There are two things going on here in the mind of the Fairegardener as the winter strolls leisurely to its end, taking many side excursions along the path, extending its time in control of sky and earth. There is the conscious effort to back away from trying to insert human control over that which is not meant to be, will not be controlled, in the long term. There is the inexplicable drive to tidy up the garden, whether by habits acquired from a lifetime of gardening, or something deeper in the psyche. Control being the means to make a human imprint on the land, to make it conform to our wishes, fighting the supreme power that nature has over it all.

Would it not be easier to work with that immense power, harness it to do our bidding, by changing what our bidding is? Learning to retrain our mind’s eye,our perception of what is pleasing, to accept the growth patterns rather than do constant battle against the inevitable seems a more reasonable goal in the garden here. And it would be oh so easier on an aging back.

So it is that items on the list of winter tasks previously done by rote, because that is what we had always done, had always read and been told the necessity of doing, have not been accomplished. At first it was a struggle to not grab the pruners and loppers and shears, the rakes and tubs and barrows, to cut and clear the beds to make way for the fresh growth of a new season. But the weather is in cahoots with, or rather an integral part of nature. As are we.

One by one, there has been a reassessment of the value of which chores are needed to maintain a semblance of a garden here, each task evaluated as to the worth of the effort. Cutting the old leaves of the hellebores was the first chore to be evaluated. It was easy when there were four plants, to cut that shabby foliage away to make way for pristine green glossy leaves and bursting buds, but now there are hundreds as the seedlings of the initial planting jumped into our hands and begged to be spread over the entire property. We obliged and now the offspring of the offspring of the offspring are sending out more and more new plants with world domination as the goal. By leaving the old discolored leaves in place to cover those baby plants, they will be starved of the light and moisture necessary for them to prosper and will wither away. So by not doing the leaf cutting, the onslaught of hellebores will be halted. Or so goes the justification for a job left undone. The above photo was taken March 18, 2009.

Another grueling prospect is the mowing of the three curbed areas down by the street. Because this is two properties made into one, there were two seperate driveways that ramp down to the pavement. The two were reformed into one half circle driveway by heavy machinery, forming the frontage of the main house, the middle island between the driveway and the street where the garage was built and the far section that holds the tall pine tree border between us and the house next door. All three of these were planted with three rows of liriope in even spacing to unify them and present an acceptable face to the neighborhood. Many if not every home is planted with liriope here, for it grows well and reduces the need for maintaining the edge of the lawns against sidewalks and curbs. Our planting is interspersed with the daffodil Salome that was planted in the three sections when the clumps of liriope were still small. In a short time small became a solid carpet with the running of roots and throwing of seeds. Pushing the mower has become progressively more difficult as the density thickened, and it should be mentioned that the land is a continuation of the steep splope that runs from the back and highest part of the property down to the bottom at the street. Keeping the mower from sliding downwards was always a battle. We have chosen to lose this battle in order to win the war of save the gardener, in part anyway. The above image of the very first openings of Edgeworthia chrysantha blossoms has absolutely no relevance to this paragraph. We just wanted to show you.

There is one more element that bears mentioning. The center island has been colonized by what began as two plantings of black seeded fountain grass, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Moudry’. It is criminal that this grass is offered for sale anywhere in the southeast United States, but it is. Do not buy it. Do not accept it if a socalled friend offers you some. Run far away as fast as you can. Fair warning. The winter white of this thug completely covers the green liriope. Seedlings of it grow in the asphalt street, splitting the pavement with unstoppable grass roots, that allow even more grass seed to enter and sprout. But the street is the city’s problem, not mine. My responsibility is the center bed, to mow or not to mow it, that is the question. So far we have cut the huge rose Thorny, Rosa ‘Grootendorst Supreme’ down to two foot tall thinned canes. This rose had been allowed to grow for several years untamed and was an eyesore of dead branches tangled with healthy ones. If this kind of behavior continues, it will have to be removed, but for now, it is under control. The tree sized trunks of wild asters were cut with loppers and the native goldenrods, guara, hosta and daylily stalks were stomped down. What remains are the foot tall Moudry blades and seed heads, stomped, so the overall undergrowth is of an even height, acceptable, sort of, if we squint our eyes and adjust our attitude. There are trees and shrubs there also, three green Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Wells Special’, a crepe myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica ‘Zuni’ at each end, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Mother Lode’ and J. procumbens ‘Nana’ around the crepes along with several dwarf gold arborvitae. The entire island planting is interspersed with lamb’s ear and nigella seedlings. The bright limbs of red and yellow twig dogwoods, Cornus servicea add color for the cold season.

