Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Shed, Final Notice

The shed is finished! The garden bed along the side of it hasn't yet been brought into civilization, nor have the flagstones been properly dug in, but the painting is done and the inside is all organized -- tools hung neatly on the walls, pots stacked on (cheap) shelves, a table under the window for potting with supplies in plastic boxes nearby, and no spiders. At least not yet!

The azaleas are in full bloom -- most of the ones in the back garden are white, and I like the effect with the dogwoods and the big doublefile viburnum, but there is one firecracker red one that crept in under cover of darkness and I like its brashness among the bland politeness of the white azaleas and the enormous bleeding heart. The airy blue is phlox stolonifera, fighting it out with the variegated solomon's seal.

And finally, the new stone steps are beginning to fit into the bank. The azalea is a show-off!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Making a List for the Bank

Have been working in the garden a bit today in advance of the promised rain tonight, and thought it would be a good idea if I made a list right now of what I want to order this fall to put in the little cracks and spaces in the new rock steps. They are still pretty muddy and not a thing of beauty yet -- the railing needs to be painted, the steps and driveway need to be cleaned up and the clover needs to grow. I planted clover at the sides so that I would have something to hold the soil (well, clay) in place for the summer and I will turn it in in the fall for its nitrogen and add some compost. What I think I want to put there:

Squills -- a mix of deep and light blue
The tiny Dutchman's Breeches that are all over the facing bank -- they have naturalized from a single corm ten years ago, and I will move a few clumps across.
Also, return the big clump of snowdrops that had to be moved.
Try: a few baby hellebores, to see if they like the sharp drainage there as much as they do on the other side.
Maybe some mazus reptans for the summer because the others are ephemerals and will fade away early. Plus a couple of clumps of something low and flowery for the summer. There is enough sun now that the persimmon tree is gone; the oaks' shade doesn't get to the steps until about two o'clock.
Veronica Waterperry Blue -- creeping veronica with mauve/blue flowers -- spreads to about a foot. There are a couple of good spots to tuck it into.

To digress some from the steps -- most of the bank is shady, except that the steps get some morning sun, but the daffodils, aconites, crocus and snowdrops are all happy there so I don't want to interfere with them but just redo the area of the steps. I think though that I will concentrate on using bulbs and early spring stuff there because they are all happy now. The big pink azalea is going to get a moderate pruning after it blooms too. When (if ever) the ivy is gone, I need to replant the pachysandra which has been much discouraged by that horrible stuff. It's WAR on that stuff, WAR I TELL YOU!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Tale of a Garden Shed

When we bought this house umptyninth years ago, we acquired with it an 8x10 foot garden shed which we proceeded to abuse. It received anything and everything we threw in there, never complained, never gave any trouble, and dynasties of spiders grew old and fat and laid their eggs in peace among the old garden gloves and empty plastic pots. One day recently, I had the idea of removing the ivy from the back side so that the area could be cleared for my new solar clothes dryer. This was done, but unfortunately the removal of the ivy caused the whole wall on that side to disintegrate. Further investigation revealed that the shed was being held up only by the joint efforts of the ivy, the termites and the spiders, which were apparently joining hands to keep their ancestral home from falling down around their ears (or whatever spiders and termites have in place of ears).

So, a contractor was summoned. He put us in order, quickly and neatly, and asked only $1,000 for his work(!). The "new" shed is very neat, will be pretty when it is finally painted, but it does not have the je ne sais quoi of the old one. There is no picturesque covering of ivy, no suggestion of a Victorian "ruin", and gone are the piles of pots, old tools, mismatched garden clogs (how does one lose ONE garden clog, anyway?), and old candles and bug spray cans.

I have been working on the plantings--the ivy had done a lot of damage to the hydrangeas and the pieris, but they will recover now. It is too cold yet to paint outside, but the walls will stay the same beige, the trim of the door and walls will be a soft taupe, and the door will be the same cornflower blue as the house doors. A picture will be forthcoming when the painting is done, probably in May. Somehow though I know I will miss my romantic ivy-covered ruin.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

No time for blogging!

The garden is busting out, and there is no time at all for blogging! I wish I had time to post pictures of what is happening here -- the daffodils are all out together -- early, mid and late season, because our spring has been so strange. The dogwoods are showing little green bracts, which will become big white bracts in a week or so. The famous cherry trees have come and gone, leaving us with opening redbuds and crabapples. Azaleas are just a rumour right now, but in a week or so we will begin to see some colour from them. Tulips are opening too, and the pale orange ones in the front garden are singing harmony with the "pink" daffodils next to them -- they are NOT pink at all, but their trumpets are a wonderful soft peach, and alongside the tulips they are fantastic.

All of which brings me to what I wanted to talk about -- "The Essential Earthman", Henry Mitchell -- garden writer extraordinaire of the Washington Post. He died a few years ago in exactly the way many gardeners would like to go (assuming we HAVE to go and can't just continue to putter forever) -- a heart attack in his garden. Just gone, among his wonderful and beloved plants -- no lingering, no family conclaves of "what shall we do about Pa?" -- just gone. Here is a quote from his book, one of many many wonderful quotes:

"I have a shocking patch of azaleas, fortunately not very large, of pink, three shades of pink, and a couple of whites. I like them, but they are dangerously close to grossness, and some of my neighbours do better, I think, with their clumps of fewer colours. I knew it was wrong to add two or three yellow-orange-salmon-tawny deciduous azaleas across the walk from the reds and pinks. But even this sort of garishness is not the flaw that most annoys me when I speak of grossness in "improving" flowers. Instead, I mean things like turning the delicate single cherry blossoms into powder puffs. All of which brings us back to the "improved" and garden varieties of the common dogwood. Here is the end of the matter. It is not evil of gardeners to like double dogwoods or dogwoods with too many flowers on the branches, or to like them with a stew of mottled leaves instead of God's sweet green. ...........

We should keep asking ourselves , when we are tempted by colour and display and show, whether it is beautiful as well. The world should not be a nice drab universal grey. But nothing is gained by painting sidewalks orange, either. We will all hit on different balances in our gardens, large or small, and that is what makes them endlessly different........"

There's more, but I have run out of time. Next time, the saga of the renovation of the garden shed, trying to keep in mind Henry's principles "Is it beautiful? That is a great question and the ultimate one".