Gardening is an adventure as well as a challenge in every unique situation, in each given yard…let alone your area of the world. What might be considered “part sun” to you is not always “part sun” to a plant. High mid-day sun is HOT! And most part sun plants do not thrive in it. Curious isn’t it? We think like humans…they think like plants. And as gardener, you must speak PLANT if you are to succeed in your adventure. Learning to hear what they are telling you is the key to having a green thumb.

Morning sun is much cooler than late afternoon sun. Many full shade plants actually will be more lush if they get the morning sun. When purchased they may have been acclimated to complete shade. So when planted where sun hits them for a portion of the day, they might sunburn a bit. It is no different to when spring finally arrives and we move plants outdoors from the house; the must go trough a slow reintroduction to outdoor lighting or they will burn. Slow adjusting of lighting will acclimate the plant without burning the leaves. Early season sunburn repairs itself over time in most plants…it is just a matter of patience.

Lessons plants teach you are the requirements necessary to acquiring that sought after green thumb. You will kill and maim a few along the way – guaranteed! The following are some varied plant notes from my hands-on green thumb education.

Garden Phlox…is not real happy about over-head watering. The advanced books will tell you this, but most of us use sprinklers to irrigate our plantings. And it is real tempting to mix Phlox with plants that need more water for that fabulous never ending color display. So then one ends up dealing with the yellowed foliage on the bottom half of the clump. One trade person instructed me to pick them off to stop the spread of the fungus. (This looks almost as bad as the yellowed leaves.) In summer of 2002, I decided to play with plantings under a walnut tree. Most plants will not live with that toxic Jugalone. Michigan Extension’s bulletin on it doesn’t work well either. So a few were found online and tested. Many of the plants on the lists were more drought tolerant so an additional challenge was added to testing this area. Garden Phlox was on the list so it was thrown into the mix. Grasses, Monarda, Lambs Ear, Nepeta (Catmint), Daylily and Clematis were all planted. Michigan suffered severe heat and drought that summer, so the bed was watered once a week and twice a week in August when temps reached almost 100 everyday. SURPRISE! The Phlox was gorgeous…not a yellow leaf anywhere! Lesson learned: Phlox likes it drier.

MONARDA…many folks claim it is too susceptible to mildew. Especially the old-fashioned ones. Now I have found here at Flowerville that it gets mildew every August on the east side of my house. I know what it’s problem is, it doesn’t kill it. I just cut it all back when it gets bad and wait for a new season’s display. Once the clumps matured and got out of control, flats and flats of roots were moved to the outside of the picket fence bed. Guess what? No more mildew! Lesson learned…Monarda needs air circulation through it’s leaves. It is best not to plant it up against a wall.

Many drought loving plants like Sedum (upright), and Artemisia will split open and look bad if they get too much water. Valerie Finnis is a tall form of Artemesia with scrumptious silver-blue aromatic leaves. A couple Valerie Finnis were added to the front raised bed here in the nursery. Far too much water goes on it for the Sedum and Artemesia. The Sedum has to be staked and tied back to a nice clump every August and is way larger than it is supposed to get. But here Valerie Finnis looks so fabulous draping over the rock wall when it flops over I just let it do it’s thing. Some forms of mishapenment (is that a word?) are a good thing! Valerie Finnis in this predicament looks like a icy waterfall spilling down to the driveway.