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"Never Stop Planting," by the Whistling Gardener

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

A funny thing happens to me this time of year… As we move from the glory of spring to the doldrums of summer, I often find myself in a state of mild depression.  I call it my “gardener’s post-partum depression.

All of the fabulous floral displays that I labored over in spring have now faded and I am faced with the drudgery of taking care of what is left. 

The peonies and iris are all done for the season, the candy tuft has been sheared back, all of those gorgeous spring bulbs have now dried up and disappeared, and the roses have finished their first flush of blooms and it will be another month to six weeks before they bloom again. 

Hostas have lost their immaculate form, having been overcome by the local slug population, and the magnificent leaves of my hardy banana groves are now shredded on the edges from the mild but sufficient wind episodes that have passed through.  NOTHING IS PERFECT ANYMORE!!!!! 

Of course I realize that seeking “perfection” is a foolish thing to do, but desiring to have a garden that is always interesting and constantly coming in and out of bloom is essential to my mental health.  If there are too many lulls between blooming episodes, I immediately fall back into a funk. I desperately need something to look forward to as the season marches on and so my solution is to keep planting! 

The care and feeding of these youngsters gives me purpose and as they grow and mature, I once again feel the thrill of laboring over yet another fabulous floral display. 

I suppose some would proclaim that I have a horticultural addiction and need to go through a 12-step program to cure myself.  I would argue that there is something very therapeutic about watching a plant grow and ultimately come into bloom.  It fulfills my need to nurture another life form and express myself artistically, so I continue to plant all season long. 

Admittedly, I have an unfair advantage over all of you gardeners out there in that I live right next to the “candy store” and can mosey out on a daily basis to find a new treasure to plop into my garden any time I want to.  The rest of you have to make a conscious effort to find time for a trip to the garden center, but make it you should, for the simple reason that a person who is always planting is never depressed or pessimistic, but rather constantly focused on the future. Gardeners can’t help but be eternal optimists. 

Despite the heat wave we are experiencing, summer is a perfectly good time to add plants to our gardens. The trick is to make sure there is plenty of moisture surrounding those new roots, which is easily accomplished by first filling the planting hole with water, letting it soak in, inserting the new plant into the hole with the removed soil and some fertilizer and building a watering basin around it to fill with an inch of water three to four times.  It’s really that simple.

The other advantage of planting this time of year is that there is an incredible variety of summer blooming plants that were not in the garden center in April and May. Many of these will continue to bloom throughout the summer.

If you are feeling a little down, try adding some new plants to your garden and see if it doesn’t lift your spirits.  It certainly works for me!

Sunnyside will be hosting a free class, “Perfect Perennials for Summer,” Saturday, August 4, 2018, at 10:00 am.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA, and can be reached at

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