Reverse gardening

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.

wheelbarrow chaos

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.

Heuchera Purple Palace

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 & the horse barn compost

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…

The Doctor

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.)

stone step

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.)

evergreen huckleberry

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.

rescued rhododendron


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in composting, Pacific Northwest native plants and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Reverse gardening

  1. Claudia says:

    The garden can enrich our life or completely make us nuts. I’m sure you are on a healhty path- hand in there and stay well. c

  2. I have a r2d2 also. I guess I need to rename mine. r3d3? Mine was given away in a potato chip drawing…the grocery store was suppose to give it to a elementary teacher but I got it instead. I guess I’m just evil. he he.

    • linniew says:

      Wow good job winning the composter from that potato chip gambling ring, Greggo! Did each participant write a number on a potato chip? Kind of hard to imagine… Anyway the composter (R3D3) could not have gone to a better home. And it doesn’t make you evil –although I suppose you might be a tiny bit evil anyway, in a nice way of course.

  3. Andrea says:

    I am testing if my comments will come in, as i can’t comment in wordpress!

  4. Grace says:

    Thinking back, I recall that May was not exactly a hospitable month for gardening so your September verve is understandable. The afternoons get warm but the mornings and evenings are wonderful, aren’t they?

    Major score on the horsie-poo! I’ve got me a little composter thingie too for discarding my kitchen scraps. It hardly makes enough gold to side dress a dozen plants but I still enjoy the idea.

    Good luck with the garden bed renovations and the sessions with the good doctor. I notice he’s got his cigar so remind him of that when he starts getting too metaphoric. Sometimes a garden is just a garden. (Proper, of course.)

    • linniew says:

      I knew I wouldn’t get by with that cigar–very observant there Gracie. I think composting is great on any scale. Between that and recycling there is hardly any garbage to send off. Lovely weather if still a bit hot in the middle of days. I must close the greenhouse during the chilly night or the basil gets whiney.

  5. Holleygarden says:

    I’m impressed with that compost. Jealous, really! haha – Only gardeners are jealous of manure! 😉 I have been the exact opposite – not at all inspired to work outside, even though my garden needs it and the weather is cooperating. Your rhodie looks very happy. It must be thrilled that you saved its life!

    • linniew says:

      Yes it’s an odd thing, how the stall sweepings become precious to the garden minded. I think we must dig when inspired and not otherwise Holley. Gardens are supposed to be fun. Happy autumn!

  6. kininvie says:

    I have to ask why you have an upside-down bowl in your porch?

    • linniew says:

      What a baffling comment Kininvie. But I see what you see. It’s a view of the horizontal piece on the bottom of the porch railing as seen through the arch between the feet of a wicker table. Either that or some kind of squirrel thunderdome.

  7. Alistair says:

    Well Linnie, what I read recently, was, our health in general is at its best in early October. Take May for instance, we are still quite lazy due to the fact that Winter has been so long, not much exercise and you generally feel knackered, now you are coming up to your very best, for obvious reasons. I have to get one of those R2D2 thingys.

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