Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gardening Forgetfulness

Tuesday, February 21, 2011

Almost 5 PM and quiet here on the mountain. It was a pleasant day from the inside out but the wind blew all day and at best and with full, bright sun, the temperature found it difficult to get to 19°. The weather lady said last night and tonight would drop to -15° but last night only got to -9° here but reached -22° in Greensboro Bend. It's +11 degrees now, the wind is at 3 mph, and Karl the Wonder Dog says the fire feels nice on his belly after an abbreviated walk to the mail box.

I've always kept myself busy and in recent years I got more and more bothered by people asking what I would possibly do to keep busy when I retired. People that really knew me knew it would be no problem. I am loving retirement but I cannot find enough time to do everything that I need to finish. I need to mend my ways soon on this tax preparation thing because progress is snail slow and even Gail is getting impatient with my list of excuses for not finishing.

As a gardener I have started gardens I never completed. There weren't many but there were some. I really do not like incomplete paintings either. Just like a painter, I respect the creativity that occurs when that burst of energy occurs. In bookstores I am always wondering how Stephen King can crank out book after book, so big each time that store clerks hate to see new deliveries. I produce gardens quickly, except when I don't. Here's a photo of the corner of one that really never was finished.

In summer 2000, I hired a man with a tractor to skid large granite fragments from the woods and "plant" them in a garden I wanted to make here at the house. They ranged in length from 4-5 feet to over 11 feet and there were seven of them. Some visitors called them the 7 Sisters while other asked the significance of 7 stones in a circle. There was none. I just planted them the way they felt right to me.

My vision at the time was to plant a backdrop behind the circle of stones so that from the road to the pond, people would see an incredible ocean of color. Much of the garden was planted over the next 6-7 years and it began to take shape just in time for us to close up shop at the house and move the nursery. See if you can envision what was supposed to happen.

Behind the circle of stones, think of a row of Lilium superbum, 9-10 feet tall at maturity. Orange-red, black spotted, reaching for more light but waving "Look at us." to passersbys. The next picture shows them a couple years ago. In between each L. superbum I planted small groups of Lilium henryi. These top out at 4-5 feet and are orange with lots of whiskers. Like the L. superbum they are August bloomers here.

In front of the lilies were two row of hostas. The first was a solid row of Hosta 'Tall Boy'. Not all gardeners like Tall Boy because it's plain green leaves are just that. For me the strength comes in the flower scapes that over time as the plant matures will top out at 7 feet tall with beautiful purple flowers that are hummingbird and butterfly magnets. It's a plant I am always selling out of because people just don't see it in nurseries here and when they see it at maturity, it is coveted.

Then there was a row of Hosta 'Lakeside Cha Cha' mixed with Hosta 'Formal Attire' and each was spaced at about 3 feet so they would fill in over the years. In front of them was a mixed row of astilbes of various heights and colors but generally in the 28" range.... and then epimediums in good sized groupings with white grandiflorum predominating.

Behind the the lilies is a path that leads to a vernal pond and passes a bog garden I made. The back side of the path is planted with Aruncus dioicus that reaches almost 6 feet and has feathery , creamy white plumes on course, cut foliage. Those flowers add a lightness from afar. There are also some plantings of various ligularia and as they send up scapes, large spots of yellows and orange appear.

The garden has fallen in disarray, partly because of my forgetfulness but more so because time is short. My plan to clean it up last spring ran into a fit of reallocation of resources as we needed more help at the nursery than I expected. I am in hopes again of hiring a person who can work independently and without supervision--not a lot can work alone--but that is easier said than done. The deer have found the now-mature hostas and just after the new crop of fawns are delivered in June, mother does provide lunch preparation training to youngsters and hosta leaves, the "deer lettuce" of Vermont, begin to disappear. As such I want to get the last quarter of fence around the garden too. Maybe just maybe some blog reader with strong arms and no ties to a love life or an I pod or cell phone will respond with an interest in helping. In the meantime the snow is still deep and I can dream of what I really wanted this garden to be. If by chance you saw it in its partial glory, you know the masterpiece it almost was.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where last night's start to this blog has carried on to 7:20 AM. It's an even zero degrees here now, clear sky, rising sun, 2 mph wind. Don't be forgetful today!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

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