Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Growing Up: Many life lessons are learned while gardening

The hailstorms were rough on our yards, particularly annuals and soft perennials.  Our yard was filled with shredded hosta leaves and broken annuals.  The other day I realized after I trimmed the broken foliage, that it was damaged beyond the point of full recovery.  While doing this I also understood that the there wasn't enough season for the plants to return to their pre-storm glory.  A bed in the yard that is really the centerpiece of the property looked stressed and barren once the damaged material was removed.

I added select annuals in large color spots, which really helped, but something was missing.  As the latest blooming perennials in the bed begin to take their reign as the dominate flower in the bed, it occurred  to me that some additions were in order in the event the annuals next year suffer in any way from weather problems. 

Now, Black Eyed Susans are in place and have been supplemented with seven additional plants.  I am assured even that with the possibility of next years hot summer weather and possible storms, I have an ace in the hole with evenly spaced rudbeckia. 

Timing is essential in gardening, particularly in the perennial realm.  Many varieties bloom early, some mid-season and others late in the season.  It is possible to plan a garden planted evenly with plants that will bloom at different times.  

Generally the earliest plants show pastel color.  Summer brings reds, blues, and bright yellow and purple tones.  Fall plants show rust, mustard yellow and a variety of dark red tones.  It's easy to plan but being motivated to execute the plan is the hard part.  While I grow tired of maintaining the yard this time of year, and could easily let everything "go" into the fall, now is actually a great time to plant.  By doing this, you will have color next spring.  If you wait, perennials can take about a year to hit peak performance and it's a long year.

This weekend I plan to take pictures of each bed in the yard and every hanging basket so that I can remember what worked and what didn't.  I also plan to fill in shrubs and plant some trees before winter so that they can get a jump-start this fall and start strong next spring.  It's also time to really weed our beds in preparation for fall soil amendment.

It's been a tough summer for many and a few hopes for the garden weren't realized, but remember, more happens to the gardener while gardening than just a great yard or a bumper crop of veggies.  We learn, we take time to think and we rejuvenate during the process.  

Yesterday I ran across a rock in my garden that says "believe."  I hadn't noticed it all summer until I began a detailed weeding process.  Seeing that rock reminded me of the year that I bought the rock and added it to my landscape.  It's been a staple for me in my gardening ever since. 

Remembering that season reminded me of why I put the rock in my garden and what it meant.  You see, at the time — I didn't believe. But, something made me buy the rock and put it in the bed.  It wasn't until I saw in a decade later how important that reminder was and how much remembering that time in my life would make me feel so fortunate to be in the place I am now.  Gardens teach us humility, bring us joy and occasionally remind us how far we've come and how fortunate we are to have each day.

Jim Gainan is VP/Shareholder of Gainan's Flower and Garden Center in Billings.