There is one job that has taken on a new imperative, an area that is the star of the fall garden showcase.
The Muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris mass planting along the driveway that has grown to its full potential was cut to ground level and mulched. Rather than the mowing as has been done in the past, it was hand cut on bended knee, pulling stray weeds, only a few can penetrate the thick clumps, and carefully trimming the perennials that were planted behind the grass last year in the creation of our version of the prairie planting at the Lurie in Chicago. Our little strip was christened the Fairelurie, you can read about it by clicking here-Fairelurie Garden-Someday, and it will get the detailed grooming we are still capable of performing until it grows to evolve on its own into something more self sustaining. We still want to garden, but with a lighter footprint. And less wear and tear on the gardener.

The rest of the garden, the part that is not visible to passersby and their untrained scrutiny of what is pleasing and what is a mess of weediness, has been managed in a new way. We stomped around on the standing stalks of dried leaf and seed head, cutting only the tallest and stoutest. Some areas were mulched with bags of soil conditioner, when the weather allowed. There was some adjusting of evergreen plantings with an eye for better spacing and winter interest, moving them closer together if needed. It was usually needed. The inborn method of placing plants, favoring one here one there, has been nearly impossible to overcome. Reaching deep down inside, delving into our core strength of will has been the only way to force the spade to dig the holes closer together for planting, sometimes even making one larger hole and placing the three newly arrived via mail order tiny beings in a magic triangle for future growth. Oh how hard it was to space them so close, like it was somehow being wasteful, knowing they would grow larger and spread, wanting the imagined color, texture and form for which they were purchased to be in many places for enhanced beauty, not just in one mass. We have been slow to see the wisdom of the swath, but understanding has taken root, finally. The newly arrived from Burrd in Australia mini onion finials are standing guard by the pond atop bamboo stakes. They will be used to mark the new lily plantings when they are shipped from Brent and Becky’s. They will be planted close together. Yes they will.

Spring will come. It always has. The new verdant shades of green growth will cover the sins of seasons past. The war of ingrained garden chores versus let it be will settle itself in an easy truce as the flowers bloom and leaves unfurl. Having endured the guilt of the undone once, it will be more readily acceptable with each passing year. It has been justified.


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41 Responses to Justification

  1. Edith Hope says:

    Dear Frances, What a thought provoking posting and one which raises so many different issues. Just as there are ages of man [or woman], so too, I believe, there are ages of a garden and I think that it is probably very sensible to recognise this, as you clearly do.

    Our gardens must, surely, give us enjoyment to which of course is attached work. When the former is outweighed by the latter, then it is probably time to reappraise the whole situation. Your garden is obviously large, on what looks to be a demanding site. I applaud your courage in taking matters in hand.

    Hi Edith, thanks. You are right about the ages or phases of life and gardens. Although I am still fairly strong, for my age!, I can see what the future holds and plan for it. It was the fast decline and death of my dear neighbor, Mae, that set these wheels in motion. It seemed to happen overnight but took a few years and then she could no longer garden at all, and gardening was her passion, as it is mine. How to prepare for, and manage the lessening of abilities has been my goal. I am giving it my all. I believe it is possible to have enjoyment with the minimum of work in the garden. It is a matter of the right plants and attitude adjustment.

