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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cutting Your Losses

I am tired of my clematis. It hangs from the trellis, brown and skeletal, a single bloom punctuating the white column behind it. Lush and covered with flowers in June, its desiccated remains a stark taunt to the voluptuousness of summer. I look away and force thoughts of June blue but can feel the irritation rising. I just want it to go away. My flow chart brain kicks into gear and I create a plan to amend the soil, build a berm, and gently prune away old wood but it feels incomplete and I keep spiraling back to square one. I'm tired of my clematis because it's miserable. Amending, berming, and gently pruning won't accomplish anything.

'The President' clematis in spring 2013

A slight tug on the thin stems and they snap free. I continue to pull, curving stems falling around my feet. For every decision I analyze and ponder, there are those that are spontaneous and irrevocably decisive. It wasn't enough that I had decided to pull out the dead wood. I wanted to pull out all the wood - dead or alive. I really just wanted to prune the whole damn thing to the ground and start over. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and move on.

Spring 2014

I should have stopped to grab my camera and take a variety of wretched photos showing the old thick stems curling through each other like a ball of snakes but I didn't. I was too busy chopping every single stem straight to the ground and pulling out wood so rotten it shrugged from the earth with a careless sigh. When that wasn't enough, I slipped into the small space between the patio and the shrubs and dug it up and replanted it. I needed new stems, straight and strong to hold the heavy blooms I knew would come. 


Cutting the vine to the ground helped me reposition and repair the damaged soaker hose. Fixing a torn soaker hose is very cheap and easy. This was ripped in two places which explained why I always had a wet driveway and a dry clematis.

Clematis are much tougher than they look. I wasn't able to remove every root but this rootball is big enough that it will grow back and be just fine.

My 'President' clematis competes with a row of Japanese hollies for moisture and nutrients in a dry spot between the walkway and the patio. Planted too close to the house in compacted soil, keeping it happy in the summer is a challenge. I moved it away from the wall and amended the soil with about 50 lbs of compost. I created a berm stabilized with rocks to keep the soil from eroding. Soaker hoses circle the newly planted vine.

I stuck the last clematis bloom in a vase with some zinnias. On a Windowsill on Tuesday is as close as I get to the meme In a Vase on Monday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Odd Man Out

The plant sits in the pot, leaves tight against the soil, and I stand and stare. There is no perfect spot, no patch of earth in need of a jolt of reddish orange so it waits while I consider my options. I should find a spot, stuff it in, and be done with it. But I don't.

I am methodical in the garden, quiet, and reflective. My impulses are saved for time spent with friends who don't mind bawdy jokes and conversations ripe with honest observations and sly innuendo. But when I garden I plan, analyze, research. Plants are rarely moved without thought to where they will go and comparisons made of one location to another. But this one went no further than a pot.

Maltese Cross (Lychnis chalcedonica) in sunnier times with Painter's Palette (Persicaria virginiana) and toadlilies. I offered it at my annual plant swap but was relieved when no one took it.

Decisions are harder when you respect a plant. I could have composted it, pawned it off on my neighbor, or just left it to die. But I didn't. Every perfect spot has become less perfect as my garden becomes shadier. But it blooms and then blooms again, fighting for sun, so I love it even more. The realization that I am the problem not the plant hits like a sucker punch to the gut and I'm humbled from the shock of it. I don't need a perfect spot. I don't care if it clashes, gaudy and bright against the subtle blues of the asters and silvery white of the veronica. Tall, gangly, and always slightly out of place, it makes me happy so it stays. I dig a hole, stuff it in and am done.