How to Kill a Gardenia

Flowers are lasting longer now that the heat has gone from the ground. They also take longer to bloom, if that's what stage they were in when the last warmth of summer burrowed into their stems. It's like springtime in reverse, when I sleuth through the garden with my clippers in hand looking for a colorful remnant of the season.
Magnolia sieboldii, a species that actually blooms for us. 

The Gardenia I tried to assassinate has never looked healthier. I'm only admitting to it because my husband never reads my blog. He's the poster boy for Super Sentimentalism. Of course, this isn't all bad. I'd hate it if he tended toward the other extreme. But his sentimentality umbrella touches everything, from the old radio his Grandfather gave him to his favorite wool sweater his Mother accidentally shrunk 30 years ago. I understand these keepsakes; I still have one of the birthday cards my Mom gave me.

But plants? As much as I love plants, I can't become attached to them. Perhaps it's because plants tend to die--sometimes through no fault of my own. I also get tired of plants for various reasons. I got tired of the southern Magnolia that gave us three flowers in eight years. This spring I banished it to the edge of the woods, as it had become a hulking foliage plant that was horning in on its smaller neighbors.

Gardenia - age 20 - in big pot.
As for the Gardenia, I guess I should have more respect. After all, it's been with us for more than 20 years, spending winters in the sun room and looking like it's curled up and died from February through April. It unhappily hosts every sort of insect that happens by, from scale to mites to pill bugs. And did I mention this plant isn't small?

If I didn't prune it regularly, it would most likely reach 10 feet. I try to keep it under five feet tall and four feet wide. It's like having a very wide, slow-moving person camping out in our living space. The reason I tried to kill the original plant is that its baby has grown pretty large. And, while it hasn't really bloomed much, I was thinking we only need one Gardenia in our house in northwest Indiana.

The original 'Miami Supreme' was grafted, and I think that might be the key. Whatever it was grafted on has a really healthy and forgiving roots. That's probably why it took my generous application of 12-12-12 granular in stride. Yes, it's true. I dumped in a whole cup of the stuff on top of the soil. And I scratched it in, covered it with a thin layer of potting soil, and gave it a good watering.

Image from OSU showing a CRF prill.
As you can see from the photo, it actually boosted its growth. I would never recommend this cavalier behavior. Triple 12 granular isn't a cute little prill. And it's certainly not a CRF controlled release fertilizer. Ohio State University offers a nice explanation of this design, which can be found under many names, the best known of which is Osmocote. It has salts in it and actually resembles the stuff those snow plow trucks throw down on the ice.

One plant I'll always (disclaimer: until I get tired of it) have in my garden is a type of Zinnia called Raggedy Ann Mix from Renee's Garden. I've grown lots of Zinnias, but I'd recommend these without reservation, especially for cut flowers. They are of a form called a "cactus" zinnia, with quilled, squared and tousled petals lending a sense of motion to their charming bright colors. They're not all brightly-tinted, but come in shades ranging from deep orange to pale peach.

As the trees to the south of my garden grow ever taller and their ability to obliterate the sun increases, I will have to make some adjustments. My garden is in full sun. At noon. Before and after that, various and sundry trees and shrubs shelter my plants like a swim-proof SPF 30.

Also unbeknownst to my husband, I successfully sabotaged one of the trees he added to our already thick woods on the south side of my garden. Do I feel bad about it? I'd feel pretty bad if we didn't already have half a dozen of the same tree in various stages of their long lives. I feel just bad enough not to tell my husband about it. He's sentimental about white pines.




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