Living With Limitations: Covid-19 and Gardening

Corydalis solida selection 

I feel sure everyone has heard and lived enough of Covid-19 virus that you do not need more news on that front from me. However, it has definitely changed every facet of our lives and that includes our gardening. Rather than dwell upon the negative aspects, I intend to stick to the positive as much as possible. Remember, I am only chatting about my gardening. The rest of life can stand outside the gate and wait for me to return to ‘real’ life and its concerns.


With my medical conditions life out there in the real world is a definite hazard to not only my well being, but my life. I am observing self-quarantining and my wife is as well so she does not bring anything home. Over these past weeks she has used this time to clean, polish, paint, cut and reorganize everything that does not run from her. Even with my limited physical abilities I have pulled more weeds, cleaned more debris, than at any point in my gardening career. If I can keep it up my garden will look the best it has ever looked this time of the year.

Garden Centers

It is still early in the garden season for visits to my local garden centers, but they are there working and there is nothing wrong with my cell phone. I called this past week and they delivered 10 cubic years of mulch fines along with 2 bottles of deer spray. If current restrictions remain in place on shopping I have a feeling that if I know what I want in the way of trees and shrubs and my favorite local garden center carries the plants, they will deliver. Not my favorite way to select plants, but one has to adapt to ‘geterdone’. I am staying in touch with the garden center manager by phone and text to purchase trees and shrubs as they arrive.

When it comes to perennials my intention is to hold out in hopes that I can experience shopping at garden centers picking not only what is on my wish list, but seeing what else I need/want that I was not aware of.

Double Primula vulgaris hybrid

Social Distancing in the Garden

Karen, gardening friend and former nursery owner, called offering to share seedlings she had been successful in germinating. The plants were in containers and labeled, watered and arranged neatly in a box she placed in my greenhouse. As she walked my garden I waved to her and shouted my appreciation as we kept our distance. There were five seed strains of Delphiniums x millennium quart containers with multiple seedlings just begging to be separated. Another container held seedlings of a native Filipendula rubrum, while two more were filled with Salpiglossis, an annual she fell in love with at Longwood Gardens. She had also dug some perennials from her garden and they were in larger containers: Actaea for actaea japonica ‘cheju-do’ and Iris x robusta Gerald Dabney. Could not have done better had I made a trip to a garden center.

Primula vulgaris hybrid

Mail Order: Social Distancing at its Extreme

I promised myself I would not order from websites or catalogs this year and hold out for garden center shopping where the plants would be much larger for about the same money. When Covid – 19 came along that ended that bit of wishful thinking. I did give in and place two small orders for plants I could no longer live without and one order arrived the afternoon after Karen left. I waited twenty-four hours before opening the box and playing with the plants Karen gifted me. Yes, you can go to heaven without passing away (well, somewhat).

If I cannot get out and shop the plants come to me. How cool is that?


If you have physical limitations when gardening you are in my book.

Living With Limitations: A Secret Garden Center

Living With Limitations: A Secret Garden Center

Dicentra spectibalis Gold Heart

A Secret Garden Center

What if you had your very own secret garden center where only you were allowed to shop? An exclusive where you walked displays at your own pace and any question was immediately answered. Where you had first choice of any plant on display. Once your heart was set upon a plant you could immediately transplant it to companions in the garden. Next plants in line for delivery instantaneously of course. Kind of makes your toes tingle just thinking about it.

My Secret Garden Center Discovered

While doing early weeding and just walking my awakening garden receiving gardener’s visions, inspirations, stirrings, awakenings and downright revelations, the discovery was revealed to me.  That garden center has been here right in front of me all along. My own garden, no less.

My garden is well over 30 years old now and my mistakes managing to survive remain with me. Much of my garden career I purchased by impulse, brought the plant home and found a space for that poor perennial. I did not truly develop the discipline of design until some time later. That means there is a wealth of plants available to me that needs new locations, new companions to bring out their best. An entire pallet of color, shape, texture and size awaits.

Not For Long

But, that wait is not for long. My first realizations came as I considered emerging noses of Polygonatum sibiricum in a blue-stem form that will become an open colony of tall, upright stems with whorled foliage reaching five feet. All in a surprising and pleasing shade of powdered blue. Blooms are in tiny clusters at the leaf junction and not at all showy. The show is blue stems. Here they could stand another season unaccompanied, or become a part of something great.

