Oh Painted Fern, Where Art Thou?

Sometimes my lackadaisical attitude to gardening and haste to ‘get things done’ backfires.  Last fall I engaged in a flurry of transplantation, shifting plants from one part of the garden to another for various reasons.

Some, like a couple of good-sized blueberry bushes that live in my ornamental garden, just needed more space.  The expansion of the garden that we undertook last year provided that, so the blueberries were uprooted  (gently) and moved out where they’ll get a little more sun and to allow me easier access for picking fruit.Blueberries

Several smallish hydrangea and a dwarf rhododendron were also repositioned to balance the planting in my shade garden.  Then I started transplanting perennials.  During the summer I’d been taking notes (in my head, of course) of which plants had outgrown their location, or weren’t thriving because of a lack or surfeit of water or sun.

I love the delicate Erodium planted behind my Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) and it thrives on neglect and drought, blooming non-stop all summer, so I unearthed a few chunks and planted them on the other side of the tree, between two own-root roses, where nothing seems to want to grow.  Next summer that garden will be a medley of pink blossoms!


Erodium spilling over the pathway

I transplanted my Corydalis flexuosa from an altogether hidden spot to a place of pride under my Shin de Shojo Japanese Maple.  Those gorgeous blue flowers and delicate foliage deserve to be seen!  I know that it will look ragged after blooming and then go dormant by midsummer so I planted something else in front of it that will emerge a little later and not obscure the sapphire blue blossoms when they’re peaking.  If only I could remember WHAT I planted in front…

Corydalis flexuosa

Corydalis flexuosa

A rambunctious Hosta ‘Striptease’ has been relegated to a shady, damp corner where it’s not likely to smother any less vigorous plants and one of my favourites, a Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum pictum) was rescued from oblivion behind a lush peony ‘Karl Rosenfeld’.  If only I could remember WHERE I planted that fern!  I’m fairly sure that it’s somewhere nearer the house, where I will see it more often, but I’m not exactly clear on where I put it.

Hosta 'Striptease'

Hosta ‘Striptease’ trying to smother Hydrangea ‘Little Lamb’

The problem is, all these perennials were moved as dormant clumps, with little to no top growth (handy for locating them) and then to top it off, quite literally, I put a fresh layer of compost over the entire ornamental garden, burying any subtle hints of vegetation.

Now I’ll have to wait until my painted fern breaks dormancy to see where I put it.  There are two or three places where I may have planted it, including in front of the corydalis,  but I don’t want to root around, potentially damaging soft new shoots on newly transplanted plants. So I’ll just wait…

About hortophile

I am a very opinionated, slightly obsessed gardener with decades of experience in the retail nursery industry. A lucky resident of the "Wet Coast" of British Columbia I tread a muddy path between practicality and beauty, with my veggie patch, herb garden and fruits vying for position with the beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers that I can't resist. DON'T ask me to choose between them! I believe in environmental responsibility and common sense.
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4 Responses to Oh Painted Fern, Where Art Thou?

  1. jilliho says:

    Or…you could try taking notes! Keep a garden log, I highly recommend it. Especially as you get older, and the memory starts to fade a little. Love your bossy big sister.

    • hortophile says:

      Blah, blah, blah…. thanks sis! I know I should keep better track, I certainly do for my veggie garden because I’m pretty careful to rotate crops, and I did start out with a plan but…

  2. Carolyn Hart says:

    Notes, notebooks, lists, post-it notes. Any and all of these things can help us keep track of our plants. But my favorite system for keeping track of my plants is a simple large shoebox filled with individual envelopes labeled SHRUBS, TREES, PERENNIALS, HOSTA (because I have so many!), CLEMATIS (also because I have so many–27 at last count, but who’s counting, right?), VEGGIES (those beans we love are named Spanish Musica!), FERNS (collection growing larger each year!), VINES, TOMATOES (we are growing 27 this year so we have to keep track of which ones we want to grow again!).

    Well, you get the drift. As plant collections grow, new envelopes are added, e.g., I’m having fun with trying out some of the newer Heuchera so I have an envelope just for them now and it contains notes on the tried-and-true, and notes on those that didn’t perform well so I don’t make the mistake of purchasing them again.

    Each envelope in the SHOEBOX is filled with 4×6 cards with plant labels stapled to them noting the year of planting and the location (e.g., west side of hot tub deck, next to Styrax tree, to the front of Itea illicifolia, next to Dad’s pink hydrangea, next to Aunt Maline’s Hellebore), along with any special pruning instructions ( e.g. in the TREE envelope: Stewartia chinensis – Never ever prune growing tip/leader, or tips of horizontal limbs; to open up or limb up, prune entire limbs to trunk). In my SHRUB envelope there’s a card that reads: Exochorda macranthus ‘The Bride’ – For abundant bloom each year, prune hard immediately after it has finished blooming each spring [and I have a post-it-note on May’s calendar page that helps me remember to do the hard pruning!]

    I’ll confess that I have one envelope labeled “R.I.P.” Even good gardeners lose plants and a few notes on the 4×6 card helps me avoid repeat mistakes! Yet another envelope is labeled “GOOD RIDDANCE”–this one contains notes on things I never want to plant in my garden again, such as Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris); it’s just too invasive for me!

    The SHOEBOX of ENVELOPES is not a perfect system but it sure helps, especially when someone asks me for the name of a plant and it’s on the tip of my tongue but I can’t quite get it out, or when I want to purchase more of a specific cultivar of something I really love and my aging brain can’t conjure it up. When the Beatles were crooning “when I’m 64” in 1967 I never ever thought I’d be that old, but here I am and my plant disk in my brain is so full my retrieval is slow! When in the dead of winter I can’t remember where I planted or transplanted something and it is hunkered down below the earth (e.g., I know I have Hosta ‘June’ here somewhere!), I go to my Hosta envelope and see my note that tells me I moved it in 2012 next to the always-present- year-round trunk of the honeysuckle vine Lonicera japonica purpurea on the driveway fence.

    At the very least one can just throw plant tags into a shoe box and rifle through when you want to know the name of something, but the shoebox of envelopes makes for much easier retrieval.

    One more reason to keep some semblance of records is that I can’t throw out divisions, and I love propagating plants, and I really love setting free plants at the end of our drive for other gardeners to plant and enjoy. But to further the education and help people know what they are planting and how to plant it, I always try to add a plant tag to the pots of the freebies. My shoebox of envelopes has been a wonderful resource when I just can’t remember the name of something I planted oh-so-many-years-ago! On the tags I always try to write the full Latin name, and I add the common name, too, if I know it. With the Latin name, those who help themselves to my freebies can Google or look in plant books to find out plant requirements and care information from there. It’s a little insurance that my plants will really have a chance to continue on!

    Okay, yet another reason to keep some records, any records! When we downsize and move from our large plant-filled yard, I’ll be handing my shoebox of envelopes to the new owner so he or she has as much information as possible to help them know what’s what and what’s where and help them decide what to keep and what to dig up and give away to make room for the plants they fall in love with.

    That’s my spiel for the good of the record-keeping cause!

    • hortophile says:

      Well, you’re certainly more methodical than I! I guess I’m just not really bothered enough to keep THAT close tabs on my garden – most of the time I can dredge the info I need from my brain. When I’m old and forgetful, I shall just descend into a fog of ignorance, while you will be rooting around in shoe boxes (and finding out what you want to know). To each their own…

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