Garden evolution

I’ve started decorating the house for Halloween.

Halloween cobweb

Not really.

I’ve just been spending days outdoors in the fine autumn sunshine.  I come inside to sleep but the cobwebs are hard to see at night and really I don’t look too carefully…

So, I’ve been out among the plants, eyeing them, thinking of what to do next.  Fortunately I don’t have to start from emptiness, in which case I fear that nothing would come of nothing, just like Lear said.  A new place with empty gardens would be difficult, and maybe unromantic–and one could hardly hope for a ghost on the stairs or even any cobwebs probably…

But some people can do Garden Planning. They can be holding maybe a cup of coffee in one hand and sketch out a successful new garden plan with the other while indoors sitting at a desk.  This is an awesome skill, and I don’t have it.

I do of course use my own patented design system which I will share here with you if you promise not to tell. It is organic, or possibly Darwinian. And impulsive. Or a bit wacko.

I walk around outside and look. I am inspired or sometimes surprised and I find stuff.

Lately I saw that the peripheries of the garden beds on the east side have not been edged for two summers. (I’m not sure whose fault this is. Tillie’s maybe.) But it’s fall, and the ground is dry because I let the “lawn” perish this year in favor of thorough watering of beds from our limited well.

So it’s a dumb time to edge beds maybe, but I began to wonder if I could do it. I noticed that the terrier was digging, and I think I saw him watching me watching. Anyway I tried the shovel and found that the sod removed doesn’t weigh much when its not saturated with rain.  And, as long as I was at it, wouldn’t it be nice to have these beds be a little wider than they’ve been in the past? [garden design happening here]  “Why yes,” the dog agreed–but then he is always pro-dig.

clay and sod

Lots of clods of dry clay result.

We use our special Curve Control Tool (resembles a garden hose) to plan the shape.

shovel and garden curve tool

Max is Quality Control.

Curve Determiner Tool

I dig a little deeper into the resulting sod-less dry ground, then work in loads of compost.

As I prepare this new bit of space, I wonder what would look and do well there. Is there some plant, doing poorly in some other exposure and wishing to relocate?  I walk around again, looking for anything that might like the new morning-sun location.

Things found: tiarella needing more light and water, dry hostas hidden behind ferns, meadowsweet crowded by trees, heuchera needing division,  perennial fuchsia rescued from under house eave (drought area), native alumroot totally hidden behind red currant, maidenhair ferns suffering from maple tree root invasion…See how this happens? So I moved some stuff, and also bought a few new things at nurseries.

You probably can’t tell a bit from this image, but there are lots of changes which will be so entertaining to watch mature in spring.

Max and the edged bedsAnd of course these weren’t the only beds given this sort of attention.

gate and fence border

But now we’re tired, and wish the inevitable endless rain would return so we could could stay inside and read and write –and rest up at least a little bit before the garlic needs planting.

tired Westie


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
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26 Responses to Garden evolution

  1. Grace says:

    Looks like somebody is resting up. Must be all that heavy duty, energy-zapping Quality Control. That can really do it to a pup.

    You’ve been very busy in the garden, Linnie and it shows. Very well done. Although the watering is getting very old, I’m still loving this endless sunshine. No complaints from me.

    I’m going to write to you soon.

  2. I have the same approach to edging as you do; I always see it as an opportunity to add a foot or two two the flower beds.

    It looks like a job well done, and a rest – for all – is surely deserved. Cobwebs can be removed later, right?

  3. kininvie says:

    I’m impressed. Mind you, being able to go on digging the ground into October is a luxury that some of us don’t have. If I were to start creating new beds now, there would just be a mudbath. On the other hand, I don’t have a brown lawn…..

    • linniew says:

      Do you ever have to water plants in summer Kininvie? If not, it must save a lot of time.

      I was feeling depressed over that whole dead-grass issue, then a couple days ago I drove to Portland, an hour north and Oregon’s largest city. In the neighborhoods I visited there were plenty of lovely gardens, sometimes with the entire front yards intensely planted, but I saw NO green lawns. Now I feel very current in my water conservation standards.

      • kininvie says:

        Water plants in summer? You mean you go round with a hose and stuff? I’ve never heard of anything so unlikely….I do occasionally use the power washer on my birch trees, as you know. Does that count? Really, I think I must try watering the plants sometime, it sounds fun.

        • linniew says:

          Dear Kininvie,

          The birch tree power washer abuse thing you do does not count. You have to spend at least an hour a day, all summer, wandering around with a hose –which kinks up about every 12 minutes so there is a lot of walking to undo that problem. Anyway you must give a nice drink to every last thirsty plant or they die. And no they aren’t interested in gin.


  4. Lyn says:

    This is an awesome method of garden design and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I want to extend some of the beds this year and will also be using the Curve Control Tool. I can’t design inside, either. Even when I do draw up a plan, it’s only to remind myself of what I decided when I was outside.

