Friday, September 20, 2013

Haters Gonna Hate

I stare at my garden sometimes and wonder how much time and money I've thrown at it. Every fall I redesign the previous years redesign only to have to do it again the next year. I'm tired of it. Each summer the trees grow larger and the shadows sneak quietly across the yard, engulfing sunny beds into the ever expanding desert of dry shade. Perennials that were happy for a few years lie prostrate on the soil, desperate for sun while the sunniest bed bulges with too many plants.

Doubt begins to replace my sassy self confidence and I wonder how long it will take me to finally create a garden that doesn't need to be recreated every fall. But doubt is no match for stubborn optimism so I take a deep breath and give myself a pep talk.

Damn, girl, why are you so hard on your self?


Oh, please, don't even give me the "my garden isn't as fabulous as so and so's garden."


This garden isn't done! Instead of seeing mistakes or disasters, just think of it as editing a story. It's done when it feels right, not when it looks like someone else's garden. And as for all that shade, so what? Just go with it. At least you've always got a cool spot to park your butt in that hammock. It could be worse. Seriously. Just get over it.


Oh, and as for having to redesign your redesign, who ran all over northern Virginia buying plants last Sunday? Damn straight, girlie! You know it was you. You loved every minute of it.


So quit all that blubbering about 'not getting it right'. You know you love a challenge. You could have just stuck with a few pots of petunias, but noooo..... You had to go full bore batshitcrazy into gardening and this is what it's all about.


So quit being a hater and feel the love, darlin'. You've chosen a challenge over complacency so get your butt out there and make it happen.


Haters gonna hate but cheerleaders gotta cheer, even if we are occasionally the same person.


I've started my shade garden resign but still have a ton of work ahead of me. It's been too dry for me to make much progress but I've started extending the beds by several feet to create a deep curve. Many of the plants are cramped or need to be moved to moister, sunnier spots in the garden. Ordering a truck load of compost isn't practical for me so I use a locally produced leaf mold sold in bags instead.


The 'Ava' agastache and zinnias are still blooming.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Learning to Listen

Have you ever had a conversation with someone that went a bit like this?


I'm quite confident that most of my conversations with Mother Nature follow that plot line exactly. As a matter of fact, I'm convinced I've spent most of the last 19 years only hearing every third word she was saying. She doesn't like it. She doesn't like it all.


Despite her gentle words of advice to me in the spring that perhaps the mistflowers near the river birch needed more sun, the phlox needed more water, and that leaves with spots were a sure sign of disease, that's not what I heard and I failed to follow her guidance.


While this is probably the spot in the post where you expect me to insert a photo of a benevolent green spirit covered with butterflies and leaves, that's not how I view Mother Nature. She may be beautiful and tender but she's a badass momma whose tired of my selective hearing.


Dear Tammy, I got this ink just for you. Mother Nature

I'm not sure if it was the blackspot on the roses, athracnose on the liatris, rudbeckia, and silene, or the mysterious spots on the trumpet creeper leaves, but somewhere along the way, my ass began to hurt and I had this amazing thought that perhaps if I learned to observe my garden and see exactly what was in front of me instead of what I wanted to see, she just might remove her foot for a while. Whispering hadn't worked and I was ignoring all the yelling. While I didn't appreciate the foot-to-ass approach, I can't argue with her methods. It was a definite attention-getter.


"YES! I hear you loud and clear! I will transplant you somewhere moister/drier/sunnier/shadier!"


I occasionally get it right in my garden. 'Starman' geraniums bloom in the late summer with white mistflower. Blue mistflower, on the run from the shade under the river birch, has planted itself at the front of this bed. It's being transplanted to the rain garden with the rest of the free seeding mistflower commune. 


I bought these off the sale table at our local garden center a few years ago. They love moist soil and partial bright shade.


I have a weird spot next to my highly decorative air conditioning units that was choked with weeds and scraggly wood anemones. I decided to fight fire with fire and filled the spot with native pink obedient plant, a vigorous spreader. It overtook the weeds and added a carefree cottagey look to the side of the house. Plus, the bees love it. When it spreads too much, I can just pull up the shoots and compost them or share them with other unsuspecting gardeners.


These remind me of penstemon flowers. 


Sedum grows along the stepping stones that form a short cut between the patio and the lawn.


Blue plumbago and white heart leafed aster divarcatus grow in the bone dry shade under my Rose of Sharon. I'm adding more of both plants to that bed this fall to help fill it out.

I'm linking this post to the Lesson's Learned meme at Plant Postings.

Friday, September 6, 2013

An Artful Muse




The Kiss by Gutav Klimt

Shovel in hand, I bend and dig, soil sliding from the edge like ice cream from a cone. Grass tumbles to the ground in clumps as I follow the curve, invisible to all but me. No paint or hose marks the grass. I dig and stop, dig and stop, watching the curve widen and stretch. The tips of the riverbed point inward, arms reaching to embrace and I imagine a garden as affectionate as the gardener. 


The Prairie is My Garden by Harvey Dunn 
A framed copy of this print hangs in my dining room. It's one of my favorite paintings. 

Dry clay soil lay piled along the mulch before dropping into the rocks of the river bed. Cramped plants flop and sigh into the freshly turned loam, as I plan and dream. The trowel sinks deep, small Swiss cheese gouges dotting the surface as I check for moisture. Damp soil lines the edge of the rain garden, an oasis in a desert. Flowers thrive, pushing forward in a cramped bed and I imagine a garden resilient and beautiful. 


Clinque Cheron by Theophile Steinlen
I also have a framed copy of this popular print. I wanted to be a vet or writer before becoming a teacher.

The squirrel runs along the fence, zigzagging between the trees and the bird feeder as the dogs bark, racing across the rocks and into the garden. I stop digging to yell, the shovel thrown to the ground as I chase them back into the grass. Safe in the neighbors yard, the squirrel scolds, its tail twitching with irritation. Bent stems lie at odd angles, broken and torn and I grab the remains as I fuss at the dogs. They sit at my feet, tails wagging, tongues hanging to the side. I throw the dying plants in a pile and sink into the grass, 100 pounds of dog jostling for lap space. I imagine a garden straight and square, pinched and pruned, small hedges keeping everyone in line but I haven't imagined my garden. I close my eyes and try again, seeing my garden as a painting, unpredictable and unfinished but full of potential. 


This section of my garden is dry and unfabulous in this photo but it shows a part of the newly expanded rain garden. The new garden bed lies above the riverbed. I'm not done with this project and still  have a lot of work to do.