Polygonatum sibericum blue stem form

Coming Together

I am considering moving the Solomon’s seal to a new location with more space, and arranging a collar of three Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’ surrounding the blue stems. Gold Heart bleeding hearts seemingly came from nowhere growing into 5 clumps. My guess is I threw out some pieces of roots left over from potting up for my old nursery. Imagine glowing yellow foliage reaching two feet in height and spread with arching stems of reddish tan. Blooms of heart-shape in pink with white contrast dangling along an arching stem like lockets on a line.

Some years back I ordered a Geranium maculatum ‘Espresso’ a cultivar of our native spotted geranium. It grew well first couple of years, then disappeared and I forgot all about it. Sometime later I began to see seedlings pop up true to its parent. I now have perhaps 5 or 6 small stands of this unique geranium with its chocolate/coffee over green large leaves reaching 5 inches across. Growing into a groundcover two feet across and about the same in height I think it will make a perfect companion to the collar of gold around the blue stemmed Solomon’s seal.

Hakone Grass All Gold

New Plants

Moved from random locations into companions the three perennials become new plants. I am truly looking forward to creating this new arrangement and already find myself looking at other perennials in a new light.

I walked by a stand of newly emerging Aconitum that I long ago forgot the name of. The Monkshood stands alone need a companion. There are stands of All Gold Hakonechloa grass that could be paired up so they would enhance each other. My new-found garden center seems to hold a wealth of new possibilities for my garden.

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Living With Limitations: Snapback

Living With Limitations: Snapback

Trout-Lily, or Erythronium americana withJacob’s Ladder

Bungee cord

Last week I told of quarantining myself due to age, health and the Covid-19 virus. To insure my staying at home I attached a bungee cord to my ankle that was to snap me back when I reached the end of my driveway. Well, it worked: and, only too well.


I had forgotten something I learned back in highschool: for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. I rather conveniently misremembered why I was quarantined and headed for a local garden center to pick up supplies. If I stayed in my auto, I told myself, no handshaking and hugs, I said to me, then all will be well. No direct contact, no catching anything. So, out I went.

At the end of the driveway I stretched the bungee cord past its set limits. There was a pause of no movement in either direction and then, in a second split finer than a frog hair, I snapped back. In an instant I was back where I began. Only now I was at the garden entrance with bungee cord wrapped around me and a post. Being tied up like that gave me time to think while untangling the cord.


I unwound an ignored aspect to my planned adventure to the garden center (and relief from the quarantine).  I was conveniently ignoring all the health officials and government advice to stay home with my diseases and age. If at risk of a disease that can kill in my condition, do I really need some fertilizer that bad?

Mertensia virginica, or Virginia Bluebells

With a Little Help from my Friends

I called in my order and asked them to hold for pickup and received a receipt by text. Not touching paper. The manager at the garden center knew my health condition and gave me a polite bit of advice about staying home as advised. She went the next step and volunteered to deliver the merchandise to my greenhouse, all stacked in its appropriate place so I would not have to touch anything for twenty-four hour period. Thank the gods for caring fellow gardeners and bungee cords.

Therapeutic Gardening

As a result of the caring garden center manager I had the supplies I needed to begin prepping my garden for spring. First up was to fertilize an acid bed with HollyTone and let that settle in when it rained the next day. I also began to feed the hydrangeas but ran out of time to get them all fed.

While fertilizing I saw numerous green noses needing deer spray and began ruining their appetite as best I could on plants I knew they would hit first. Number one would be any lilium that reached 2 inches or more. Once bitten there will be no bloom. Only early dormancy and more than likely less of a bloom next year. Along with trilliums hydrangea will be next on the list.

Corydalis malkensis


While performing maintenance there was more than ample reward. First of the Trout-Lilies (Erythronium) were opening. Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia) were in tight bud with almost purple-black foliage. Primula are beginning to bloom. Tiny Spring Beauties line the garden path along with various species and hybrids of Corydalis.


Perhaps a touch more common sense has been snapped back into my awareness of the seriousness of this virus. A bit of time, some patience along with a gracious gardener of two and we will get through all this with each other and our gardens.

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Living With Limitations: Isolated

Helleborus niger, Christmas Rose


Flu and the new virus Coronavirus have certainly changed the world in which we live and garden. To say the least, for me, it can be unnerving. I have COPD emphysema as well as some other ‘technical difficulties’ with my health, and I am in the middle of recovering from pneumonia.   Being the somewhat intelligent individual that I am, a decision was made not to get out there in the midst of all that potential danger. For the past month I have placed myself in quarantine. No traveling any further than my garden and end of my driveway. To insure my compliance I have attached a bungee cord to my ankle that snaps me back before leaving my home.