    • linniew says:

      Your garden plans are always incredible Lyn. I’m not surprised that you create your designs while outside, but then the drawn records you create are amazing! I expect you don’t have to relocate plants so often either.

      I’m especially glad to learn that the Curve Control Tool is available internationally–it is such a help with edges.

  5. Susan says:

    Our last dog loved gardening . Killing weeds was her all time favourite, we threw them to her and she wrestled them to the ground. She also took my side in major garden decisions.
    Seeing your earnest little supervisor, and about to start a new garden, it’s obvious we must start with the purchase of a suitably minded dog.

    • linniew says:

      Oh yes, Susan! I simply could not garden a bit without Max. While he’s always willing to pitch in and help dig a hole (he is a terrier), his only unsupervised digging is after ground squirrel tunnels and moles. He can wander through beds like a cat, not damaging anything. But most importantly, when Mr O and I don’t agree about something I simply call for a vote, and the Gardening Block (dog and woman) always wins with its two votes. (It’s kind of discouraging for Mr O–the hopelessness of ever winning.)

  6. Plant Stands says:

    Being an armchair apartment gardener, I fully admit to knowing very little about gardening. I just love to see what people love and what they do in the space they have. As to lawns, I’ve seen some posts and info recently about letting go of our insistence on lawns (here’s a link to a book on Amazon…haven’t read it yet, but the idea kinda makes sense to me: so, instead of feeling a little guilt over letting the lawn go dry, maybe you can think of it as a good thing!?

    • linniew says:

      I dig up more lawn every chance I get. If I live long enough it will ALL be gone I suppose. But this is the year that I embraced the Dead Lawn water conservation ideal, and, as I mentioned in my reply to Kininvie earlier, it is definitely a trend in western Oregon.

  7. Katie says:

    Oh no, I didn’t know you had this design method patented! How much do I owe you? You just never know how a plant will really do and what it will really look like until it’s in place for a season or two. Shifting them around is inevitable and also fun. I’ve seen lots of well planned garden installations. They look nice at first, but with nobody to love them, they all look pretty much the same after a couple of years. It’s not the original design, but the ongoing care that makes a garden beautiful. Yours is lovely mostly because you are so entertained by it.

    • linniew says:

      It’s okay Katie, because I put your name on the patent too. (I think there might actually be quite a few names on it…)

      You really have me figured right when you say I am entertained by my garden, chaos factor and all. Fortunately it is so remotely situated that there is no danger of being part of a garden tour or anything, and there are no responsible adults around to control my “landscape designs” 😉

  8. Roberta says:

    The only thing I can say about the pro-diggers is that they are forever biased. They are, however, earnest as well and this just may be their saving grace. Beagle, for example, has her own ideas for where the chives should be planted and because she is not handy with a pencil, she left me a note of another kind – a large hole smack-dab in my designated chive bed. It was hard work to be sure. She came in and passed out in the living room chair.
    But she is my gardening friend so her advice was duly noted. Neither of us can garden plan from a desk. Beagle and I both have to be out “in it” to see what we are working with. It’s different out there than at a desk and I do think I make different decisions. Desk work is the stuff of accountants and patent clerks. A gardener must have her feet in the dirt so the ideas can absorb through the soles of the feet and upward to the noggin.

    • linniew says:

      I have tried planning at a desk, but then when I go outside I abandon all such plans in favor of my in situ impressions, which are inevitably completely otherwise. But oh ‘berta I love that scientific part you wrote about ideas getting absorbed through the feet and going to the brain. It just rings true and I will be using that proven process in my future garden planning arguments. Very comforting really.

      Beagle did her best to communicate. Sometimes we tell Max, “use words!” but it never helps.

  9. Rachelle says:

    The drought and extreme heat here in central Wisconsin this last year killed a lot of trees and shrubs, and I have to wonder how many lawns will actually be dead this spring. I am sure some people just thought their lawns entered winter heat dormant. I have so little lawn, by watering my borders, the lawn for the most part stayed green as well. Hope you will be getting more moisture this 2013.

    • linniew says:

      The hot late summers are pretty standard here, and the grass always revives with the first rains. Our limited water supply is the real problem, but I’ve learned to live with it–grass got bumped off the watering list, that’s all. I hope you get more rain this summer though Rachelle. Losing trees and shrubs is seriously awful.

      • Rachelle says:

        I didn’t lose any trees or shrubs. I have a great well, even if it was probably dug with a spoon. I live in an area that is spring fed.The village even has a public artesian spring, where the water literally bubbles right out of the ground 24/7/365. It is almost magical. Some people think it is. There are always people standing there filing jugs.

        It’s just that if property owners weren’t paying attention, or couldn’t/wouldn’t drag out a hose, the trees or shrubs suffered. Me, I can hear plants talking. Heck! I can hear them scream.

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