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I'm trying to come to grips with the garden of the house I just bought. Pretty much all of the garden books I've looked at seem to assume one will be starting from scratch; does anyone have any advice about how to cope with an established garden that isn't necessarily established the way one wants it to be?
If it helps, I seem to have encountered three categories of problems: (1) "Is that the way it's supposed to be?", e.g., the bulbs that didn't bloom and I have no idea if they're supposed to bloom in the fall, or if they're dead. (2) "I can't believe they did that," e.g. wrapping landscape fabric around everything and burying it feet deep in mulch. Some of the plants appear to be rooted in mulch. (3) "I hate it," e.g. evergreen shrubs in a sheltered, south-facing bed.
-- Yvonne (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 26, 2000
Oh, Yvonne, you just described my garden. Read this:
And then go get this book:
It's about renovating old gardens. It's geared for people in cold climates, which has limited its usefulness for me, but it's a great resources for figuring out what's going wrong with old plants that need some TLC.
As for the other issues, the "I can't believe they did that" and "Man, I hate that" stuff, my advice is to go slowly, don't tear anything out until you have a plan regarding how you're going to replace it, and remember that it's your house now. I've wound up keeping a lot of things that I would never have planted because over time I've learned to appreciate how they fit in with the larger picture, but there have been a lot of things that just had to go.
-- Beth (email@example.com), April 26, 2000.
_Landscape Magic_ looks like it will be incredibly useful.
I recently went to a plant sale run by the Master Gardeners' Foundation, and I got to talk to a lot of experienced gardeners about my yard woes. "Go slowly" was the advice that a lot of them gave. I think it's good advice, and in general that's what I'm trying to do. Unfortunately, whenever I go to perform some small task and discover major problems, I get an attack of garden rage. My latest example of this is digging a hole to plant sweet peas and finding out that the flowerbed is full of tin cans and two-by-fours. I think if I had to do it over, I'd do more exploratory poking around before I tried to plant anything, so that I'd get the unpleasant surprises out of the way early on.
-- Yvonne (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 28, 2000.
Two by fours? Oh man, I have nothing compared to that, but I did enherit a garden. Fortunately, there is enough right with this garden that I don't mind the wrongs. For instance, I've got some beautiful oriental poppies and an amazing bleeding heart that I probably never would have on my own. On the wrong side, I have lots of tall stuff toward the front of a large bed, and I also had to rip out an overgrown crop of lemon mint that threatened to suffocate everything in its wake. I've had to move numerous ornamental bushes after we tore down a fence and put up a new one in a new location. And I am constantly reminded of how nasty looking evergreen foundation plantings are - but I have to wait until we do all the exterior work on the house before I go to rip them out (and I will rip all of them out). Anyway, the slow route is always best. Definitely check things out before you get your heart set on planting in an area that might yield nasty surprises. I'm making changes and adding or moving things bit by bit and slowly but surely, I'm making it my garden. Good luck and I hope you don't encounter any more tin cans.
-- Moira (email@example.com), May 09, 2000.