  2. gardeningasylum says:

    This post made me think about being humble as a gardener – we work with nature and sometimes achieve our aims, sometimes fall short. I live for those times when nature does something wonderful I hadn’t even thought of – justified by grace! Cyndy

    Hi Cyndy, thanks so much for seeing my dilemma. Humble and gardener belong together in the same breath. We can work with nature, but it requires changing our perspective, for some of us at least. πŸ™‚

  3. Frances, I am sooo trying to design my garden to be less labour intensive for when I am older. I can get someone in for the lawns, and hedges. I am trying to limit the amount of perennials, chosing to plant a lot of flowering shrubs and trees. I see too many gardeners not able to take care of their perennial gardens as they age.

    Thanks for adding that, Deborah. You are right in that lawn and hedges can be handled by paid help. It is this other stuff that needs a gardener’s eye. I remember my grandmother’s wonderful garden after she could no longer tend it. She could not find anyone who would weed, at any price. Plan for the future if you can. Because my lot is so very steep, there are huge complications to every task, like keeping from rolling down the hill. One of these days I will do just that, I can see it coming. Best keep the lower plantings soft and grassy to stop the steam roller! Imagine if there was snow on the ground, I would become the giant snowball. HA πŸ™‚

  4. Les says:

    I am not sure who needs the chores I normally do at this time of year, but can’t because of this incredibly lousy weather. I think my need to do the work is greater than the plants/garden’s need to have them done. And yes, I back you 200% on your feelings for ‘Moudry’ – what a horrid thug.

    Thanks for the back up, Les. It might be all in our heads, ingrained from years of repetition that those chores must be done or something horrible will happen. The weather is just not allowing it for us either and time marches on. The bulbs are out of the ground and we dare not tread in the beds for fear of damaging their precious treasures within. So it goes.

  5. Frances, this has been a winter where my garden chores haven’t been “on schedule” as the weather has ruled. Wind chills today at 13 degrees already with 50mph winds.

    Good advice on that grass! I had the same experience with love grass (eragrostis). A nurserywoman sold me an entire flat of the stuff, praising the beauty. The stuff seeded everywhere, driveway gravel as well. I finally got rid of all of it last fall…. until the seedlings emerge.

    Have a great day!

    Uh oh! I bought a plant of Eragrostis last summer, thrilled with its appearance! It said on the tag *China love grass*. I will be on the look out for the babies, but it is planted in a very tough part of the garden, over by the walnut trees that poison so much. I need a good ground cover there, but don’t want another Moudry episode. Thanks for the warning. We have the same wind chill and wind advisory here too. It is getting old. Enough already.

  6. Meems says:

    Dear Frances,
    The proverbial challenges of ‘allowing’ nature to have her way as the gardener grows in understanding along with the garden. Wisdom is a beautiful quality and it is hoped that we gain more and more along life’s journey. Nature was meant to be tamed to some degree by man… but finding the balance in our own little piece of earth is ever-changing.

    Spring will come as sure as winter visited us all with such determination this year.

    Your back is going to love you for your new found justifications.
    (loved all the photos in this thoughtful post)
    Meems @ Hoe and Shovel

    Hi Meems, so nice to see you and thanks. The weather is joining hands with my back and body to halt any thoughts of garden chores, day after day after day. If the garden was new, it would be a different story, but it is maturing and has filled in by itself with things I have planted and some things that were already here. I have come to accept most of that and it looks all right. There are still adjustments to be made of course, for that is gardening, but always with the goal of less maintenance in mind. Spring cannot come soon enough! πŸ™‚

  7. Sylvia (England) says:

    Frances, I enjoyed this post. My front garden needs a re-think, the original plan didn’t work. I have bought a tree to go in but need to dig all the plants up and re-plant! I like your idea of planting 3 plants in one triangle hole. I think I will do just that with the re-planting.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

    Hi Sylvia, thanks. Sometimes what seemed like a good idea turns out to not have been! Good luck with your redo in front, it sounds exciting and trees are good starting point. If you have to dig everything out, so be it. πŸ™‚

  8. Stomping is one way to flatten the less woody perennials. You wouldn’t have to bend like you do with the manual hedge clippers, to cut and drop them. For a more tidy look aging gardeners really do need to rely more on shrubs properly chosen and left to grow in their natural form OR learn to change their perspective on the down time of perennials. Most of the debris will decompose and feed the soil within a year. It is after all how the fertile soils of the prairies were built.

