Garden Problems and Solutions: A Guide

After focusing so long on the patio and the gardens surrounding it, it’s time to turn our attention to other areas of the farm.

We’ve been experimenting here and there, but in spring 2015, we will take what we’ve learned from our mistakes and start anew. Here, then, at the risk of embarrasing myself with bad photos of the farm, is a roundup of garden problems and solutions. They are as much a visual reminder for me as anything else, but maybe some other folks will find a takeaway, too.

Garden problem: A hodgepodge of plants. I’m hopeful the butterfly bush, which suffered so in the winter of 2013-14, will make a comeback. In the meantime, we divided some perennial herbs from the front and planted them underneath it, more as groundcover than an actual herb garden. Now it’s a mess of a combination of baby butterfly bush, thyme, lavender and oregano, plus gladiolas, yarrow and a few bulbs of crocosmia.

Garden solution: Make the decision which of your babies have to go. Move the crocosmia and free up sapce for the glads to thrive. See which of the herbs make it in the spring and divide those, too.



Garden problem: Flowers flopping over. Floppy flowers make a mess, and we did not staking the gladiolas as the flower stalks emerge.

Garden solution: Staking. Remember to stake them in earlier next year!lj082414garden08

Garden problem: Powdery mildew on the peonies. We don’t get it every year, but this year was a cool one with some humidity; the perfect storm for powdery mildew. (The zucchini got it too.) They won’t die from it, but it can weaken the plant and make it more susesptible to other diseases. Plus, it’s ugly!

Garden solution: Better circulation.  To get rid of the mildew, cut the peonies down to the ground in fall and remove all the branches. Next year, release them from the peony rings earlier so they can have better air circulaiton.


The plants crowding the peonies don’t help, either. I’ll pull those Joe Pye out from the front of them. There are also some little white daisies hidden under the peonies that never saw the light of day. They’ll need to be moved.

Also to be moved: the Russian sage-white coneflower-tickseed disaster that is capping the end of this bed. I thought it might be nice to have a little color there, but these are not the right colors and they look haphazardly planted.

Garden problem: Overgrown mess! My old friend Dotti used to say that gardens have a four-year life span. First year, you plant, they look bare; Second year, they grow in and start to fill in; Third year, they look incredible; Fourth year, they’re overgrown and you have to divide.

Garden solution: Dividing and moving. The pernnial geranium next to the sour cherry tree gets way to gangly and big here. Also the scaibosa that we planted in the spring has gotten lost under the coneflowers. It needs to come out closer to the grass. And, yes, there is butterfly bush volunteer here. I’ll allow it to overwinter in case the one by the pear tree does not make it.


Garden problem: The limelight hydrangea needs to be reshaped. Limelight hydrange is flopping over and growing vertically.

Garden solution: Prune heavily. Oh, poor limelight. You were damaged by the trenching machine and though you made a valiant effort last year, it’s clear now you’ve never recovered. Some serious reshaping needs to go on. Limelight hydrangeas bloom on new wood, so it’s OK to prune them back severely. I’ll do it in early spring.lj082414garden14

 Garden problem: Self-seeding annuals and more overcrowding.

Garden solution: Pull seedlings in spring. Now that the variagated lacecap hydrangea is coming into its own, these annual are competing too much. They’ll probably self seed, and it will be a problem.I’ll pull most of them when weeding in early spring.


Garden problem: Two plants growing in the same place.  This is a gladiola that I didn’t realize was undeground when I planted the coreopsis above it.

Garden solution: Garden markers. The answer is to mark your plans, either with photos (like these!) or with markers. I’ll move the coreopsis forward in the spring.


Garden problem: A hole in the border. Ever since we installed the sod, this end of the yard has had issues. The edges of the border have been straight, too. They need to have more curves; feel more organic.

Garden solution: Get an anchor. We recently moved this hydrangea to this side of the yard, which will give the border it more of an anchor.  Notice we dug out around the hydrangea and placed it further into the yard (letting it grow into the fence is a problem, too).



Garden problem: New plants not growing straight. These coneflowers were transplanted and didn’t get enough of a chance to grow strong before flowering, so they flopped.

Garden solution: Sacrifice blooms for root growth. I should cut the flowers back to give the plant a chance to get used to its new home and get stronger roots. Next year they should be better, but if not, I’ll stake them ealier.


Garden problem: Bad seasonal transition. Here’s the same bed in both spring and fall. By fall, the forget me nots are large and gangly and the coreopsis have stopped blooming. The columbine are also looking weedy.

Garden solution: Stay on top of self-seeders. (And have an anchor!) Pull the forget me nots after bloom. They are such prolific self seeders it’ll never be a problem. Also, come spring, it’s time to divide the columbine. This will look a lot better once the hydrangea settles in next to it.



Garden problem: Brown spots on the pear tree. Leaves have brown spots and are starting to curl.

Garden solution: Give it better circulation. This tree can’t breathe. It needs more space. We’re going to pull the black currant bush, right, and give the tree more room. Also, the columbine under the pear tree has to go.


Garden problem: Shorter plants are hidden in the back of the border. The sedum and the African blue basil are two lovely plants getting completely lost near the back of the border.

Garden solution: Move them closer to the front. When they first emerge in spring, divide the plants and move them forward. The African blue basil is an annual, so when we get a new one in the spring, it’ll also have to be planted closer to the front of the border.


Garden problem: Weeds!

Garden solution: This one is a no brainer! These weeds under one of the sour cherry trees just simply got out of hand. Pull! As Guy Jones of Blooming Hill Farm likes to say, “Asses and elbows, people. Asses and elbows.”


I hope this little tour of my garden problems and solutions has been helpful for you. I know it will be for me come springtime!

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