plan

In the Garden
Ralph Purkhiser, Purdue University Master Gardener

     The experts say one should garden with a plan.  A plan will result in a garden that has been thought out, with every plant having been selected to fill a specific purpose.  Plants in a planned garden would be spaced properly and each would be in a place it will thrive.
     That is all good, but we all know that no matter how much we plan, life sometimes throws a curve ball.  On Saturday, after attending a memorial for a relative near Terre Haute, I returned to Sandhill Gardens to find that a storm had passed through in my absence.  The walk leading to my house was blocked by a large limb that had fallen from one of the large silver maples in my yard.  My plans for the rest of the weekend were immediately changed.
     The first order of business was to assess the damage.  It was, In fact, a very large limb, with the largest portion being about 15 inches in diameter.  I was relieved to find that it had narrowly missed a treasured birdbath, but it smashed a cedar raised bed cart.  The smaller branches came down across some flower beds.  Somehow, it managed to come down between a black pussy willow and an itea that is in full bloom.  There were a few broken branches, but a few snips with the pruners and one could hardly see that there had been any damage.  The butterfly bench was unscathed, and the butterfly kinetic sculpture was fine when set back upright.  However, some of the plants in the bed did not fare so well.  A weeping cedar was damaged beyond repair and had to be cut out.  A Sunrise redbud tree had a couple of major limbs broken.  I will work on shaping that tree.  It should recover in time, but it will likely never have the natural form that was a big part of the original selection of that tree in that spot.  A red weigela in full bloom was flattened.  However, once the tree branches were removed, it began to recover, and some hummingbirds found its tubular flowers.  I will give it a few days to further recover before doing any more trimming.  It will come back from the roots in a couple of years if heavy pruning is necessary.  A sweet bay magnolia growing on the other side of the sidewalk was hit by some of the outer branches, breaking off some of the small magnolia branches.  The tree was poised to start blooming, and it lost several of those wonderful-smelling buds.  However, there does not appear to be any major damage to the tree.  Beyond that, there were some perennials that were flattened, but should recover.  Of course, the time spent cleaning up took away from other planned garden activities, including digging and dividing perennials.
     There were some benefits from the incident.  I will have a start on next winter’s firewood.  The clean-up put me into a bed where a small callery pear tree had sprung up, and I was able to remove that invasive plant.  It has also served as the impetus to clean out some weeds in the area.
     In this situation, there is not a real change in the growing conditions for the area.  The limb was large, but the tree is huge and one limb did not affect the canopy area very much.  Sometimes, losing a tree or a large limb results in a shady area’s becoming a sunny bed.  In such a case, the shade plants would have to be moved to a more-appropriate area and one would have the opportunity to design a bed for plants that need a lot of sun.
      No matter how much we may plan, we must be ready to respond to the changes that are thrust upon us.  Gardening and life have a lot in common.
     The annual Sandhill Gardens garden swap day will be Saturday, June 4 at 10 AM.  Bring your extra plants to trade with other gardeners.  If you do not have plants, garden tools, décor and accessories are also appropriate items to trade.  


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