Our wet spring

Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)

Our cool, wet spring produced a glorious bounty of flowers. We all remarked that it was one of the most sparkling springs we'd seen in years. Now for the bad news. My garden is full of disease this summer partly, no doubt, because of that nice wet spring and partly, truth be told, because of bad habits. Not long after I waxed poetic about the beautiful bee balm and coneflowers filling up my garden, the dreaded powdery mildew appeared. It spread so fast - days, really - that soon more than half of my bee balm patch was covered with it. (A matter of time till the rest goes)

I blamed all the rain. Then I began examining my plants. They've spread so much, filled in all those empty spaces they were designed around, that now they present a stand so full and crowded, I marvel it took this long for powdery mildew to show itself in such numbers. I need to thin out, the experts say. I already have 'Jacob Cline,' a more resistant variety and I don't water at night, so that's good. But it's time to be ruthless. Even the supposed disease-resistant roses have black spot. The clematis have wilt. The phlox, peonies and bee balm are decimated by mildew. It's been rough. For the last five years, I've added and purchased and watched everything grow. This year, it's all huge and wild and way too crowded. Live and learn is the name of this game, I guess, but it's kind of fun to hack at it. Very satisfying to fill up those trash bags with nasty stuff. Gets me thinking about a different kind of garden for next year. Now that's sounding expensive.