Saturday, May 10, 2008

Coping With Loss

It happens every year. Spring rolls around and as the garden begins to awaken, I anxiously make the rounds to see what has survived whatever kind of winter we've had. Some things burst out of their winter coats like gangbusters to let you know right away that they're ready to get on with the show. Others are shy and keep you wondering if there's any life left in them.

But the time eventually comes when you know that last year's show was actually the swan song for some of them, and it's hard to take. God has said that He doesn't want a single soul to be lost, and so it is with us and the plants we lovingly care for.

I had said earlier that I was making a rule for myself that I wouldn't plant any perennials in the fall. The purpose of making that decision was to plant only in spring and summer so that there was enough time for the plant to become established and better able to withstand the rigors of winter. Of course, I always see something I'd not seen before and want it, so I'm always breaking my own rule.
So it should come as no surprise when some of these plants that should make it through the winter, don't.

This year, so far, I've determined that these are goners:

Gaura lindheimeri
Coreopsis 'Autumn Blush'
Cape Fuschia

4 out of 5 Lavenders

Echinacea 'Harvest Moon'
Perennial Flax (Linum perenne)

'Black Knight'

Lobelia cardinalis 'Queen Victoria'
Astrantia 'Moulin Rouge'
'Cape Blanco'

A great deal of Gaillardia

Rose 'Sutter's Gold' (and I've had this one for years!)
Burning Bush (Euonymus alata)

Variegated Brunnera


Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)
Sunset Foxglove (Digitalis obscura)
Mums (duh)
Rose 'Diana Princess of Wales'


Some of those were planted last fall, but a few of them I've had for a couple of years or more. Romie finds it much harder to deal with losing a plant than I do, and when it happens, he can be heard to declare, "Well, don't buy any of that anymore." Then I have to explain that there can be many reasons that a plant doesn't survive and that no gardener worth his or her salt will last unless they learn early on that you win some and lose some, and sometimes you have no idea why.

So we remember their beauty, mourn their loss, and move on. There is, after all, a bright side to this. Losing a plant means there's a vacancy in the garden. A vacancy that is waiting to be filled by that new introduction you've had your eye on or maybe more of an old tried-and-true favorite.

If you've figured out why the plant was lost, maybe you'll try it again if it's one that you particularly long to have in your garden. I'll usually give a plant two tries before I give up on growing it, especially if it's supposed to grow well in our area.

Then there are those plants that you just really, really want and hate to throw in the towel with them. For me, it's the Himalayan Blue Poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia). I'm sad to say that not a single one of the plants that I planted from Michigan Bulb is yet alive. But I do think I see sprouts in my winter sown container! Just a couple of fuzzy-leaved seedlings poking up out of the soil give me hope.

Isn't this just one of the challenges of gardening? What you kill makes you stronger, isn't that what they say? Well okay, not quite, but we do need to learn to roll with the punches and now I hope you feel better about your own losses. Misery loves company. :-)


Unknown said...

OUCH! That's quite a causualty list, isn't it? Was this winter harsher than normal? Losing plants is a part of life. There are always lessons to learn from those losses though, right? My motto is keep trying plants you enjoy. One day you'll get it right!

Kylee Baumle said...

Hi Cinj ~ Actually, that's not a lot in comparison to what all is here. While I'm not happy losing anything, I've learned that it's going to happen, regardless of how you treat some plants. There are so many factors that influence a plant's success that it's hard to get them all right every time.

Our winter wasn't particularly harsh. We had a lot of snow, which was a good thing. The bad thing about our winter this year was that it seemed to never end. We've had a lovely spring - one of the best in a long time!

And yes, you learn something new every time you have a failure. You just have to view it as a learning experience and not let it get you down, right? :-)

me said...

Any chance some of the lost will have reseeded themselves? I've always lamented the loss of plants after a harsh winter, but once I stopped cutting back perenials and leaving it to my nature I was pleasantly surprised with how many reseeded themselves. Good luck and don't give up ....they're worth it.

dave1949 said...


One thing that never seems to die off, no matter the weather, is the darn dandelions.

After reading I stopped from tearing up more of the grass and weeds(7 shipments of plants arriving between now and May 22, to take a quick inventory of winter loss.

Just a walk around showed my Harvest moon surviving but not my Lillie Put Echinacea. Some of the Iris that were affected by mold, after a little watering with diluted chlorine water, 5 of the 1o popped up just fine. The other five, the tubers are hardening every day.

Looks like I lost my red Delphinium, Delphinium Nudicaule Laurin. I am still going to find the right micro climate in my yard for them.

The last of my snow melted Last Monday, now I have no outside cooler for my cold drinks, while I garden. With 253 inches of snow , I was surprised to zone 6 plants up and looking healty and zone 3 plants either not up or looking sickley.

Started to dig out last years glad beds to find out than some of the bulbs survived under such insulation.

And as you said a plant gone gives you an extra spot to try again, or try a new plant.

