May’s Garden Madness

There is the notion that working in the garden brings the gardener a sense of tranquility and calm. Ha! Certainly not in the month of May.

2013-05-19 17.31.27
Front garden. It’s all growing too fast, and I can’t keep up!

Gardening in May is a race against time, against weeds, against the grass, against the weather, against your own plants as they undergo growth spurts like lanky teenagers. And for me it is a very unfair race, because I can only run on Saturday and Sunday, whereas everything else is zipping along 24/7.

The fact is that I cannot get done all the things I feel need to get done in the allotted time.

Sunny days approaching 90 degrees F? OK, I laid out soaker hoses for some plants and watered others by hand. Nevertheless I fear a few of my new plants may have been fried past the point of recovery.

Woodland Phlox, Wild Columbine, and Wild Geranium in the east side bed.
Woodland Phlox, Wild Columbine, and Wild Geranium in the east side bed.

Grass is growing excessively shaggy and creeping into the flower beds? OK, I’ll mow the lawn and trim the bed edging with my weed whacker (after Judy, the weed whacker is the great love of my life).

Weeds staging a hostile takeover throughout the garden? I will roam the flower beds with hoe and dandelion picker in hand. However, this is by definition a task that can never be finished. During this time of year, pulling weeds is like cutting off Hydra heads, they grow back as fast as you pull. At least, that’s how it feels.

Tulip 'World Expression'
Tulip ‘World Expression’. So it turns out Judy had taken pictures before she left. I felt I had to post pictures of the tulips that did them more justice.

Perennials need cutting back? I succeeded in cutting back the New England aster and most of the Salvia (‘May Night’, ‘Blue Hill’), even though the Salvia was not that tall. On the other hand, I didn’t get to the Agastache orย the Monarda.

And please don’t even mention staking. I took care of the Phlox paniculata and most of the New England aster, but that’s all. The Penstemon, Monarda, and Heliopsis I did not get to at all.

White Bleeding heart, Merrybells
White Bleeding Heart and Merrybells foliage.

This situation brings on in me and some other gardeners a state of mind I call The Permanent Fret. I am always fretting – if I don’t cut back the Agastache now, will it delay blooming to an unacceptable extent? And what about the Salvia, did I cut them back too early? But if I wait until next week it might be too late!

Of course, a person might ask why, if I get worked up into an irritable frenzy with garden chores, did I dig up so much of the lawn for so many flower beds and borders. To such a person I would say: who asked you?

Wild Geranium, Brunnera, Allium
Back Garden Bed with Wild Geranium, Brunnera, and Allium.

Whew. I’m taking deep breaths now. At times like this I have to remind myself of two of the cardinal rules of gardening: 1) don’t worry too much about making mistakes; and 2) your garden does not have to be perfect.

Have the garden chores of May been driving you to madness?

46 Comments on “May’s Garden Madness

  1. “Pulling weeds is like cutting off hydra heads”: Ha, that is so true–especially this time of year! I like your rules at the end–I’m feeling it, too. It seems worse this year because spring was so delayed. And because we have a limited growing season, we have to get the annuals and veggies in pronto! I thought working at home would take some of the stress away, but the garden chores are now staring at me right outside the window! Talk about distractions!

  2. Ha! You are sooo right! I feel like a crazy person and I have yet to finish some of my front beds..thank goodness it is raining after such a hot day! Do you recommend cutting the salvia back in May?? I will have to look up the variety I have. Your Columbine is so lovely! Beautiful things happening here!!

    • I’m not sure, I may have cut them back a bit early. By early June, at least. Some of the varieties like ‘May Night’ have a tendency to sprawl after a while.

  3. We are all in the same boat. I think very few of us can be in the race 24/7. The other day the kids wanted to help me garden. So some radishes got trampled on, ground cover was pulled out instead of weeds. Oh well.. I bet you those pictures of gardens in print are digitally manipulated big time. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Your garden is beautiful.

  4. Just glad to see I still come in ahead of the weed whacker…

  5. There is a constant feeling that you are running behind, or running in place, or something. Even though I don’t work outside the home, I can only garden on days when it isn’t pouring, which are few at this time of year in the PNW. I have been known to go out there when it is just spritzing with rain, though. I have some serious weeding to do.

  6. Alright! From here on out, this shall be known as the month of Mad – as in crazy, manic, wild-eyed, and breathless. Thank goodness it’s so beautiful! …

    Plant envy attack: I MUST HAVE the ‘World Expression’ tulips!

  7. I laughed at your opening line–this time is so frenetic and non-gardeners think all we do is wander through our yard clipping flowers that match our gloves. I’m ready to be done mulching!

  8. LOL! Absolutely! I can’t keep up either, and am considering just not sowing the last seeds after all. You’re right – gardens don’t have to be (or maybe shouldn’t be) perfect!

