The delicate pink flowers of Soapwort are just one part of the tapestry of blooming ground covers in Steve Smith’s garden right now. (Getty Images)

The delicate pink flowers of Soapwort are just one part of the tapestry of blooming ground covers in Steve Smith’s garden right now. (Getty Images)

Lament slow growth no longer: Our gardens they are a-changin’

What a difference a few weeks can make! A late-spring surge never fails to keep things interesting.

A few weeks back, I was lamenting the fact that there were still so many bare spots in my new garden that needed to be filled in, due to plant failures from this last winter.

Too much water in some areas and too cold in others had led to the demise of all the so-called perennial verbenas I had planted last summer. Despite their frailty, I may try them again this year simply because they give me nonstop color all summer long.

Strangely, several of the thread-leaf coreopsis plants had also crapped out — one variety, however, is going gang busters, but I won’t know which it is until it blooms. Also, once again, my Dark Star ceanothus succumbed to the winter freeze, so I think I am done with that selection. What’s the expression? Once bitten, twice wise?

Most of the tulips and daffodils I had planted two years ago have rotted away, leaving only a few scattered clumps. Several of the alliums I planted last fall didn’t make it, but most did and I just counted 36 scattered blooms from the tall blue globe variety and almost as many of the Shubertii that are close to opening. I will count the alliums as a success and possibly plan on planting a few more this fall.

No matter how good of a gardener we might be, some things thrive while others just whimper away into oblivion. Isn’t that the nature of gardening?

Last year, thinking that I was mostly done with shrubs, trees and perennials — fool that I am — I moved on to planting several drifts of ground covers, telling myself that they would form the tapestry of the garden. All during the growing season they seemingly just poked along with moderate growth and no blooms — I was dubious that they were going to do what I wanted. Two weeks ago, I was still skeptical, but not now, as if overnight, they have quadrupled their size and are in full bloom.

Now I get to enjoy the bright yellows of sedum Angelina, the Clorox-white blooms of Candy Tuft and Mountain Sandwort, the light pinks of Soapwort and the darker pinks of Creeping Phlox, the grey fuzzy leaves of Lamb’s Ears and the bright green foliage of persicaria Dimity, and let’s not forget the incredibly dark gentian-blue flowers of Grace Ward lithodora.

Yes, the tapestry is starting to look like it is going to work. Now I am wondering what I can add to it this year.

In other areas of the garden, most of my perennials are filling in incredibly fast and those bare spots of a few weeks past are rapidly disappearing. Instead of making lists of new candidates to fill in the blanks, I am wondering what I will need to cull out or relocate before the end of the year.

In a raised block wall planter, which I filled with 48 assorted lilies and a nicely spaced mix of shade-loving perennials, the density of regrowth is such that there is absolutely no room for even a weed. I had no idea lilies would multiply so fast, as they are now “thick as fleas on a dog’s back.” I can’t wait to see them all come into bloom.

As you can see, my lament of a few weeks past has now morphed into unbridled exuberance for the rampant growth and potential of this mixed border that I affectionately call “The Upper Garden.”

Yes, there are still areas that need filling in, or at least some tweaking, as we move into summer. I will keep planting and fine-tuning things, knowing that even if I am not completely happy with the current situation, in a couple of weeks, if I have done my job, it will look completely different. It is, after all, this constant change that keeps the garden interesting and the gardener interested.

Free class

The next free classes will be “All Things Hydrangea” at 10 a.m. Saturday and “Stop & Smell The Roses” at 10 a.m. Sunday. For more information, go to

Steve Smith represents Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. He can be reached at

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