No one likes to admit failure; but I think it is educational to know that ‘*’ happens, especially in the garden. These posts are a record for me, my garden diary. Maybe reading it will give me pause before I purchase my 12th Salvia ‘Blue Note’. I love the look of it and want it to thrive. On its part, it doesn’t like my garden no matter how much I baby it. I am forever optimistic.
Every garden has its unique character and characteristics. This is my 3rd year gardening on our 7 acres in Fort Bragg, CA. I have logged a great many failures during that time. We have a deer fence around a couple of acres surrounding the house, I am lucky I don’t have to worry about grazing deer as they are a big problem here. (As an aside, the deer fence is new and I do have some ideas about plants that did well and were not eaten by deer. Just email me or comment on this post.) Our clearing is surrounded by tall conifers (heavily dominated by redwood trees). It does give us protection from the wind (the ocean is less than a mile away) but it also means we are cooler and shadier than areas more inland.
I thought I would give you a glimpse of my three years of extensive gardening in the cultivated part. I promise to post my successes as well. The property outside the fence is wild and we leave it that way, a stream runs through part of it and we treat it as wildlife refuge.
This is a list of plants that failed to thrive or just plain croaked soon after planting. Why? I am not really sure for many of them. The garden does have some unique features which make it difficult; competition by redwood roots, acid and depleted soil although it has been supplemented with enormous amounts of compost (several times a year), bone meal and other amendments. We are supposed to be in climate zone 9b but I am not sure that is completely accurate. We get a lot of winter rain (in most years) and it’s soggy weather. Summers are on the cooler side with summer fog. The soil is basically sandy and drains well, but is low in nutrients, maybe because it does drain well…the nutrients just leach out. And again, there are those redwood roots, it could be that root competition does them in.
Anyway, here is a partial list of my failures:
- Salvia x jamensis ‘Ignition Purple’
- maybe it will come back when the weather warms but it’s pretty wimpy right now
- Monardella macrantha ‘Marian Sampson’
- Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’
- Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Margarita BOP’
- Salvia purpurea ‘Lavender Lace’ – a meager leaf here and there, not thriving at all
- Salvia ‘Elk Blue Note’ – I purchased 11 of these to scatter around the garden, none has a single leaf as I write this.
- Salvia ‘Amistad’ – this was a weed in my Oakland garden, even with the heavy clay. It does ok for 1 year here but doesn’t come back which is so disappointing because the hummers love it.
- Abutilon, various types – I think the redwood roots are too aggressive for this plant. I have 3 plants and only one seems to be hanging on. I cheer it every time I pass. They also did well in Oakland although they got leggy.
- Felicia aethiopica ‘Tight & Tidy’ – This plant is a prolific bloomer for about 2 years. Its flowers have blue petals with a yellow center. It’s low growing and perfect for the front of the border. But…here is the but, in year two it seems to poop out. Is it me, the weather, wrong time to cut it back? I haven’t figured it out. It’s gorgeous until it starts to get too big and I cut it back. So, stay tuned while I figure out what happened.
- Nicotiana alata Lime Green – this one did well the first year and it’s a great contrast plant but it didn’t self sow itself as promised. I will try it again because it looks so gorgeous against other plants and the hummingbirds like it. Nicotiana langsdorfii and Nicotiana mutablilis did much better. Mutabilis is a big favorite of the hummingbirds in the vegetable garden at the MCBG (Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens) which is why I planted it. It hasn’t done quite as well in my garden but is hanging in there.
I admit that when I find a plant I love, I don’t give up on it. The above plants represent multiple failed attempts. Other master gardeners at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens have mentioned bad luck with Salvias, they think that Annie’s Annuals (an amazing nursery where I get many plants) may have wrong zones listed on some of their plants. I also think our gardening geography has some unique features.
What has been your experience? Have any of the plants listed done well in your garden? Any tips, especially on the Salvias?
Look for another post on those plants that have been successes, there are quite a few that have done well.