Revisiting past failures

Within hours of writing my last post, I was in the garden pulling out more plants.

I had recently hard-pruned a leggy, twiggy hebe, but looking at it again today, I can see it’s never going to be what it was. I can hardly believe it, but I can see from old photos that it was over 9 years old. It survived years of drought, sometimes yellowing off in the heat but always bouncing back with a bit of water. I reckon it’s time to retire it and plant a new one  in its place.

I also took out a twiggy self-seeding native. Its parent was a pretty, pink-flowering thing that suddenly died after several good years. Unfortunately the self-seeded plant is sparse and the leaves and flowers are small. I decided to cut my losses and pull it out.

Here are the deceased plants on a 2-metre tall pile of prunings (after I’d already filled a wheelie bin…)


I went plant-shopping for some gap fillers and found myself coming back to plants that have failed in my garden in the past:

  • Penstemons looked great, but couldn’t handle the worst of the drought. Now that rain has returned to the land, I’ve bought some dark red and whites.
  • Echium – I had an unusual pink one, which was beautiful in its first year, but quickly looked leggy and awkward in my low-growing young garden. I’m going to try a standard purple one.
  • Salvia ‘Black Knight’ (cool name, says my son). I had it in too exposed a position where you could see its tall stems, but I think it will work better now behind some established plants.
  • Catmint. I had a low-growing variety which was nice – no dramas, but it just fizzled out somewhere along the line. I always admire the tall Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ when I see it other gardens or magazines, so I thought I’d give it a go.
  • Heliotrope (cherry pie) – I had this lovely dark-leafed, sprawling plant in my backyard where I could enjoy its vanilla scent. After a few years it got yellow leaves and stopped growing well – not sure if it had a disease or pest infestation. Maybe whiteflies? I thought it was worth another try.
  • Italian lavender ‘Avonview’: This was spectacular in my front garden for years, but eventually got too old and woody. Time to reintroduce it.

Looking at old photos on my blog, such as this early one from 2003, these from 2004-08, and these from spring 2009, it may also be time to revisit burgundy ranunculus, Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ and ‘Valerie Finnis’, purple wallflowers, Sedum ‘Matrona’, gaura, California poppies, blue fescue and nigella (love-in-the-mist). All did well for years, and I didn’t deliberately get rid of any of them – they just died, got old and scrappy, or got swamped by other things over the years.

Meanwhile, my kids and their 3-year-old second-cousin Sophia prepared and planted out their little veggie patch, conveniently located near the water tank. It was Sophia’s first sleepover and as she didn’t have gumboots (and we didn’t want to wreck her good shoes), my daughter fashioned a pair of fetching plastic-bag booties.

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