It’s a breezy 61 degrees here today, finally cool enough to wander around my garden and figure out what I can accomplish before the snow flies. It’s also a good time to ponder what worked this year, what didn’t, and start compiling the miles-long to-do list for next year. What I learned on my summer vacation:
* Red salvia = good. I’d never tried these annuals before. My experience with annuals has been pretty limited, since I have a spotty track record of keeping them properly watered. But these guys are definitely on my must-buy list for next year. Even when I neglected them, I could practically watch them bounce back and perk up after I watered them. Bonus: It’s actually better to not remove the spent blooms and seeds, because the seeds attract goldfinches—something I never knew. For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been watching whole families of finches devour the seeds from the salvia on the patio. One of my favorite moments was watching a male and female perch on stems on opposite sides of the pot, bending the stems parallel to the ground, just hanging out and gazing out at the yard. Poetry.
• Cigar plant = deer magnet. I strolled right past this little novelty item at the garden center in spring, because the fools wanted $25 for a hanging basket. “They’ll attract hummingbirds!” the clerk trilled. I thought, hmm, not at that price. Waited until July, when I found a much-cheaper batch in flats and figured I’d give them a go. The hummingbirds stayed away in droves, but this funky little plant did attract marauding deer, which boldly marched right up onto my patio, skirting a multitude of rocks, pots, solar lights and a birdbath to get at them. Chomped them down to pathetic little stubs. They aren’t even that pretty!
• Clear plastic is useless for weed control. One of our neighbors has an ugly, weed-infested strip of yard that abuts the railroad ties at the back of one of our garden beds. Two months ago, they apparently decided to deal with it—by covering the whole mess with clear plastic and weighting it down with bags of mulch. I’ve been watching with interest, wondering if clear plastic could possibly work as well as black. It doesn’t. This project now resembles nothing so much as a terrarium, with the weeds utterly unchecked, growing happily under a condensation-coated sheet of plastic. Why wouldn’t they? They’re getting sunlight and plenty of moisture, and the edges of the plastic aren’t secured, so they’re getting plenty of air, too.
• Red geraniums attract hummingbirds. I’ve had geraniums before, but I’ve never seem hummingbirds come to them until this year—maybe because they were in a hanging basket. I’m trying this again next year, and this time putting the basket in a spot that’s more visible. My husband had a prime vantage point from his favorite chair. I rarely get to sit in his favorite chair.