Since my inner clock is behind, or possibly ahead, I have been more inspired to garden in the last two weeks than I was in all of May. It is a great mystery but I don’t have time to figure it out right now because there is too much to do. And I don’t mean just fall cleanup.
Some responsibility lies with the horse stable people who offered free horse-manure-laced compost, just a mile from my house. I can’t help it, I am always inspired by mountains of compost to add to the beds. The current mountains are composed of softwood pellet bedding cleaned from horse stalls and aged about six months, a little youthful as compost goes but largely broken down, good for water retention and a rich fertilizer that will lighten the clay soil of my mostly acid-loving gardens.
And speaking of compost, it is time for me to admit that the little plastic composter, which I so maligned in an earlier post, has actually performed this summer. R2D2, as I now refer to it, is my kitchen vegetable peeling etc. composter, secure against racoons and terriers.
R2D2 and the horse barn compost.
I add a couple shovels of grass clippings or leaves between each layer of food material. Yesterday I dumped this composter and inside I found the richest blackest of soil, inhabited by millions of tiny earthworms. It was quite a lot like finding a buried strongbox full of gold…
Well not really, but I do watch for the box of gold when I dig around our 19th century house. When my shovel hits a tree root or a rock, “There it is Max,” I shout, “the gold! Oh Max, we’ll get you a diamond collar and, and– install a river!”
There truly is an old story of gold that went missing from a nearby farmhouse, stolen and never found following a murder in 1865. So you see I’m not totally irrational in my visions, except that Max hates collars. (I would like maybe a small creek.)
To refocus: I have basically been obsessed with reworking garden beds. I’ve even bought a few new shrubs, since I am still trying to make up for my earlier Shrub Denial, something I only talk about with my therapist…
Anyway, the garden changes require making room in the chaotic picture for new plants, and moving some poorly placed ones. All very difficult and exhausting and fun.
Some foundation beds suffered greatly, or perhaps I should say perished, under the stress of the house painting in recent summers, and those beds were the first to get attention.
But as I look back, Doctor, I believe it all started with the step off the front porch. It was such a leap from the porch edge to the rock below that even the terrier sometimes experienced a moment of anxiety before he could make the jump. Rather than have him fitted for a tiny parachute we reset the step stones.
Now don’t expect miracles, or in-progress photos of the contracting crew as they reset the stones and maybe added a slate terrace and some pretend Greek columns. No, it was initially just my shovel (excavating the sunken stones) and Max (digging the fascinating soil beneath them). Of course in the end Mr O came to the rescue when it was time to actually reposition the heavy rocks to function as a real step. (Some of the stones have a ‘finish’ surface treatment because they were originally used in the foundation of the house.)
From there came attention to adjacent beds, and additions of shrubs, ferns, relocation of some perennials– you know how it is.
What’s that, Doctor?
Oh. He says I should explain that many of the shrubs are being relocated from the woods garden I planted some years ago. I’ve found that our well has just enough summer water to keep the domestic plantings happy, so now the woods is on its own. The cedars and firs, vine maple, Indian plum, birches etc. out there will all be fine, but some things needed rescue and water and/or I wanted them in the gardens proper. (Which FYI does not mean I have any improper gardens.)
I moved in several established evergreen huckleberries, more because I love them and find them useful than that they would die unwatered. But I definitely rescued a purple rhododendron. Its leaves were all perpendicular to the ground and the roots were bone dry.
It perked up immediately in a huge pot –really the pot is a copper tub from a washing machine, one called the “Easy,” made in about 1912, and it adds height to a bed corner. I put a couple of neglected native tiarella in there too, and even though it looks a little like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree right now, I have hope for its future.