Friday, July 16, 2010

Our Green Scene

After devoting yesterday to marinating in my sadness, I resolved to start getting on with the business of everyday life this morning.
And several of those tasks involved tending our various gardening projects around the yard.

One of our landscaping goals for this year has been to change up the area around our deck -- to pull out the old, straggly spirea shrubs and fill those spaces with perennials. This turned out to be much harder than I first thought; spirea have an extensive, insidious root system, and I wound up  undergoing an unexpected regimen of strength training through several hours of chopping and twisting and yanking. (I'm not sure what benefit, if any, was gained from the concomitant cursing.) I left one tidied shrub on either side of the deck -- a case of turning a necessity into a virtue, because I simply couldn't dislodge one of them -- which actually turned out to make some design sense, because the shrubs form a logical boundary between the sunny and shady ends of the deck.

Now that that's been done, and a layer of new topsoil put down around the deck, the challenge has been to fill in the blanks. Fellow Traveler, who enjoys flowers and who actually came up with the idea of a perennial border but who is frankly not that interested in the particulars, gave me carte blanche in the selection and purchase of plants. I in turn have been restraining my horticultural exuberance and obtaining plants in a measured, prudent way, taking some time each week to visit the local fruit markets' rather neglected hodge-podges of small, cheap perennial starters or, if I'm feeling in need of inspiration, making a trip into the country to the nearest perennial nursery. This place is on an old farmstead, the business right in the backyard of the owners; despite this, it carries a staggering number of potted perennials displayed in thematic groupings all around the old farm outbuildings, and an entire field of hybrid daylilies that looks like a Monet painting when they're in full bloom.

I don't really have a picture in my head of what this is going to look like when it's all planted. With a few calculated exceptions, my plant purchases have been fairly random; the space around our deck encompasses all manner of light exposures, and requires both tall and short plants to fill, so there's lots of room for improvisation.

Today I planted some mixed sedums in the rocky bare space left by the demise of an absolutely ugly old potentilla that the previous owners used, not very successfully, to screen the area around the air conditioning unit. Sedums are great bee flowers, so if we follow through with that goal next year our little friends will have some needed nectar in the autumn. On the opposite side of the deck, in an equally troublesome, unattractive bare patch, are some lavender plants, a tricolor sage and a novelty pink, with soft gray needle-like leaves and odd, raggedy-fringed flowers in various shades of their namesake color -- all plants that can take heat and poor soil and that generally look pretty whether or not they're in bloom.

And then of course there's the vegetable garden. Thank heavens I raised the beds this spring. We've had so much rain this year that after each storm the walkways around the beds have been turned into canals, with ankle-high water; the garden would have been underwater several times this year if it had remained level with the lawn. But we were so busy in April and May, and the weather was so uncooperative at times, that things got planted about a week and a half later than I would have liked, and now our vegetables are a little behind the local curve. But they seem to be doing well; the lettuce is flourishing despite our naturally acidic soil, the seed-raised tomatoes are healthy and blooming, snap beans and cucurbits are loaded with blossoms, and the first planting of corn -- a new experiment this year -- is starting to sprout tassels. Today I planted a row of snap beans for a late crop -- admittedly pushing the envelope, but these are two-year-old seeds I wanted to use up, and by my calculation they can still yield -- and pulled a bucketful of crabgrass out of various beds. There is still much about gardening I need to learn -- I'm still trying to understand the trick of getting my radishes to make bulbous roots, and my maiden attempt at using black plastic mulch for the hot-weather veggies, while practically effective so far, looks like hell. And as I look at the modest rows of herbs, I can't help but think that I consistently underestimate how much we use these in the kitchen.

Gardening is good, cheap therapy, I've found.


stinuksuk said...

So sorry I didn't see your earlier post about Gertie. (((O))).
What a blessing and grace our pets are to us, what a huge loss and heavy, deep sorrow we face when we lose them. How tragic for you. I know God has a special place for our wonderful pets, afterall they are God's creatures too. Grief is raw right now hangs heavy upon your spirits and heart. No wonder things and even worshipping God are difficult.
May your garden therapy help to heal your loss.
May you someday welcome a new four-legged friend into your home and grace them with a wonderful life as Gertie had with you.
Peace, peace, peace...

zorra said...

Day lilies are so beautiful in bloom, but they aren't very interesting at other times, IMHO--that's why I've never devoted any space to them.
Believe it or not, our summer tomatoes are all played out now; I may put fall tomatoes in this weekend.