I would hope that, if at all possible, you are exercising good judgement in the midst of all this potential for illness.

If You Are a Gardener

Trout-Lily, or Erythronium americana withJacob’s Ladder

Isolation is not so bad if you are a gardener, so long as it does not stretch into delaying visits to garden centers. Thus far I have been scheming and drawing pictures, taking notes, ‘researching’ on the internet. Then outright and openly visiting every online nursery checking inventories and comparing to my gottahaves list. Then there are the plant searches that lead to nurseries I was not aware of with the need to check their inventories. As it turns out there were several plants added to my gottahaves list that I was not aware existed.

Then followed the serious and quite firm discussion with myself about ordering starter size plants. I am at the end of my active gardening career and time to grown on from plugs is now in the rear view mirror. The need now is garden centers where I can locate gallon and larger sizes. I know it limits actual purchases, but perhaps that is a sign from my accountant (wife).

Iris reticulata

Social Distancing

Thus far I have heeded my all advice from the experts and kept my distance for the outside world. But that does not include text, Messenger and phone calls to a local garden center. (My wife would say we are in “cahoots”). I have made arrangements to pick up supplies to kick off the spring season. Fertilizer for perennials, different one for shrubs and trees. Will need compost for transplanting new perennials, along with a new birdbath demanded by Mrs. Robin and her new brood. I also saw a large container in my favorite style and color and know exactly where it needs to be located. All I need to do now is pick a day to drive to the nursery. I will back my car in, they will load and I will hand over a check for the invoice already printed.

No getting close to another human being, out in the open, no handshakes, not elbow bumps: just grinning and spending money at a nursery. For now that is enough to complete a good garden day.


With the new supplies and a little decent weather to work in the garden cleaning up for this season I will be fully occupied and not notice (too much) being isolated from other gardeners. There is looking forward to thirty days from now when the big garden center day trip is planned. A full day of visiting selected premium garden centers with other gardeners.

Stay tuned and stay healthy. Remember soil under the fingernails is good therapy for body and soul.

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Living With Limitations: Toxic Relationships

Living With Limitations:

Adonis amurensis and Hellebore x Garden Hybrid white

Toxic Relationships



This story goes back 3 to 4 years. Each spring I am reminded of its progress, but do what most gardeners do: procrastinate. I was vaguely aware of the situation, but only gave it a nod. Making a mental note that went something like “I really should do something about that” and moving on. After all, the relationship was only in the beginning stages and there were reasons not to disturb its growth as yet.


I was fortunate in locating and purchasing an Adonis amurensis ‘Chichibu Beni’ that had long been at the top of my up-front list, and without having to take out a second mortgage.  Adonis with their fern to feathery foliage in bright spring-green topped by saucer-like petals in yellow-orange with a hint of tan are set off by the yellow stamens in the center. What is not to lust after?

To the best of my knowledge this cultivar can only be propagated by division and they are not fast growers.  This not only means a high purchase price, but also you know the start will be small when received. I was tempted to name it “My Precious” when it arrived for transplanting.

In anticipation of My Precious’ arrival I had prepared a raised bed next to a mature white blooming hellebore. Several other Japanese woodlanders included in the order would play companion. The first year it emerged, but if I had not known where it was

located I would not have noticed the small sprout of green that quickly went dormant. The next year there was one bloom and it was small. The third year still only one bloom but overall the plant was larger and more robust. It also had a seedling hellebore that had germinated in the space intended for the Adonis. I did not want to disturb the Adonis roots so soon after transplanting so I let the relationship remain. The fourth year I saw a toxic relationship developing. The more assertive and robust hellebore was in the root system of the Adonis. They may have been a pretty couple together, but a gardener could see where this relationship would end up.


The Adonis may have been quite lovely to look at and seemingly quite delicate with its feathery foliage, but it was, once established, a perennial that could hold its own in the garden. However, the hellebore was an exceptional plant selected for its size and vigor. It was far too much for My Precious not to lose itself in the relationship and eventually fade away with its space and nutrients take up by the hellebore. If they were to

Helleborus thibetanus, Thibetan Hellebore buds emerging

flourish they will have to be separated and this year is the optimal time. The hellebore will become a gift to a gardener, and the Adonis, once dormant, will find a home with its own species in another bed. Its new companions will be yellow –blooming Adonis, snowdrops and a species hellebore H. tibetanus. All will grow together, go dormant together, with space to look and preform at their best without the threat of smothering.

In the 1970’s everyone was discovering the concept of personal space and their need of their space in a relationship. Looks like that still applies not only to both gardeners but their plants as well.


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