Even an imperfect garden is a beautiful place

Erin Schanen


The end of July is, in some ways, the end of the gardening year, but that’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of gardening left to do, like it or not.

Weeds manage to keep growing even if plants have been stalled by drought. Deadheading needs to be kept on top of in earnest. And the watering is never over. If I make it to October to find that the hose has become permanently attached to my arm I wouldn’t be surprised.

But at this point in the season, the die is cast. Short of a bit of pruning and regular fertilizing, container designs are what they are going to be, at least until gardeners with stamina swap out a few things for some fall-blooming favorites in September.

Likewise, garden beds have probably shown most of what they are going to do this year. Of course gardeners who are happy to keep up on the watering can keep planting now, assuming they can find plants at garden centers, and vegetable growers should be working on planting fall crops now.

I’ve had some hits and some misses this year. One of the begonias in my favorite container rotted due to overwatering, so my favorite container planting has a hole front and center. Petunias, in general, have been pitiful this year. Three growing in the window box seem to have put on very little growth, and the handful that I planted in the ground have been steadily shrinking in size, a drastic change from years where I’d prune them back three times during the summer.

On the flip side, a new garden area planted last year looks amazing, even at its young age, and the tomatoes look healthier and happier than they have in years (a fact I report as I knock on wood knowing how quickly things can go south).

But it’s time to start making mental, or in my case photographic, notes of what could be better next year. Some areas need thinning. A visit to a garden that inspired the terraced stone wall I have in the garden reminded me how nice it looks when you can actually see the wall instead of having it covered by overgrown plants. Other areas have holes where I drastically overestimated how much plants would grow in one season. I guess I’ll be on a quest for middle ground next year.

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned for the 100th time, it’s about staking. The high temperatures and lack of rain has left a lot of floppy plants in the garden. I’m making my way around, staking up plants that normally wouldn’t need assistance, knitting twine between branches and poking in stakes wherever I think they won’t be seen. Of course it’s a job I should have done several weeks ago, but that didn’t happen so I’m paying the price.

I’ll probably never really learn that lesson, but as the weather cools in a couple months I’ll start working to correct a few of this year’s missteps. Until then, I’ll sit back and enjoy the view. Because even an imperfect garden is a glorious place to be in summer.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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