What Will Happen To The Garden?
We are still spending way to much time in what if mode. Some might call it idle mind syndrome, imagining disasters where there are none, yet. It has been called The Voice Of Doom by family members. Worrying about things that needn’t be and taking steps to smooth the bumbs in the imaginary road. But planning is in our genetic makeup. Conjuring different scenarios and the results of actions taken or not taken is pleasurable and might prove constructive. The previous post took up the subject of what might happen to the blog when something has happened to the blogger. To read about that topic click here-What Will Happen To The Blog?. Now let’s think about the garden. There are some ideas swirling, whirring, churning, being seriously contemplated about design and maintenance issues in the back and front yards. (The above shot is the current state of the flat garden, no attempt to clean up even as new growth is showing on Karl F.)
Thought number one: what if the old dried up brown, tan and black growth from last year is not cut off neatly and composted, like is normally done. What if those Hellebore leaves are left, the Japanese painted ferns dried up spore laden fronds are forgotten, the tall Karl F. stalks are left standing? Will it be horrible? Will there be deaths? Will it cause blindness because it is so awful? Or will the new growth rise and cover the mess, as it does in the wild, as nature intended? Actually I have seen this idea of doing nothing in action, or should it be said inaction, in the garden of offspring Semi. It has been a few years now since she, or I cut anything down in her back garden. Her work load both in the house and at the paying job, combined with caring for a rambunctious four year old leave her no time or energy for garden pursuits. And the desire to get out there seems to have petered out. I used to get out there, but also lack the energy or drive, especially if she does not seem interested. (Reading back over this, it does sound like a whine about Semi’s loss of gardening interest, shame on me.) I can barely get the work done here at the Fairegarden, and it gets more physically challenging with each passing year, hence this ramble about doing nothing. What has happened at the Semi garden is the taking over by a couple of aggressive natives, grasses and asters mostly into the shrubs and hardy perennials we planted there together. The amazing outcome is that it looks pretty good. Vitex, dappled willows, roses, sedums, penstemons, hydrangeas and more give structure and color while the many grasses fill in the gaps. Bulbs bloom right on schedule that were planted years ago. Could that Semi-Piet method work here, one wonders? Do I have the nerve, make that self discipline to keep from tidying up and give it a try? Can I not cut the old Hellebore foliage? It is looking very ratty tatty at the moment, with new fresh growth showing lighter green as the keys are being typed. This is a job that seems so important, two posts were even written about it, here-Cutting Of The Hellebores and here-Cutting The Hellebores-2009 Edition. Like everything else, what would happen if it didn’t get cut? This might be a good time to carry out this experiment, cut some, don’t cut most, and compare. (The above shot is from March of 2009, with old foliage removed.)
Onward. Onward was our word chosen on New Year’s Eve as the lighted ball descended in Time’s Square, at the dawn of a new decade, on television to be our mantra. Others celebrating with us chose the words golf, connect and change. You might guess who said golf. Anyway, onward we go to the next big idea, a total redesign. If there is to be minimal maintenance, the plantings should probably be adjusted. Not just adjusted, total redo, with everything pulled out and the replanting to be done according to a plan on paper. Large swaths of one type of plant flowing into more swaths of well thought out choices, like in the magazines showing professionally installed gardens, is the vision. Like the Piet Oudolf designed Lurie in Chicago, above. Think big! Can we do this? Can the plant collector who buys one of everything and wants to grow everything in the world, design be flipped, make this cosmic shift? Not only could we, but should we? Looking, really looking at the wild areas here in southeast Tennessee, and there are many of them for this is a sparsely populated part of the US with many untended acreages and normally good rainfall, has shown us beautiful landscapes untouched by human design. The mix of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and grasses is breathtaking, especially in fall when the grasses take center stage. It would all return to forest eventually, for the trees will grow to shade out the others, but even that is beautiful. Our imprint is so temporary, nature will always prevail. Evidence: seedlings growing in the cracks of concrete, causing ever greater cracks with the power of tiny roots. Vines growing on porches, sending roots into the wood and bringing the whole structure down with time. (The above shot was taken at the Lurie, during the Chicago garden bloggers meet up.)
Next up, slightly less ambitious in scope, is the rethinking of the purpose of the veggie bed. With the newly opened farmer’s market nearby, the decision not to plant things available for sale at very reasonable prices at that market has already been made. So what to do with the narrow strip of enhanced soil with the block wall raised bed installed between the fifty foot long Chamaecyparis hedge and the Arborvitae hedge? Gold and Red raspberries will remain, for they are perennial and have produced well. A small fig tree at one end will be coddled and may one day give a fig. Strawberries have overtaken every square inch, spilling over the wall and growing into the landscape fabric that lines the paths below and above the planting bed. Those will be pulled, for nary a berry, maybe one, was eaten by humans last year. Rabbits made out like the bandits they are. What should be planted there? More food crops but on a lesser scale? More security measures to protect the food? Ornamentals? Should it be a holding nursery for baby plants until they are strong enough to be cast out into the wilderness to be?
As to what will happen to the garden after we are gone, whether we move or just turn back into the dust from whence we came, well, we already know how to handle that one. Every house we have owned, and even those just rented have had gardening done in them by the Fairegardener. At some of these houses, a few plantings, trees and shrubs mostly were left in place and have grown to maturity. Some were not a good idea and grew too large, they must be pruned continuously, to my humiliation. One garden, in California was completely bulldozed and lawn planted in its place. Another garden is a shrine, totally unchanged. There was some bittersweet vine that was stuck in the ground at either side of the front door as Christmas decor there and it rooted, probably done in 1989. It is still growing there, framing the door. I know they have to be pruning it constantly to keep it from eating the entire two story house, but it remains, neat and tidy as the day it was stuck, er planted. Did I worry about the plantings when the houses were sold? Not a bit, they are no longer mine to consider. I did dig up what I wanted to take with me and have those things planted and growing in my current garden. If I move to another, some will make that move as well. If I don’t move, but rather leave the earth altogether, maybe someone will scatter my ashes in the garden. I used to want my ashes placed in the hole of a newly planted Oak tree, properly sited so that it could grow tall and wide without being pruned because it was too close to something like power lines or a building. Now I would settle for the scattering on the beds, so I could live among the flowers and feed them. (No tears now my children, for this is merely a blog post about ideas. There is no hidden message of terminal illness, that I am aware of anyway. The moment you are born, you begin to die.) As for the gardens themselves, they would be the property of whomever held the house, whether family or new owners, to do with as they wished. I would hope there will not be the need for constant pruning of things wrongly chosen or placed is all.
That is enough for one story. So many questions without clear answers remain in the miasma membranes that are topped with hair colors yet to be determined. Back to Cinnaberry? Let it go completely natural? Shave the whole thing? No to the last one, we have done that before and it is way too cold now, we would have to sleep in a toboggan. How about some Cinnaberry streaking? Long, short, layered? Where is the normal impulsive decision making of the past? Should an appointment be made with a hair dresser, or should we just take up the scissors and start whacking, the usual method. What is with all this wishy-washyness? Spring, hurry up and get here so we can have purpose to each day and be too tired to do all of this thinking.