Keeping up with a garden is an ever-changing experience, never static and never boring. Usually, major changes are the decisions of the gardener, a new idea, some plants spied at the nursery and crying out for a home, the sudden need for a ground cover and so on.
Sometimes, though, the plants in the garden impose their own needs and requirements and the gardener has no choice but to go along.
That is what is happening in my front garden. I have an ornamental weeping cherry tree at the center of the flower bed, a gift from St. Joseph School when I retired 16 years ago. It was about 5 feet high when it was planted, but now requires a ladder to reach the top branches.
For all those years, I have pruned it into the shape of a wide-open umbrella, and I have come to realize I am fighting to keep the poor thing in a shape that is not its own. This spring, it protested by limiting flowering to the lower branches. It was not looking healthy.
I had been trimming all the weeping branches as they grew, and the shape became top-heavy and unattractive. It took me a while to catch on, but an attractive young ornamental tree across the street finally convinced me a weeping tree should weep.
I have not pruned at all since I made that decision, and the shape is evolving into a lovely tree.
Of course, there are consequences - the chief one being that my mainly sunny front flower bed now is shaded for most of the day.
And I need to recreate the area as a shade garden.
This transitional stage is very unattractive. The sun-loving Shasta daisies, black-eyed Susan and coreopsis are protesting with sparse flowers and little growth. A few daylilies are making the best of it, and the monkshood is flourishing and multiplying. Bleeding hearts enjoy shade, and I have two very large white ones in the right place. The tough Knockout roses and my oldest hydrangea are fine because they get morning sun.
This spring, when I acknowledged what had to happen, I divided a lot of hostas, and they are doing well under the tree.
The impatiens are happy with the shade also.
This fall, I will move the sun-loving perennials to new homes and start to plan for next year. The main color will be green, but there are some shade-loving plants that should do well - including coleus, caladium, nicotiana and Virginia bluebells - that will give some color.
I have been fighting lilies of the valley for years, but I will be a bit more tolerant and let them spread a little. Chameleon plant also would like to fill any empty spaces, and is a good ground cover along with the existing ajuga.
I have a lot of bulbs in that area. They bloom before the tree leafs out, so they should survive, even though the tulips showed signs of decline and may not return next year.
There are three kinds of shade affecting plant choices in the garden, and I will be challenged by two of them next summer.
Deep shade is land that never receives sun at all, and could be at the foot of a north wall or under needled evergreen trees. I don't have this type.
Medium shade can be found under deciduous trees in leaf or on the north side of buildings where the sky is unobstructed and providing enough light for some flowering plants.
Intermittent shade is where dappled sunlight shines through sparsely branched deciduous trees in leaf, or where sunlight is enjoyed for a part of the day.
So a new challenge presents opportunities for change and improvement. Gardening is never boring.