Top Gardening Lesson for 2010

I’ve been gardening a long time, but I still learn something new every single season.

The 2010 gardening season is just about over for me. Well, as soon as I pick the last green tomatoes, pull up the plants, clean up the garden bed, amend the soil, stack the containers, clean and store the fountain, and plant the garlic.

All the while I’ll be contemplating how this year’s garden grew and what lessons I learned from it. My top gardening lesson for 2010 is “don’t give up too soon.”

This lesson came by way of two plants–a paprika pepper plant grown in a container on the patio and a butterfly bush in the perennial garden.

The Paprika Plant

I had a heck of a time with my seed starting this year, mostly because I got a late start and then I thought I could get by with old grow bulbs. (Those could be two more good lessons for me.)

Because seed starting didn’t go so well, I had trouble getting my pepper plants to grow. I was especially disappointed that my paprika start just sat in its big pot on the patio and didn’t budge for what seemed like months. Still, I kept it watered, made sure it had plenty of sun, fertilized with moo poo tea, and encouraged it as best I could.

I almost gave up on it. It wasn’t until several months after it was planted that it shot up and started to flower. This happened almost overnight and I don’t have any explanation for this behavior other than it finally decided it was time.

There were many days I wanted to yank that plant out and replace it with something else, but now I’m glad I didn’t because it’s loaded with long peppers just waiting to turn red.

The Butterfly Bush

I planted the Buddleia davidii ‘Harlequin’ in the perennial garden 10 years ago, the spring after we moved in. The bush was to be the centerpiece of my butterfly garden and it’s been a reliable performer every year–until this one.

It was always slower than the other perennials, but this spring the bush looked like nothing but dead sticks after everything else had greened up and started growing. Every day I watched for a hint this bush was going to make it. And every day I was disappointed.

Still, I continued to water it and gave it a boost of fertilizer, too. I didn’t want to lose this plant because it featured lovely variegated green and cream foliage and the butterflies loved its purple flowers. It’s the plant where I saw the first Monarch butterfly land in my yard.

But in early July I decided I needed to dig it up and replace it with another. With a heavy heart, and garden fork in hand, I walked into the garden prepared to pull it up.

I put the fork in the ground near the base of the plant and just as I was about to force it up, I saw the hint of green I’d be looking for. Finally, mysteriously, this plant had decided to sprout.

I carefully tended that butterfly bush all summer and just the other day I noticed it’s blooming with several sprays of its beautiful purple flowers.

But this year, it’s lovely green and cream leaves are gone, replaced with only solid green leaves.

Perhaps, if I’m patient, the variegated foliage will return again next year.

What did you learn from your garden this year?


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