TYPICALLY, IN LATE summer, when it’s too hot to do much of anything else, I advise gardeners to take a cold, hard look at what didn’t work in this year’s garden and make plans to edit ruthlessly. This year, I’m taking a gentler approach and celebrating what went right this growing season — less ruthless, more love letter. Let’s call it 2020 vision.
Just as our world shut down in mid-March, the anemones (Anemone coronaria) I planted last fall began churning out blooms. Each little lumpen, frankly unpromising tuber puts out up to 15 flowers in succession, so even a modest planting produces generously. For weeks, I harvested stems of deep periwinkle blue, crimson, white, rose and deep Bordeaux blossoms; sharing pandemic posies with the neighbors felt good. You can bet I’ll be prepping and planting another batch of tubers to plant this fall.
June brought rain (and snails) and strawberries. My husband and I patrolled the plants daily, sometimes more than once a day, to capture every beautiful ruby red ‘Shuksan’ berry. In her book “Growing Berries and Fruit Trees in the Pacific Northwest,” local berry expert Tara Austen Weaver says, “If I could grow only one kind of strawberry, it would be ‘Shuksan’.” I couldn’t agree more.
Quarantine taught us all valuable lessons in making do. With nursery visits (and impulse buying) steeply curtailed, I pulled on my botanical bootstraps and relied on starting seeds under shop lights in my basement. Easy-to-grow cosmos unexpectedly won me over. Out in the garden, I mixed interesting varieties like ‘Apricot Lemonade’ and ‘Rubenza’ with dark-leaved dahlias overwintered from 2019 — and by “overwintered,” I mean dug up in late winter and brought indoors to goose growth on a heat mat. The resulting color blends were nuanced and sophisticated, more old wine and roses than cherry Kool-Aid.
I’m never without sweet peas in the summer garden. However, in my recent obsession with peach, apricot, orange and melon shades, I let ‘April in Paris’ fall off my roster of must-grow varieties. Never again. ‘April in Paris’ is full and buxom, with long-stemmed sprays of pale lemon flowers, delicately edged with lavender, and a fragrance that’s positively swoon-worthy. New to me this year, coral-colored ‘Edith Flanagan’ is equally elegant in stem and blossom, though it lacks a strong scent. Fortunately, I planted plenty of both.
While most of my favorites from this year’s garden are quick-to-please annuals, we gardeners are no stranger to the waiting game. Several years ago, I came away from a specialty plant sale (remember those?) with a small pot of angel’s fishing wand (Dierama pulcherrimum ‘Blackbird’). Angel’s fishing wand is a drought-tolerant hardy perennial in the iris family with serviceable, strappy evergreen foliage. Easy to overlook. That is, until tall, willowy arching stems with pendant chains of plum-colored bell-shaped blooms appeared and took my breath away. And isn’t that why we garden?
● Longfield Gardens (anemone tubers): longfield-gardens.com
● Raintree Nursery (‘Shuksan’ strawberries): raintreenursery.com
● Floret Flowers (‘Apricot Lemonade’ and ‘Rubenza’ cosmos, ‘Edith Flanagan’ sweet pea seeds): floretflowers.com
● Renee’s Garden Seeds (‘April in Paris’ sweet pea seeds) reneesgarden.com Windcliff Plants (Dierama pulcherrimum ‘Blackbird’): danieljhinkley.com