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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

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Learning from Gardeners who Don't Pretend to Know

My father-in-law knew nothing about gardening. Because he liked how annuals brightened up his front garden, he committed himself to learning how to plant them. Each season, he would kneel in front of the flower bed, which consisted of very dry, hard-packed clay and would proceed to deform my hand trowels by attempting to dig holes into the almost-concrete substance. Amazingly, though, his wax begonias always thrived and always looked great.

One season, I asked him for the secret of his success. He answered that he found the earth a bit dry when he was planting [ha!] and figured that if annuals needed water and if their roots were underground, then perhaps he should place the water underground as well. Now, that made sense. After excavating a hole in the hard-packed earth, he would fill that hole with water, insert the wax begonia seedling into the water-filled hole, and back fill the hole with the crumbled concrete that he called earth. Never mind that this earth was not a friendly growing medium. He watered the begonias every night and they always looked great.

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Reader Comments (1)

How funny! I had a similar experience with impatiens. Being a rebel and such, knowing they are shade lovers I planted them out front, in full sun. But every day we had no rain, I watered them deeply. Boy oh boy did those suckers grow....huge. Just huge. Beautiful white flowers that spilled over the concrete edge of the sidewalk, making a show all summer long. I haven't done it since, as I am more aware of our water usage, but it was fun that summer to see the neighborhood gardeners stop by and tell me (and the humongous plants) that impatiens won't do well in full sun!

May 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

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