2016 was an ambitious gardening year for both Mark and me with a list of projects and tours that got us off to an early start. The weather, the plants and Mark and I all cooperated to make for a growing season that left us with mostly pleasant memories to get us through the winter. Here's my recap.
NOTEWORTHY WEATHER: Unlike much of the country, we had good weather throughout the seasons along with consistent moisture and few serious weather "events." What this winter will bring no one knows, but many times during the last 12 months I've made myself slow down and acknowledge how lucky we were to enjoy so many lovely days. Here you can see what happens when we get heavy rain in a short time period. The pond overflows in this corner and the dry stream directs the water out to the street along the property line between our house and our neighbors. The water in the stream always soaks in and disappears as soon as the rain lets up.
TOUR TIME: 2016 was the year of the tours. I think the final count was 13 tours in 19 weeks. That included everything from friends visiting from out of town to the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society to the garden editors from a couple of national magazines. It was fun and rather heady. But perhaps the best thing about it was that it inspired us to complete projects that had been sitting unfinished for years, like dealing with the water and electric lines by the Tea House. At this point, any new projects that get proposed are just the icing on the cake which is a very satisfying feeling.
MAIL ORDER MADNESS: Winter in Wisconsin tends to send this gardener on-line in search of plants: pictures of them, stories about them and catalogs that sell them. 2016 saw me order more plants from more different nurseries than I've ever done before. I used our upcoming garden tours as my excuse. It was a fun, fascinating experience but not something I will do again. I did take advantage of the situation to write about all the nurseries and to do a post on mail order plants: what I learned.
PERFECT PLANT PERFORMANCE: All the new plants I put in in the fall of 2015, like Eremurus, bloomed right on cue. My Ladyslipper Orchid and "Molly the Witch" Peony (below) also bloomed for the first time ever. My first attempt at growing a Dahlia was so successful that I am now hooked on trying more of them.
MARVELOUS MEMES: There are just a few memes out there in the blogosphere that are worth joining. I've found three of the best and I know many of you agree because these memes are where I've met you! My favorite memes: In a Vase on Monday, Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and Foliage Follow Up.
RAMPAGEOUS RABBITS: It wouldn't be gardening without a few problems. This year the rabbits were everywhere eating everything. Important shrubs and new plants spent much of the season caged for protection. I'd pull the cages off every time we had visitors and they'd go back on the minute the guests got in their cars. When I planted a small group of fall blooming crocus, the bunnies ate the first one that bloomed. I was out of cages and energy so I resorted to covering the clump of flowers with a plastic milk carton. Effective if not exactly charming. My task this winter is to put out Have-a-Heart traps to try to reduce the rabbit population. That and pray that a fox moves into my garden!
NEW ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS: For the first time in many years we did not buy a couple of truckloads of mulch from Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Last Spring, the Gardens put out a notice that they were temporarily suspending the sale with input from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the City of Madison, and other invasive species experts. They did this because the DNR recommended that leaves not be moved through Dane County due to the possibility of spreading invasive jumping worms.
Unfortunately many of us who garden in Dane County, including me, have already found the dreaded jumping worms in our gardens. Jumping worm cocoons appear to be able to survive Wisconsin's winters and can be spread through soil, compost, and mulch (hardwood and leaf). When we did our driveway project in 2015 we bought soil and mulch from commercial sources and that may be where the worms in my garden came from. Who knows? But this is a huge issue with the potential for serious habitat destruction. It's the one thing that put a damper on all the great aspects of the 2016 garden year.
The photo above shows Mark in 2010 with a load of Olbrich mulch.