A number of readers have told me their favorite columns are those when I describe the gardening mistakes I have made. There is no shortage of material for a column like that; the only problem is picking the top four examples or so.
Top of the list for this edition has to be the water pot. I was without one for a couple of years because I left the plastic container outside through the winter and, of course, it cracked and leaked. My goldfish were growing too large for their deluxe aquarium indoors, and so with the first warm weather I set out to buy a new pot and a few water plants.
Believe me, most large containers in the stores have a drainage hole in the bottom. I finally settled for an ugly plain gray pot and persuaded my grandson to dig a large hole, thus uprooting most of my purple coneflowers, and we set it in place.
After a few days for the water to condition itself, I moved the elderly and obese goldfish into their new quarters.
Day 1, all was well.
Day 2, a drowned baby sparrow floated on the surface.
Day 3, I found three half-eaten fish on the path.
Day 4, I installed a cover made of chicken wire.
Day 5, I found my neighborhood raccoon, or a large cat, had pried up the cover and had caught the last goldfish and eaten one half of it.
Day 6, another drowned bird.
Day 7, with a large bag of potting soil, some bronze fennel and a few petunias, I had another planter.
The second mistake for the year seemed like a very good idea, which was to mix packets of carrot, beet turnip and parsnip seeds and broadcast them in one plot. Instant vegetable stew, right? Just add water.
I couldn't find parsnip seeds. The beets grew down to China. The carrots could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Turnip soup, anyone?
I have now replanted, but the balance I hoped for is not happening.
The third error was to hang a bird feeder across from the back door on the trellis. A cardinal couple and a pair of doves made nests in that area, and I wanted to help them with their menu.
Because I buy cheap bird food (another mistake), the birds showed their disdain by throwing most of the seed right where I had planted my sweet peas, which are now invisible in a forest of millet, sunflowers, corn and heaven knows what else. I weed every day, but that seed has wonderful stamina and shoots up overnight.
Finally comes the weeping cherry tree debacle, although I am not sure yet if this was a mistake or an experiment.
The tree is 17 years old now, and a sentimental favorite because it was a retirement gift from the children of St. Joseph School. It has been showing its age, only flowering on the bottom third of the branches. And so I decided to allow the trailing branches to grow down to the ground, as they were meant to do.
They grew with enthusiasm, and created a dark, leafy cave that covers most of the front garden. Daffodils bloom before the tree leafs out and some Knock Out roses and coreopsis are surviving around the perimeter where they get morning sun. I have planted bleeding heart, hosta and impatiens in the heavy shade, and allowed the chameleon plant and lilies of the valley to fill in.
But it is not very attractive and may have to be undone next spring.
So there you have it. Four major mistakes in a few months. Stay tuned for the fall edition.