Patience – A Virtue Learned in the Garden

08/04/2012 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Flowers, Vegetable Gardening

Patience is needed for truly natural gardens. Early in June my gardener’s confidence was crushed when a tomato plant withered and wilted away underneath these seemingly green thumbs. Just a month later, following several inches of monsoon rain, seed that lay dormant from last year’s tomato plants has sprung to life and is setting fruit! It’s just another instance showing that a gardener’s care mixed with patience can turn a garden’s sorrow into a gardener’s delight. Patience is a virtue that can be taught by a garden well tended with a watchful eye.

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This is the gardening season when many fun summer plants appear on the market. You will not find these plants available in spring or early summer, so they are welcomed, uplifting fill-ins to the gap between a garden’s summer and fall crop rotations. A couple of fun examples to see and touch this week are:

Calico Peppers – This eye-catching plant is popular for use in mixed containers and in-ground plantings. Strongly variegated purple, cream, and green tricolor foliage has glossy black fruits which are habanero hot and challenging to eat, but south of the border good. These exceptionally attractive plants are extremely drought tolerant and easy to grow under hot summer conditions. Plant a cluster front and center in a full-sun spot and watch that part of the garden come alive.

Wild PowWow Coneflower – In our trials, we noted how floriferous these plants were. Each stocky, relatively short plant carried a bouquet of fragrant 3-4” wide blooms in deep pink to near magenta. When this variety arrived from the farm the entire staff was WOW-ed by the new color. The numerous branches result in more flowers per plant and a showier display in the landscape. Flowers hold their bright coloration right to the end without deadheading. This is an exciting new perennial for 2012.

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If you practiced the advice given in this column, your entire landscape should have received a fresh application of my “All Purpose Plant Food” 7-4-4. As a result, your plants have exploded with new growth, new flowers, and a new vigor for life. Timing is everything with plant foods. If you want more out of your landscape it’s not too late to feed your plants. We still have three months of growing season left in 2012, but you should feed your yard before our monsoons come to an end.

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In Arizona’s mountains the optimal planting time for trees and shrubs is during the monsoon season. The soil is warm, humidity is up, and the frequent rains encourage plants to root more quickly into the surrounding soil.

Because the soil is so easy to work right now, planting holes can be dug to proper size without the shortcuts a May or June planting can necessitate. No digging bar or jackhammer needed with monsoon plantings! Autumn is a good time to plant, but right now conditions are ideal for getting trees and shrubs into the ground, so don’t wait.

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“Keeping Critters Out” is the topic of today’s gardening class. Animals can have ferocious appetites, and you don’t want them eating their fill from your landscape. Come learn the simple steps that will keep critters out of your gardens and landscape. We will take special care to show only plants that furry locals are known to dislike, even some that have a repelling effect. This free class begins at 9:30 this morning in Watters’ back greenhouse. See the list of topics for the entire summer schedule of classes at .

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A Gardener’s Special Announcement – Each of us has a special someone who positively influences the successes of our life. This person, usually behind the scenes, could be a business partner, spiritual adviser, a close friend, a relative, a spouse. This person’s insight and wisdom is spread over years of lunch dates, late night rendezvous, morning coffee, and anyplace mentored and sage might share intimate thoughts.

The person that has influenced me in all of these ways with a closeness and fondness that can only be found after 25 years of courtship, surmounted hardships, and love is my wife, Lisa. To you, Lisa: “Happy 25th Anniversary!

A good marriage can be likened to a fine garden. The partners, like some gardeners, may curse the project and move on, or, as other gardeners do, can learn to cultivate the strengths unique to that plot of earth. As the years progress the gardener becomes familiar with his garden’s soil, seasons, and individual plants. With time a good gardener learns to work within the confines of nature and make it even more beautiful than if it were left untended. Lisa, here’s to the “gardening” we’ve shared in the past and to that which lies ahead of us. May we share and enjoy tending it for at least another 25 years.

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.