100 Miles Of Bad Road

I admit, I have down days. Those days when I am beat down- all I want to do is know what the rules are, and play by the rules. A default position.  I know better than to want this, but sometimes I am not so much interested in the fact that I know better-I just want 100 miles of good road. If you are a gardener, you understand that there is no rule book, much less a play book.  No matter the length and breadth of your passion, circumstances beyond your control or experience occur regularly.  Too much or not enough rain-that’s standard issue trouble. But for the first time ever at home, I have black vine weevils eating everything in sight; the leaves of my rhododendron, hosta, lily of the valley-even impatiens flowers.  What the lavae do to the roots of plants is far worse than all of my chewed leaves.  Incredibly, they have invaded my house; I am sure they hitch a ride with the corgis. Some garden troubles just rear their ugly heads out of no where, and pitch you into the weeds. 

Three days ago a wind from hell played havoc with every garden within my reach.  Do we regularly have high winds mid September-no.  Was I prepared for what I did not imagine could happen-of course not.  My daturas were not staked for a worst case scenario-they were nominally staked.  Am I cleaning up as best I can-of course.  Though I am I thinking I am entitled to advance warning, I am not.  My tired late summer garden is broken, and broken out with a bad case of windburn.

I have clients calling about fall plantings.  Is it fall?  We have had high daytime temperatures, and low-low, up and down temperatures at night.  There are some small signs that the season is changing-as in 2 days of high winds. But it  is anything but clear that fall has arrived.  No fall dance card is available yet.  We have a summer season hanging on. Is it fall? I see few signs of it.  No matter how many clients have the idea to move on this very minute to the next season, between summer and fall is a space.  That space might be small and of short duration, or cavernous and long. There are space between the seasons .  

Grapes have very large and very thin leaves. The vines at the shop have their biggest crop ever starting to ripen. The pergola that holds those grape vines aloft-I did the right thing from the beginning. I built a pergola sturdy and strong enough.  An arbor at a tilt from the wind, or from too vigorous a plant is not only bad looking, it is hard to fix.  An important part of landscape design and installation has to do with the worst case. I would advise that you only take on a project of a size that you can do well-really well.  Though the leaves of my grapes are parched from the wind, the pergola is intact. 

    The datura centerpieces in my driveway pots- I staked in July.  The staking was quick and general-I did not stake for the worst case  My mistake; I lost them both in this freak September wind.  My regret that I did not do what was necessary to stave off 100 miles of bad road-considerable. 


My butterburrs were defeated by the wind.  On my mind, seeing everything laid low by the wind, is the idea that every project undertaken with great energy and committment needs to be thought out such that any worst case natural disaster causes little harm.  Sometimes it is only a matter of tending to the last 10 percent of the project with the same energy you had for the first 10 percent. The bigger idea-anything carefully and beautifully, and well done will save you a hundred miles of bad road.  Should you plan to plant a hedge of evergreens, or a line of hydrangeas, or a rose garden, or install a path through the garden-do it right.  Choose well grown evergreens with sufficiently large rootballs.  Buy well grown roses.  Set the stones on a gravel base. Buy great quality plants; it takes the same effort to plant a great plant as a maginal one. 

If I had to choose, I would rather be looking at a sturdily staked datura beginning to show fall color than no datura at all.


  1. I was heart-sick to see and hear about the plant damage. Even as an amateur gardener, I know the love and work that went into those plantings.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Denise, thanks for your sympathy! I probably did whine about it too long, but gardening can be so frustrating. I actually had a very good season overall-I will be posting pictures of what went fine for me yet today. Deborah

  2. Deborah,
    A gardener can never whine too much. Just when everything is going great someone changes the rules.
    Your garden does look great in the new post.

  3. The photos of the gardens at your house, (other than those illustrating damage), make it all look wonderful. But the story here is no better. I might send some marvellous pictures, but in reality many plants are suffering. Particularly the lawns and the dahlias are a mess despite everything I do. And some unwelcome voles are on an underground rampage. Be of good cheer and think of how many of us you have inspired.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Rob, every garden has 100 miles of bad road somewhere on its map. However, I never get used to it. I could not grow one dahlia this year-unbelievable. Even on my own deck-I finally cut the thing off and dropped it over the deck to the trash. I can’t even figure out what went wrong. Oh well, I suppose questions like this keep me gardening. Deborah

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