I believe I may have finally learned my lesson.
I had heard that there exists a subset of gardeners that actually make plans for their garden - mapping out plant locations, drawing detailed plans, creating 3D renderings. Yet other gardeners do soil tests, bring in mounds of compost and create luxurious soil concoctions. These industrious individuals have always amazed me.
I, on the other hand, stare at the empty places in my garden and ponder. After some time spent in this meditative state, I'll create a list and go plant hunting - sometimes actually purchasing the intended botanical wonders. Then I'll eventually get around to digging a hole, mixing in some amendments and pushing the once-potted plant into the dirt.
But the times they are a changin'.
I have come to the conclusion that my gardening exploits will forever more have to follow the four P's of gardening: Prepare, Plan, Purchase, Plant.
Prepare: Pick the spot for the garden bed, and then prepare the soil in the entire area. Dig it up and out, mix in all the amendments, identify where substrata prohibits planting. Then one knows the true planting area and it's all ready for incoming vegetation. And this can be done any time throughout the year.
Plan: Now, from amongst that wide plant palette, determine what will grow in the actual planting area based on light conditions, soil depth, water requirements, personal desires. Work with whatever helps you picture the final product - be that photographs, scale grids, whatever. Make the shopping list. Another gardening activity that is unrestricted by the calendar.
Purchase: Go on a plant safari. This may take a bit of time and is, of course, impacted greatly by the season. Finding the desired plant in the middle of a stretch 100 degree days is equivalent to not finding the plant (unless it's a succulent, then celebrate!). But buy what you can during the planting season (in my parts, that would be late fall, winter, early spring).
Plant: As you bring 'em home and time permits, get 'em in the ground. And the benefit of all that preparation is that this process won't take that long - so if you strike it rich with a really good nursery hunt and come home with a stockpile of plants, it won't take a month to finally get 'em in the ground.
What, you may ask, has brought about this earth-shaking paradigm shift in my gardening activities? It's really quite simple: Limestone.
I had actually decided to dapple in this whole planning concept, even going as far as creating renderings of how I envisioned the space (á la Philip at East Side Patch). Several of the plants were hunted down and purchased. Then the planting begun...and "The Battle of the Stone" was joined. After titanic struggles involving sledgehammer, rock bar and the occasional stick of dynamite (okay, perhaps a minor exaggeration there), some plants were actually planted.
Then I discovered The Rock that will likely forever change my gardening technique. It now stretches to a length of eighteen feet across the garden bed and measures five foot at it's widest.
Excavating in a new direction with the silly hope that actual soil might be discovered, I instead found yet another large slab of connected limestone. Though not completed exposed, it presently measures seven foot by five foot. And beyond it, yet more rock has been uncovered.
Needless to say, my imaginary rendering of the area lays in shambles and before additional plans can even be considered, I actually need to determine if there is any portion of this area capable of sustaining plant life (I'm pretty sure at least some soil will be required).
Thus far, I have removed 20 wheelbarrow loads of soil (which is more clay-like than initially assumed) - and feel that the entire area will have to be exposed prior to preparing the area, then planning the actual final planting site, purchasing the needed plants (some of which have already been bought and are presently shriveling in their pots but will hopefully have a place in the garden - not to mention ones that may need to be dug up and moved from their present planted location) and planting them where they have a chance.
The excavation continues...