  9. Pwewwww, I am not alone in this world with the same thoughts ๐Ÿ™‚ Yesterday I even worked in the rain, yes, my husband thinks I am mad. But after taking a warm shower I had such a satisfied feeling ๐Ÿ™‚ Only other garderens will understand me ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. I feel your pain! I can only garden on Saturdays and after work now that the days are longer. Throw in a few Saturday field trips and I’ve totally neglected the garden this year. I go outside and feel overwhelmed by all the projects that need to be done and jump from one to another without finishing anything. Crazy! Looking forward to the long weekend ahead!

    • I know what you mean. I am easily distracted so I am always starting one chore, then switching to another before the first is done.

  11. Say what you will about aggravation and back-breaking work, the photos of your garden reveal you as a romantic. My guess is your curses are interspersed with more than a few sweet nothings.

  12. I could have written this post. I work outside every day and can’t keep up so I can only imagine your position. I have too many perennial beds with too many needy plants. I’m thinking of revamping some beds with more shub type plants – another project. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. If there is one thing you learn by visiting the garden of a professional gardener, it is how to have a low maintenance garden. Other than for pulling an occasional weed, I have very little to do in these beds. The secret is growing tough plants that take care of themselves.

    • But I have to fuss with my beds or it doesn’t feel like gardening. Also I’m not ready to give up a lot of my higher maintenance perennials.

  14. Let’s see what I have to do: transplant seedlings, transplant newer plants, weed, mow lawn, put up stakes and trellis and fences, sow more seeds, water all the babies, the toddlers, the infants, fertilize the onion-garlic bread, blueberries and grapes, put up fence around the grapes so that they can climb, dig out the jerusalem artichoke plants and transplant them in pots/other places so that they don’t take up others’ places; fertilize the asparagus bed, dig out those blisterning barnacles invasive lilies which don’t even flower and make space for native plants…come on there must be something else; the list can’t be this short!! Phew….

  15. Despite the gardener’s apoplexy, your garden looks serene and beautiful in these photos. I don’t have too many perennials — my garden is mostly trees, shrubs, and woody groundcovers, so in May there is not a lot of staking and cutting and tending to do. Even weeding is way down now that the ground covers are filling in.

    But I have enough to know that May is crazy time!

  16. I can’t get over the transformation in your garden in just a few weeks! No wonder you are suffering from May madness. I too go through the agony of wondering about missing deadlines for cutting back, staking, weeding, etc. before everything passes the point of no return. Then everything does pass the point of no return and the decision has been made for me!

  17. May is certainly a month where the garden takes a lot of time. The weed is spurting forth and Iยดm in the garden every evening if possible and weekends. But Iยดm also still making new beds ๐Ÿ™‚ Am I crazy? probably. Your garden looks great though. It doesnยดt have to be perfect.

  18. I feel your pain! And completely agree with your two gardening rules. I’m staggered by the growth surge of desired as well as undesired (weedy) plants this year. We all wait out the winter for the tiniest sign of something green poking out from the snow and then WHAM! Every inch of the garden has exploded along with my head. How do you keep track of everything you need/want to get done? I walk outside and everything smacks me in the face at once. Sometimes I just want to turn right around, go back inside and pretend it’s raining (as it is now–yea! No watering for a few days).

    • I used to make lists, now I just have mental notes. I walk outside and if something seems like it urgently needs doing I get to work.

  19. Rule #2 is wonderful! I am losing the race against weeds, but I have learned that I can only do what I can do. My husband asks me why I have to have so many flower beds when I can’t take care of them all, but like you, I ask “Who asked you?” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  20. Your garden looks great Jason, Winter is almost upon us, and there is a lot less work to do here, hardly any weeds and not much lawn mowing.

  21. Gee thanks Jason, I was just about to sit back look and look at my freshly mowed grass and enjoy the scene. But now I got to go cut back and cut back my May Night Salvia. I think you owe me a beer.

  22. I love the frenzy of spring and early summer. It makes up for having to sit on my butt all winter. Your garden looks incredible! ‘Perfect’ is a myth. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  23. Hi Jason, it sounds as though you’re getting a bit frantic, I’m only just slowly getting over the curve and I’m managing to tick things off faster than they’re being added to the list. Having said that, don’t forget to take a bit of time out to enjoy it all and take it all in, otherwise what’s the point?

  24. OK I feel better now as I laughed so hard reading this….it is what I am stressing about right now….no time to get it all done…and with the rain, heat and cold (coming) it is hard to work with weekend weather that doesn’t let me get out in the garden. Thanks for lightening the stress level.

  25. I LOVED this particular blog! Can SO relate! I’m a gardening maniac in May! I don’t feel so insane now… this was hilarious! Thanks for the laughs!

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