From a 35 degree temp to 70 now, you see not only my self, but my plants have a challenge.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about you loss. I agree with the fall planting thing. I have found many plants heaved out of the ground. Not enough time to get established, like you said.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Gaura is generally a short-lived plant. I no longer have it. What failed to survive this winter has me a bit confused. It's a variegated Lavender that had overwinter fine the previous year, & this year snow cover was more than adequate. I've already replaced it with another of the exact same variety of Lavender.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Those losses are what also keep me from buying 3 or 5 of anything new to plant in the garden. I really hate to pland so many and have them die. I like to try onesies then if they live I get a few more and plant them. Sometimes it just doens't matter what or when you plant they just don't make it. Even the plants they say are indestructable.

Aiyana said...

Beautiful photos. What percent of your total plants do the losses represent? Ouch, for sure. Great post.
Happy GTS,

Robin's Nesting Place said...

I know I have some casualties but haven't checked to see what all of them are yet.

Shady Gardener said...

Ouch is right! Gaura once made it through the winter here, but only because I Really Babied it with extra mulch. But, it only did it once. :-)
I'm so sorry for your losses. That's quite a list.

Benjamin Vogt said...

We've lost similar stuff--I just put a list up today, and I may be adding to it. Argh. Fall planting, yup, did me in, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

What alot of plants to lose, you must have alarge garden in the first place. I thought I had lost some Primulas that I had grown from seed and carefully nurtured but they have reappeared and are sending up their first flowers

Jessica said...

oy, I feel your pain. I'm not accustomed to losing plants yet, so this is all new and miserable..haha. My big loss was my 'Angel Face' standard...Granted, I bought it at an end-of-summer sale and it was in bad shape, but I thought my babying would help. Notsomuch. I can't bring myself to throw in the towel yet!!

Kylee Baumle said...

Sara ~ Possibly, but no sign of that yet. I've seen some seedlings, but nothing in the area of any of the lost plants. I don't cut back much of anything that might have seeds for the birds, and even when I do, I always shake out or crumble the seedheads in hopes of getting a few seedlings the following spring.

Dave ~ Isn't THAT the truth?? They're up and thriving and blooming happily. I like dandelions, but not particularly in my yard to excess.
My orders have all come in now, with the exception of some missing plants from an order.
I had a few mushy rhizomes of iris, too. I don't bother with them when they get like that - they're too far gone. I only keep the hard ones. So far, I haven't lost an entire bunch due to rot.
Hey! Guess what? I planted red delphinium last year and I never thought it would come back, because it's in a really wet area and it didn't seem all that strong to begin with, but it's up and growing! WOO HOO!!!
Dave, you're a TRUE gardener, to persist under those conditions. Kudos to you!

vonlafin ~ You remind me this fall not to buy and plant anything, okay?

Mr McGregor's Daughter ~ Isn't that strange about Gaura? I mean, there's a native Gaura here that is so vigorous and comes back every year. I bought a new one last week because I liked it so well.
Lavender is so iffy. One of our local nursery owners says she doesn't recommend lavender for staying power in our area. It's so fussy and most times doesn't make it through winter. I do love it though.

Lisa ~ You're so right, Lisa, and that's a good plan - buying onesies. And yes, some plants surprise you with their living and dying.

Aiyana ~ I don't know, but I'm guessing less than 5%, if that. We have many, many plants in our various gardens. An acre of land gives us lots of room to grow things!

Robin ~ Hopefully, it's not too much!

Shady Gardener ~ That's what I keep hearing about Gaura. It's so pretty though, when it's flowering like mad, that I'll probably plant it every year if it doesn't make it on its own.

Ben ~ I checked your list and once again, it seems we grow a lot of the same things. I'll probably find a few other things as I groom the gardens in the next couple of weeks. I know one I already forgot - the Fothergilla that I bought last year to replace the one I thought the rabbits destroyed. They had chewed it all the way to the ground and it was so small to begin with, but that thing came back and it's back again this year! The bigger one is the one that died. It was spring-planted, too. :-(

Helen ~ Yes, we have several gardens and the largest one is quite big, so this is really a small percentage of what's here. But I hate losing anything!
Good for you with your Primulas! They are amazingly tough. I've had them bloom here in the middle of winter!

Jessica ~ I feel YOUR pain! It wasn't all that long ago that I had to come to the realization that losses were going to occur no matter what I did. But that's also part of the fun of gardening, when you realize you're learning how to help your plants survive and accepting that you will still lose some every year.
Don't give up yet on your 'Angel Face.' I find it hard to throw out anything that has a shred of life left in it. I have an Orphan Garden, which is where I put things like that. My 'About Face' rose is there right now. It never was strong, and now it's really struggling, but I can't bear to throw it out!

kate smudges said...

It is hard to lose plants, especially favourites. I'm still trying to figure out what hasn't returned ... I always wait for the Balloon flowers to appear. They are usually the latest - after that, the chances of other plants surviving is virtually nil.

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