the defeats (and triumphs) of a container garden


So, it looks like one of my plumeria bit the dust- every time I trimmed it and let it out to dry out, it rotted some more. Now I have about one inch left of the cutting, but I still feel SUPER bummed about it. I’m also bummed about the way my geraniums are struggling with the moisture, the way one of my roses is barely poking above soil and a few other things around the garden.

I take these losses really personally, very deeply. It’s kind of silly, but I hate it when a plant I’ve tended to starts to struggle or doesn’t make it. It really upsets me.

I was sulking about the potential losses for a while today after I gardened. I was actually standing in the garden, pruning like crazy from all the post-rain growth on the other plants when it finally dawned on me- I wasn’t looking at the bigger picture:

– It’s the MIDDLE of summer. In Southwest Florida. Seriously. This isn’t a great time for gardening- never has been, and likely never will be. I know I say this all the time, but I have to remember that my job as a gardener is to get these plants through to fall. That’s literally what I need to be focusing on. Not hoping they will thrive, or anything like that. Just not having them die.

– Some of the plants out there are FLOURISHING, despite soaking wet soil that never dries out. Plants I worried and fussed over a few months ago (like the coleus, above) are now thriving. My hibiscus are all blooming like crazy.

– I may have lost a plumeria, but one of my *other* plumeria cuttings has about ten long, glossy leaves on it. And now that I have plumeria and we know what it looks like (and I talk about it a lot), Tom has noticed it all over the island on his runs, including some vacant lots, so I can now get cuttings pretty easily.

– Both the Floribunda roses I got from Park are growing like crazy, and the coral one started blooming. (a not so positive note: The flowers are a RIDICULOUS bright, lipstick fluorescent orange. Not a nice yellow-y orange, but a crazy bright red-orange with no variations on the petals and, admittedly, it’s kinda ugly. Not at all what the photos on the website promised or the description, but they did say “colors may vary”.) I’m just happy the plant survived the rainy deluge it received after I planted it.


– The petunias are coming up, the shrimp plant is going crazy, and the passiflora are all blooming, too. The hydrangea that was struggling a year ago is now huge and bushy and blooming, too.

– The neon-grafted cactus that lost its top (the neon part rotted out and I removed it and left the green bottom just to see if it would survive) turned into a three-foot-tall regular cactus that continues to grow and sprout new.. uh.. cacti limbs (I’m sure there’s a right name for that but I’m too tired to go look it up). Tom doesn’t think it’s remotely interesting, but as a girl who grew up in NY, I am fascinated by it. That tiny little stalk of green, in a tiny little terra cotta pot, is suddenly this hulking sculptural plant that continues to reach up, like its stretching for sunlight. I love when I got out there and there’s a new “finger” on it. There was one today.

So, despite the losses and the struggles of a Southwest Florida garden in the summer, there are some very cool triumphs to celebrate, too. I just have to remember: bigger picture. Help plants survive. Thriving will come soon (just six more weeks till September!)

Comments 1

  1. MIsti wrote:

    Try cuttings of plumeria in Nov-March, it will be less wet and they may root better.

    Posted 19 Jul 2013 at 8:47 am

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