Posted by: mesabimisadventures | October 10, 2010

Pessimists Don’t Plant Flower Gardens

50 daffodil bulbs have been taunting me from my front deck for almost a month now.  “Hey lady, we actually need to be IN the ground to sprout next spring!  Winter IS coming, quit your denial and plant us already!”  My response – “mumble mumble, WHY did I buy these things, mumble mumble.”

Thanks to this unseasonally warm weather, my guilt at spending $9.98 on the bulbs has been alleviated as they are now warmly nestled in the soft loamy sand.

Next spring, when the first shoots of green pop out of the melting snow, followed by bright happy yellow goodness, I’ll be thankful I planted them.  I’ll turn the corner on my way home from work and I’ll regress to a 6-year-old, singing  “yay, so pretty, so pretty, yay!” 

The most beautiful flower gardens don’t happen by accident.  They are the result of a lot of time preparing the soil, assessing the sunlight conditions, carefully weighing out all of the options for what to plant and in what grouping.  They take a lot of work for a relatively short amount of time to enjoy them, at least in Minnesota.  But year after year, the greenhouses open their doors and flocks of Minnesotans rush in to purchase their little pieces of summer.

Several years ago, I purchased a severely neglected house between my home and the alleyway.  After spending 3 times the amount I purchased it for to tear it down (where were those IRR grants when I needed one?!), I was left with a wide-open 50’x50′ sandy backyard.  A clean slate, if you will. 

The one piece of advice I heard over and over again from experienced gardeners was that it was critical to strike a balance between perennials and annuals, that it takes both to make an amazing garden.  The perennials cost more, but they’ll be around forever and they’ll provide the backbone of your garden through their consistency and size as they mature.  For dazzling colors and flowers though, you must be willing to invest in annuals.  Annuals know they have only one growing season, so instead of focusing on developing their roots the way perennials do, annuals are programmed to focus their energy on what’s above the soil.

My first summer with my new backyard, I planted morning glory (glories?).  That summer I watched them race up the trellis, onto my roof and down the roof gutters.  They were unstoppable.  I would come home and a new vine would have crossed the deck where just that morning there was nothing.  In the mornings I would step outside and admire the dark velvety violet flowers as they were opened up to face the sun for a short while before tucking away again.  They were breathtaking, but fall came and all I had left were vines to wind out of the trellis.

I have no way of knowing if my daffodils will come up next spring or the spring after.

I can hope though.

And that’s good enough for me.

Rest in peace Madisen Rae – you were your parents’ beautiful but brief but memorable little flower.



  1. You are at the most fun stage of flower gardening: when you can plant the perennials but still have lots of room for the annuals. After the perennials grow a lot, you won’t have enough room for annuals, if you are putting them in the same bed. So actually, it is better to have them in separate beds. Later, the grass will start invading the beds and it is so so hard to get out of the perennial beds. Try to keep track of the space a perennial will take up when it is mature; hopefully there are some directions from where you buy them or from someone who gives them to you. Some spread and take over, which I don’t care fore. I’ve found that lilies are really great for our climate since they usually survive the winter, don’t spread much, and come in lots of lovely colors. But the deer are apt to munch the top, which is what makes the flowers. Bleeding hearts are wonderful if you have some shade. Poppies keep coming back, but after the flowers are done, the leaves are ugly. With perennials, a rule of thumb is First year they sleep, Second year they creep, their year they leap. Your daffodils are a great choice because they increase and the deer and mice don’t like them. Another good choice to fill in a bed is to buy seeds for Sweet William. It is a biannual, so it won’t bloom till the second year, but it is practically evergreen near the ground and once it gets going, it reseeds. Another thing to look at is what seasons the flowers bloom. I have no perennials that bloom in August/Sept, so that is my job for next summer. Have fun.

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