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Anyone who says gardening isn't proper exercise is full of...

>> Monday, May 9, 2011

So, since both of our Mothers are far far away from us and we couldn't spend the day with either of them, we spent our Mother's Day reclaiming our gardens. 

We started off the day with an early morning trip to Dickman Farms Greenhouses and Garden Center, which is pretty much Mecca for gardeners.  It's an overwhelming place to visit, solely because there are so darn many choices for plants and they all look so gloriously lovely!  I find greenhouses to be intoxicating, and somehow they make time slow down for me.  I could spend forever in a greenhouse.  Instead, I spent (eh hem) probably what should have been the money for groceries this week instead.

We came home with our purchases, and set to.  I have never, ever allowed a garden to get into such horrid shape as we allowed our front garden to get into this year - truly, it was incredible.  I should have taken "before" shots, but frankly, it was too embarrassing.  The back perennial garden was pretty bad, too, considering I had in fact given it a once over in the fall to remove the dead stuff. 

So, in total, here's what we accomplished in one very long day:

> Planted two earth boxes, one with peas and lima beans, and one with two varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

> Shooed Pippin off the tomato earth box.  Apparently the black cover on it gets invitingly warm in the sun.

> Weeded and mulched the big back perennial garden, which is my pride and joy.  I have been slowly adding to the plants in it each year, and it is finally bursting with all kinds of lovely things.  I was surprised and delighted to find that my last year's sickly columbine is threatening to take over the universe, and the new asiatic lilies have all multiplied several times over.  The astilbe is spreading, the elephant ear hosta is finally healthy, the wild ginger is growing, the coreposis has doubled in size.  I think my only disappointment in the whole garden is that my one lowly hollyhock is still pretty scraggly.  But in a few more weeks things in that garden will start blooming, and I should have flowers through late fall.

    > Fought another round (the second this spring) with the bleeding hearts, trying to prevent them from smothering everything else in the garden.

    > Shooed Pippin off the tomato earth box. Again.

    > Removed a bunch of grape hyacinth (I have an unreasonable prejudice against the stuff), and some sumacs that had set up shop in the middle of the garden. That stuff grows fast.

    > Affectionately renamed our Bear's Breeches "Brickle Bush".  If you haven't read Dr. Seuss's "What was I Scared of?", featuring the spooky pale green pants with nobody inside them, you should.  It's just about the best children's book ever.
      I ran and found a Brickle bush
      I hid myself away.
      I got brickles in my britches
      But I stayed there anyway.

      > Shooed Pippin off the tomato earth box.  Yet again.  Cursed him soundly.

      > We (I should say, my husband) finally dug up the stump of the ancient massive pricker bush that we had cut back to the ground last year from our weird fence garden.  That poor garden has had nothing in it since we moved in, aside from two sickly rose bushes and that massive thorny thing.  So, we dug up the whole thing and planted a bunch of sedum, which I chose largely because it's hard to kill, but also in hopes we might attract a butterfly or two.  Now the random section of fence in our back yard looks slightly more like it's supposed to be there.

        > Put down something like 20 bags of mulch in the back gardens.  Yes, I know, I ought to have it delivered by the truckload rather than buying it in wasteful plastic bags.  I somehow didn't plan ahead far enough for that this year.  Bad human.  No cookie.

        > Weeded the front day lily garden by the porch and mulched it.

          > Planted the urn in front with a mix of geranium, some kind of decorative grass, marigold, and a few other odds and ends that are very hearty.

          > Finally, we could not justify putting off the evil front garden a minute longer, as we'd run out of other gardeny things to do.  So we started weeding.  With rakes, and shovels, yanking out handfulls and bunches.  No exaggeration, I'd say we pulled at least 100 lbs of leaves and weeds from the front garden.  We filled two paper yard waste sacks with the stuff, I could barely budge those sacks when we were done.  My husband bent the hoe on one stubborn weed, so now it looks a little like it's giving us the finger.

          > I harvested enough dandelions from that garden to eat them with every dinner for at least a week.

          > I also removed enough spearmint from that garden for about 1,000 mint juleps.  The only thing I have to say in defense of spearmint is that at least it smells good while you're pulling it up by the fistfull because it has taken over everything.

