This Year’s Green Thumb Successes + A Terrible Tragedy

It was a breezy fall day in St. Louis today. But as much as I love fall, I’m reverting back to spring and summer to recap the lovelies that have graced the Riley garden since April.

For once, we had a pretty mild summer in St. Louis. I could actually go longer than 24 hours without watering my plants on most days. The year before, we experienced a drought in the region that kept us cooped us inside and our plants in permanent droop mode. This year was different. My plants thrived.

pink hyacinth

This was the first bloom for these pink hyacinths, bought online at Dutch Gardens. They were huge!

blue hyacinth

Blue hyacinth beauties. Also purchased from Dutch Gardens.

red orange tulip

Gorgeous tulip insides

dutch gardens replete daffodil

These Replete Daffodils were perfect cut flowers.


Every year we have this stretch of the backyard mulched. This was the day the landscape company did the work. The rhododendrons were looking mighty fine.

yellow bearded iris

A yellow Bearded Iris

pink peony

A fluffy pink Peony

purple clematis

Purple clematis bloom

red clematis

Bigger than my palm red Clematis

pink lace cap hydrangea

Lace cap hydrangeas. Love how the little flowers have white edges.

red asiatic lily

A striking red lily in our front yard flower bed

deep purple vinca

Paired these deep purple Vincas with pale pink Vincas in a multi-tiered flower pot.

pink ground cover

Can’t remember what these are called, but when multiple blooms are in effect, they look like a carpet of pink neon.

white mophead hydrangea

Large and in charge white hydrangeas

purple delphinium

The first bloom of my new Delphinium. Love that reverse ombre.

geranium lobelia

One of my favorite pairings. Red Geranium with Lobelia. Very patriotic, too.

hens and chicks

One of the hens and chicks that my mom gave me. They’re growing like wildfire over at her house.

pink mophead hydrangea

More hydrangeas to fuel my obsession. The leaves are looking so healthy, thick and shiny on these.


With all the construction going on at the front of the house, we had to move all the patio plants to the back deck. Our backyard may or not have looked like a jungle.


Even though it was hard to maneuver around our deck, the vibrant flower colors instantly put me in a good mood.

My biggest green thumb success, though, was my blue Endless Summer hydrangeas. After five years of living in our house, they were blooming like crazy and growing so large, you could see them peeking at you from the sidewalk. And, of course, since blue hydrangeas are my all-time favorite flowers, I was ecstatic about how well they were doing…

endless summer blue hydrangea

Photo taken just as construction on our chimney was beginning.

That is, until the house construction started. The area of stucco behind the hydrangeas needed replacement, so I let our contractor twist my arm and agree to digging the hydrangeas up and putting them in large pots to be stored in the backyard shade. Only a couple weeks into their new pots, we had a few days of rain, and a short time later, I noticed the hydrangeas starting to droop. Lo and behold, our contractor failed to drill drainage holes at the bottom of the pots. So for almost an entire week, the flowers had been sitting in still water. Mikey and I tipped the pots on their sides, so that all the water could drain out, but the damage was done. Both plants were dying, and despite our best attempts to dry them out, eventually all the leaves and stems turned dark.

We told our contractor about his major screw-up, and his response was that he couldn’t be held responsible for the plants. It wasn’t written into our contract or bid or anything. He did say that he’d talk to a landscaping friend of his to see what he could work out, but he never followed up with us. With so many other issues we had to deal with regarding the house construction, Mikey and I were both stressed to the max. It wasn’t worth fighting, and at this point, if anyone is going to lay a finger on my new hydrangeas, it is going to be me — not the guy who killed them in the first place.

Anyone with a passion for gardening knows how much of a loss something like this is. Yes, flowers are a material thing. But they’re also living things that can’t be replaced with a simple trip to the nursery. It takes time for plants to adjust to their new soil and surroundings and mature. Five years is a long time to wait for a new pair of hydrangeas to get back to the size and health that these ones were.

If I’m looking on the bright side, at least there have been many of other stunning flowers to delight me this year. Our flowers and shrubs have helped us make our mark on this house of ours, and I’ve always been a big fan of that saying: I’d rather have flowers on my table than diamonds on my finger. (Although don’t get me wrong — diamonds are cool, too.)


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Filed under Home Improvement, St. Louis

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