    If you want to attempt to get rid of the pennisetum ‘Moudry’ you could use Ornamec. It is an herbicide that only kills grasses and will not harm non-grass plants. I am sure an aging gardener could justify a limited use of an herbicide.

    Hi Christopher, thanks for the supprt. I know Bulbarella has this down pat, and is still able to get out there are redo plantings, with a little help. She is an inspiration! Shrubs, especially evergreens are looking more appealing all the time. Especially in winter. Heavy boots are great for stomping, I just have to do it before the bulbs come up, note to self. I really like the way moudry looks, talk about easy to grow. Now that I have made the decision not to mow the front anymore, it is less of a problem. I will pull the moudry babies when they try to sneak into other beds, they are easy to spot. Even if they someday take over the whole front, it would be okay. The violets already have done so. I used to pull and dig them by the hour and finally just gave up. I almost like them now, especially when they are blooming. It almost looks intentional. HA πŸ™‚

  9. goodtogrow says:

    I didn’t know that about Moudry, so thank you for letting me know. I like to keep a running list in my head of what not to plant, no matter where I live! I think you’re smart to plan so far ahead. It’s a lot of work, but what a great investment.

    It is good to know about the thugs and Moudry is definitely one of those. I think other pennisetums are better behaved. The black seed heads are very attractive, the whole reason for planting this grass. Don’t be tempted by that pretty feature. I am a born planner, and this is a good challenge. If only we had begun the garden with that in mind, but we were trying to fill it up then as fast as possible. Design came later. Now we are going natural, letting the roots grow out, so to speak. HA πŸ™‚

  10. Nell Jean says:

    When Susie brought my muhly grass, she said that at the Jones Center, they BURN the muhly in winter. Not exactly convenient if it is mulched, but more fun than whacking at it with shears.

    Thanks for that Nell Jean. We know that at the University of Tennessee gardens the grasses are burned as well. I have never tried it, but do like fire. πŸ™‚

  11. Rose says:

    For this aging gardener, it’s the knees that are the first to complain. Now if someone would build raised beds all around about 2 feet high for me, I could sit and weed and plant all day. But I doubt that is going to happen…
    Another great thought-provoking post, Frances. I’m all for “winter interest” and the “natural” look, which eliminates some of these chores. Of course, I don’t have to worry about any of this right now as the messiness of my garden is buried under a half foot of snow:)

    Knees, hips, wrists, you name it, Rose, and it is complaining! I think you should insist on those raised beds being built. First you plant the seed by dropping subtle and not so subtle hints, let him know you are serious. Keep it up and maybe it will happen. That is how we do things at the Fairegarden! HA No white cover here to hide the brown and grey most of the time, so we have to be more proactive in the clean up. I am into the stomping! πŸ™‚

  12. Gail says:

    Frances, You are always on target…an excellent post! As I look out the window at the leaves covering (smothering my brain screams) my wildflower and perennial beds…I have to remind myself that in their natural habitat there is no compulsive gardener tidying up….no matter how deep the leaves get. Edgworthia chrysantha is gorgeous…I can’t wait to see her/him completely open. Gail

    Thanks Gail. It is snowing here now, but probably won’t cover those offending leaves. We have to remember what happens in the wild with the most pleasant of results. The Edgworthia holds much promise. There is a budded winter hazel that might bloom soon too. Isn’t that a lovely sentence, bloom soon too. πŸ™‚

  13. Ah, Frances, I could have done your justification for you if you needed me to, helping you out by carting away a few dozen of those hellebore seedlings. (Mine are sleeping soundly under their evergreen blanket and a large duvet of freshly fallen snow, but there are only two, and no seedlings–yet. Thanks to you, however, I have two, and this year will add several more). We don’t have that Pennesetum here because most of that genus aren’t hardy in our climate. I could lend you a few more degrees of cold to kill it off, but I fear what might happen to more beautiful, desirable things like the muhly grass. You’re so right…spring will come, it always does. The sunlight today coming in my office window reminds me of that, quite wonderfully.