          > Spouse dug up MASSIVE roots from these awful weeds that have plagued me since we moved in three years ago.  I don't know what they are, but the roots were larger than my calf, and went several feet into the ground.  No wonder I couldn't get rid of the damn things merely by chopping off their heads.

          > We sacrified a pathetic rose bush, and a bunch of scraggly tulips (I'm just not a tulip kind of a gal - they always look messy to me, unless they're planted in a lush thick carpet, which mine decidedly were not).  We also decided to sacrifice the sickly rhododendron after it blooms this year.  I have spent three years trying to make it happy and healthy, and if it hasn't worked yet, it isn't going to.

          > We shooed Rocky out of the garden, who was happily "watering" the soil we'd just loosened.

          > Then we planted more asiatic lilies (because I cannot help myself).  We also planted some kind of purple flowering plant that looks like miniature salvia, which we gleaned from my next door neighbor's "thinned out" pile (which - poor thing - promptly went into shock).  To fill up space this year while the new perennials get going, we planted a whole bunch of portulaca.  Because, let's face it, despite our best intentions we simply never ever water that garden.  Maybe portulaca can handle our neglect.  Watch, now it will rain incessantly all summer, and the stuff will drown.  Or, probably even more likely, the cats will do it in.  This was what I found when I came home today.  Gr.

            All in all, we accomplished a tremendous amount in one day.  I have never gardened that ceaselessly in one day before.  Neither one of us could really move this morning - things are creaky and aching, and I was a little out of it. 

            We still have a long way to go before our front garden matches the kind of splendor my back perennial garden is finally achieving, but we'll get there I think in just another year or two.  I have started some baby seedlings that still aren't quite ready to go into the ground, including some black eyed susan, some more hollyhocks, and some poppies.  If they make it, I'll add them to the front garden, too.  Some of my kale has turned into a perennial, and I left it there in all its wavy decorative glory.  The lavenders we planted last year look a bit bedraggled, but they've quadrupled in size so I guess we're doing something right - apparently they liked being ignored.  I'm good with that.

            Once we finish putting perennials in that garden, I am already planning where to dig the next garden out back.  If I could, I would do away with nearly all our grass and turn the whole yard into a maze of paths through all kinds of flower beds.  Here's what's on my current garden plant wish list:

            Jack in the Pulpit
            Japanese Lanterns
            A Japanese Maple
            Lily of the Valley (more than the few lonely sprigs that I currently have)
            Hens and chicks... somewhere.  No idea where I'd put it, but the stuff is cool.  If I kill the front urn by failing to water it again this summer, maybe I'll give up and put hens and chicks in there.
            More peonies, in more varieties.  I can't ever get enough.  Probably same with lilies.
            More ferns.
            And while I'm at it, dreaming big: a pond.  Some day, maybe.  I hope.  With a bridge.  And plunky splashy frogs.


            sarah May 9, 2011 at 7:58 PM  


            Woodswalker May 10, 2011 at 8:12 PM  

            My Lord, you guys did a LOT of work! And it shows! How beautiful your home and gardens look.

            Ellen Rathbone May 14, 2011 at 3:02 PM  

            I see your gardening ambitions are much like mine. I started my new veg garden last night and discovered that the legendary fertile soils of the midwest are really more mythological. I sure do miss my Adirondack gardens with their nearly perfect soil! Good luck with yours - you've put in a lot of hard work and deserve to enjoy your labors!

            Rachel May 16, 2011 at 8:52 AM  

            Incredible. Good work! I'm about to head out for my yearly battle with the mint. I wish I could go back in time and stop the previous owners from putting it in the ground. It's nice to have a little patch of it, for mojitos or marinades or what have you, but when you put it in the ground instead of a container, soon it's a battle to the death. :) The bees and butterflies sure like it, though.

            I've managed to keep a lavender alive for two years, and, yes, neglect seems to be the key. I had a volunteer hollyhock show up in my perennial bed last year. With all the rain it's become the hollyhock that ate Indianapolis. It does seem much happier there than its parent plants by our back fence. :)

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