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I’m fairly certain step one is getting things to grow in the dirt. As we all know, this is not as simple as it seems. My endeavors to plant a shady bed just in front of our porch was thwarted by the fact that the ground was 50% dirt, and 50% rock. Or maybe just a bed of rocks filled in with some dirt. Either way, wholly unconducive to planting. The bed the bulbs went into looks much nicer. Looks can be deceiving. Had I realized how difficult it was to get things to grow there, I would have left the scraggly ferns and hostas that were there alone. Instead, I’m left asking myself, do mole tunnels count as landscaping? They do add some interesting textural details. Thus far, my daffodils have failed me, I suspect most of my crocuses have been eaten, and any other miscellaneous bulb I’ve planted there has done poorly, with the exception of the grape hyacinths. Those guys are running amok.

So what next? Well, the two hostas I planted last year are coming back. I might try some or those, and some ferns. This fall, I’m going plant some winter aconite, silver bells, Turkish glory-of-the-snow, and maybe some bluebells or snowdrops. Given that the bed is right under a pine tree, I’d like to try some gold band lilies too.

Why lilies? I’ve had good luck with them. The ones I planted a few years ago are making babies. They seem to be something that will grow in our beds, as opposed to Coral Bells. I love the foliage of those plants, but it was almost like they refused to root in the bed where they were planted. I’d rake them out with the old mulch and leaves. I don’t think my rosemary plant made it over the winter either.

My one peony, the one I’ve had for three years, is going gang busters. I will definitely plant more to fill in spaces as needed.

So far, this spring, I’ve already added five daylilies (which I don’t kill) and an iris (which I may kill) to the garden. To me though, that’s what a garden is. A place where I put things in the dirt to figure out what I can and cannot grow. Some of it’s the climate. My avalanche daffodils only bloomed the first year they were planted, as it’s just a bit too cold here for them. Some of it’s me. I had no idea roses were so high maintenance. I probably won’t be buying any more, as the two that our house came with are fine with neglect and have grossly misled me about the cultivation of roses.

But I remember reading somewhere, I think in a Martha Stewart I picked up at my sister’s house, a woman’s reply to the question: How did you get such a beautiful garden? She said something along the lines of, “I plant something, and if it doesn’t grow, I plant something else.”

When you think about it, it’s really the universal secret for success in just about any endeavor. First, fail. Second, try something new. I mean, it’s how I got good at cooking. Goodness knows, I got a lot wrong with writing before I started getting it right.

I suspect in the end my garden will be a haphazard collection of colors and scents, as I favor fragrant plants, and have a soft spot for heirlooms. My hope is that it’s lush though. And also, that I win my battle with black spot. (Although it should be noted, my green rose has a bud on it. If I kill that rose, I’ll probably get another. It’s really cute, and odd.)