    Thanks Jodi, I do appreciate your support! I will be happy to send you more hellebore babies than you will know what to do with. Just let me know when is the best time. I have mailed them before so know they can handle being shipped. I even took them in a baggie on the plane to pass out at Austin for the first spring fling. These are tough babies! I am so happy to hear the sun is shining someplace. We fear it has gone on sabbatical here.

  14. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out, once spring growth begins. I’m way over winter now. The Fairelurie garden should look very nice! The rivers of salvia idea will be very neat once it’s grown up.

    Thanks Dave. I have high hopes for the Fairelurie this year. I kept adding more and more plants right up until winter arrived, then bulbs. It will be a surprise to see what is in there. πŸ™‚

  15. Sweet Bay says:

    You cut your Muhly? I never cut mine, just groom out the dead leaves (while wearing heavy gloves) in spring.

    I don’t do much fall or winter clean-up at all. It’s worked out OK. The main problems I’ve had with winter losses have to do with moisture and frost/ heaving anyway. I let the leaves fall where they may, and leave up the Bidens for the birds. They really like the cover.

    More and more I’ve been planting shrubs, such as tons of rugosa seedlings. That helps. I agree, the force of Mother Nature is too strong to meet head on.

    PS I love the picture with the emerging fern fronds in the foreground. That is outstanding.

    Oh thanks for that, Sweet Bay! The muhly has grown so and is hard to keep cutting. Maybe next year I will leave it and see what happens. We have that heaving problem here too, and leaving dead leaves has really helped with that, especially with the heucheras. Larger things like trees and shrubs are the answer to the maintenance issue. Rugosas will be great. You are an inspiration of how to handle a large site, thanks for telling how you handle it. That spring photo jumped into the folder for this post from the jump drive. I love it too. πŸ™‚

  16. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    It is funny Frances that we go through different stages of our gardening lives. I think it is one thing that keeps us young. We see different ways of gardening, incorporate it into our gardens. As we age we find out that we need to do things different too as the old body doesn’t keep up with the young mind so easily.

    Hi lisa, thanks for adding your thoughts. Being able to adjust, being flexible about our habits does keep us young. Change is the name of the game. What fun, for always doing things the same gets boring after a while. πŸ™‚

  17. Steve says:

    The notion of letting things go for a year has a hint of deliverance and just a touch which I intuit of someone who will re-do many things as time moves along. LOL, “letting things go” is great for ‘nativizing” a large area but I am smelling an urge to be a radical in you, Frances. There’s something telling me two years from now that place will look entirely different. By the way, I’m closer, so that brick paver driveway is a bit more doable than once was. πŸ˜‰

    Hi Steve, thanks for joining the tossing around of ideas here. In the past, I was a big re-do kind of gal, but time has slowed that down. A lot. I am now more likely to talk myself into not doing things, rather than doing them. I worked like a maniac for the first several years here, installing the steps and paths and just last year finished the last bit of undone path. There will be tweaking and sometimes things die or grow too large and there will be changes made. But I am leaning towards letting things go more natural, not only because of physical limitations but as a change of mindset. Reading Dan Pearson’s Spirit has had a huge impact on me. Closer? Is this permanent?

  18. What a great post, Frances. Such a nice idea to let our gardens live in harmony with the natural setting. 3 cheers for anything that saves this gardener’s aching back!

