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The 2018 garden: Delightful dahlias and never-ending projects


No sooner had the Christmas dinner dishes been cleared than that little voice in my head started whispering, “It’s time to think about gardening again.” That little voice was obviously a little drunk, because it’s not like I ever really stopped thinking about gardening.

But my semi-drunken intuition wasn’t completely wrong. What if all the seeds I want sell out before I get around to ordering? These are the types of thoughts that can keep a gardener up at night.

Before I can start seriously thinking about next year’s garden, it seems only right to take a moment to look back at the garden of 2018.

2018 will forever be known as the year I bit of an enormous garden project completely devoid of realistic expectations. When I started the new vegetable garden project, I thought it would be finished by early June. Insert evil cackle here. 

raised beds

What in the world was I thinking? I mean, I’m still working on that damn garden. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but I wasn’t the least bit realistic about the amount of time, energy or money it would take to make it.

So, basically, there wasn’t a lot of great news to report on the vegetable growing front. Cucumbers (‘Chelsea Prize’ is now a must-grow for me), zucchini and potatoes (planted a week and half into July!) were standouts. Everything else did as well as it could in an abbreviated growing season.

With so much energy focused on the vegetable garden project, so many other areas of the garden were slightly neglected. I lost so many plants last winter, far more than the budget (stretched by the aforementioned veg garden) could absorb, so some thing just weren’t replaced. 

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because it gave me time to put real thought into what I would replace them with. 

The second year in the redesigned circle garden was lovely, and I’ve been enjoying playing around with my “plant in blocks” concept there. I think it works but I have a few ideas of how to shake it up a little for next year.

new trellis

Container plantings, my favorite task in the garden, were largely successful, particularly the two in which I used Vertigo pennisetum, which got absolutely monstrous, in the best possible way. I will absolutely use that in containers (and possibly the garden) again, but I learned a valuable lesson: plant it in a large nursery pot and sink that in the container. In both containers I grew it in, the roots completely consumed every bit of soil and moisture in the pot (these were 24-inch and 36-inch containers). 

Hot pink container plantings

But if there was one great success story in my 2018 garden, it was the dahlias. They were abundant and beautiful and borderline gaudy. I’m not entirely sure why this may have been the best dahlia year I’ve ever had, but obviously the weather—which was generally moderate—has much to do with it. 

Labyrinth dahlia The Impatient Gardener
‘Labyrinth’ deserves a closeup
dahlia bouquet -- The Impatient Gardener
I picked this bouquet and just jammed them all in a vase. It’s photos like this that carry me through the long winter.

But I think some of it just comes down to practice. I’ve figured out when the right time to plant tubers in pots is for me (mid-April), I actually staked before I needed to (there’s a first time for everything) and I stopped fussing over them so much.

The No. 1 factor that I believe contributed to the success of the big dahlias that I grow along the house is that I installed drip irrigation on a timer. They loved the consistent watering. 

dahlia bloom

There were other big projects, like planting a hedge of hornbeams by myself, and the screening garden we built in a weekend at the end of the driving (why didn’t I do that sooner?).

hornbeam hedge

how to create living privacy screen
A new garden at the end of the driveway offers privacy and creates a nice welcome.

2018 was my 16th year in this garden, although I basically didn’t touch it for those first couple years. The garden as it exists now would surely be unrecognizable to the previous owner of this house and there is great satisfaction in having created my own space, for better or worse.

How was your 2018 garden?

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9 Responses

  1. Moved from Montana to North Carolina in 2018 (in May), so had some tomatoes in containers, along with basil. Since I am in a rental, I can’t do much in-ground planting. But gearing up for 2019! Already looking through seed catalogs. Can’t wait to start some seeds.

  2. The vegetable garden looks amazing, so I’d say it was worth the effort. I’m looking forward to seeing your crops this season.

    The Circle garden is lovely and those dahlias were amazing!

    I’d love to know where you purchased your hornbeam. I’m looking for smaller trees to add to my garden this year. Just curious if you ordered them online or from a local nursery. I planted a hedge last year too and I love those trees.

    Looking forward to following you in 2019. Happy New Year!

  3. All gardeners must think alike- I ordered my tomato seeds yesterday. You’ve accomplished so much this year- it all looks wonderful, and I’m sure you’ll really reap the benefits of that raised bed garden this summer. Thank you for your inspiring and informative posts! Funny that you mentioned your stellar dahlias this year- here in Georgia mine were the weakest ever. We had highs close to 90 all the way into October, and with rain expected today, we’re on track to have the wettest year ever recorded. Not the optimal conditions for dahlias (or much of anything). Here’s to hoping for moderate weather and successful gardening to all in 2019.

  4. New labradoodle puppy almost single-handed destroyed front foundation beds playing chase with two much smaller miniature schnauzers first half of the year while I was out of state helping my brother who has cancer…hubby tried hard but my poor garden suffered catastrophic damage. I haven’t even looked hard yet at how I am to fix this mess. Constant rain has turned it into a mud bog…I’ve covered much in pine straw till I can find a remedy.

  5. I think it takes enormous will and courage to rip out an established garden to redo it. Well done as is your veg garden. Seeing all of your big projects makes me wonder if I should have one. ha… I can’t decide anything right at this time. Happy New Year.

  6. There are some dahlia bulbs I’m wanting to order (I blame you) but I’ve told myself I have to go through last year’s garden magazines first. Tried some softwood cutting for propagation, the test is whether they survive the winter. Fingers crossed.

  7. I learned a valuable lesson this year. I need to pay more attention to the preparation of my soil, than picking out plants . The vegetable garden was really not worth the effort.
    My flowers have been wonderful , nourishing my soul each morning.

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