    Thanks so much, Kate. This is a little more introspective compared to many of my posts, but lately they all seem to be veering in that direction. The coming of spring and much activity outside should help take care of that, I hope! πŸ™‚

  19. Benjamin says:

    Is that a crabapple on a stick in the third picture? What kind? And how does your yelooow tiwg dogwood grow for you? Fast, aggressive? Tinking of putting one in a sorta tight spot.

    Hi Benjamin, thanks for stopping by. The third photo is Diane the supermodel witch hazel in a recent blizzard. There is a little woven fence at her feet that was made from fallen birch branches to help keep the butterfly weed from falling into the pathway. So far the yellow dogwood has not spread hardly at all, it is in its second year here. I would not call it aggressive, here anyway. But it will get larger than the red ones, I have heard. I will add more if they show up at the big box, I like them alot. Hope this helps. πŸ™‚

  20. RainGardener says:

    Great post – it really is something we need to think about with aging aching backs like you said. I think about it with every pain but don’t do anything, just keep plunking along. Then last year a friend started downsizing because she had seen someones once beautiful gardens now all overtaken with weeds. She said it really made her stop and think and the downsizing began. I like your way of revising and prioritizing (did I spell that goofy?) better so you can still have your full garden.

    Hi RG, thanks. It was the decline and death of my neighbor Mae that started me thinking about how to keep the garden looking the way I wanted it to with much less work. My back has been hurting me after marathon gardening, the best kind!, since my twenties, all that bending over is just hard on backs. I still do nearly every task on bended knee, I like to be down close to the soil to see things better, it is the getting back up that gets harder and harder. What needs to happen is to have fewer tasks to be done. Proper plantings is the answer, more trees and evergreen shrubs and low maintence perennials. Self seeding annuals and well mannered groundcovers round out the list. It can be done. πŸ™‚

  21. Nicole says:

    Interesting post and lovely pics. In my hot dry garden with sand and rock for soil my focus is always trying to get things to thrive and grow larger, I don’t have the “problem” of cutting back anything!

    Hi Nicole, thanks. That is interesting about your gardening. Maybe because there is no off season, no winter that sends plants into dormancy? I guess it boils down to right plant for the right place! πŸ™‚

  22. Good Morning Frances,
    Our gardens do cultivate deep thought… you have been very deep lately … in thoughts pertaining to life in a universal and personal garden to trowel sort of way. Very philosophically and practically … facing your garden hillside to your personal backside and writing it all so beautifully. Your post reminds me of something a friend said to me… I think it applies to you too… in how we try to maintain our garden dreams and reality. He said “… it is too bad you were not born a Queen!” What we could do then eh!? I like your idea of acceptance and working with that greater power that be rather than against it. There are some exceptions however one cannot let up on … such as your β€˜Moudry’ and my bishops weed or bitter sweet. I am with you in thinking of letting it be … more sustainable… and yes spring will come and our gardens will thrive! I look forward… as last year … to seeing your blooms unfurl for it inspires me to see that my spring will soon arrive too. Lovely photos especially your hellebores and your last shot with the unfurling ferns. As always a beautiful and thought provoking post! ;>) Carol

    Dear Carol, you are so sweet, thank you. The introspection and deep thoughts have some to do with what seems like daunting tasks before me that have gotten harder each year, but more to do with the weather forcing me to be inside with those thoughts instead of working out the anxieties with physical exertion. This is not how winter usually is for us. We can normally work out in the garden at least two or three days a week, and that has not been the case this year at all. Seeds and orchids in the greenhouse can only get us so far and we are at a loss as to how to manage. It has not been pretty. Soon that will change, it better!, and we will be busy busy busy planting and doing, rather than sitting and thinking. Thanks for your support to help get us through this! πŸ™‚

  23. Catherine says:

    This was a really good post. Just leaving a lot of perennials standing over the winter makes a lot less work. I have to say I was inspired by you to leave even more standing than I normally do this year. As enjoyable as gardening is, it can be a lot of wear and tear on our bodies. The more we can do that works with nature, the more we can enjoy our time in the garden.

    Thanks Catherine. It does make sense to leave things be and adjust our attitude towards the way it looks. The garden will be better off for it, the leaves and stalks will turn to compost all by themselves, without our doing a thing. We just want it to look pretty while that is happening. πŸ™‚

  24. This is an inspiring post, Frances. Your garden stakes will be cute standing together after you plant your bulbs. πŸ™‚ I understand how it gets to be more of a “chore” to worry about the hardscape (when I cannot do it all by myself). Looking forward to having those projects finished so I can enjoy the gardens Much More! Have a great week – you’ve got a good start on Spring.

    Hi Shady, thanks. Aren’t those cute finials? They are really tiny, about the size of a quarter. You too enjoy yourself and let us both count the days until spring comes! πŸ™‚

  25. Darla says:

    So many thoughts to ponder here Ms. Frances.

    Don’t ponder too much, Darla. This is partially the result of too much time on one’s hands that would be better spent working outside. The weather has other ideas. Come on spring! πŸ™‚

  26. VW says:

    I’m groaning to think of the maintenance I’ll be doing if all my plans come to fruition – but perhaps each gardener has to learn that lesson for herself. Isn’t it interesting that the lazy and the environmentally minded often agree on matters? It’s good for me to keep getting reminders to consider the maintenance that I’m creating and look for ways to reduce it, if possible.

    Hi VW, thanks for weighing in here. Thinking about them maintenance issues of garden you create will help in the future. Adding evergreen shrubs and no care groundcovers among the perennials and bulbs can certainly help with that. You have hit upon an interesting result, the lazy and the ubergardener coming together for the health of us all. Funny, I used to want five acres of garden, imagining riding around on a tractor. I didn’t figure in a steep slope to that vision! πŸ™‚

  27. Jean says:

    Okay, I think some transference of your need to control has been passed to me now. You got rid of it and gave it to me, arg! This year, just last weekend, I cut back all my grasses. I’ve never done that before. Or let’s say, I’ve done it exceedingly seldom (pardon my so-called english). πŸ™‚ And as for the Moudry grass, I saw the Big Box here selling that last spring. Glad I didn’t fall for it.

    Hi Jean, that is too funny! I am sorry about that personality switch, but know that I got the better end of the deal! At least you didn’t buy the Moudry, thank goodness! πŸ™‚

  28. tina says:

    It’s going to be a constant battle for you Frances. One I hope you win and are happy with and one we all have to face when looking at garden maintenance. Such a poignant post, but smart of course.

    Hi Tina, thanks. I am getting better at doing less and less, believe it or not. Each year is different. The first year we left the leaves on the beds. Then left the stalks all standing. Now we are stomping things down ahead of the bulbs coming up. I just wish it were nicer weather so we could do a few things, not because those jobs need doing, but because I need to be doing something! πŸ™‚

  29. Pam/Digging says:

    Choices must be made as gardens grow larger over time, unless we want to be full-time gardeners. I love to garden, but I don’t want to be out there every minute of the day, unless it’s to sit in a chair and soak up the sun. I applaud you for making those hard choices.

    Hi Pam, thanks. I used to think that the bigger the garden, the better. More more more, just like everything else. Growing older and wiser has shown me the wisdom of less less less. Also, the slope has become very daunting, pushing a wheelbarrow up it? Forget about it. I don’t want to sit in a chair, too antsy for that, what I want to do it sort of piddle and putter, small enjoyable non physically taxing jobs that result in a prettier space. Much better than this is going to kill me chores. πŸ™‚

  30. Lola says:

    A lot of inspiring reading in this post, Frances. I can relate to the aging back situation. The rods in my leg/hip doesn’t like the cold so I’ve had to sit back longer than this mind wants to. I look out the window & think that certain things need to be taken care of. I have noticed that regardless of the situation of the weather Spring is on the way. Nature does take care of all. Sometimes our patience does run a little thin when our mind wants to do. I think that is a natural process of human nature. One can only wait.

    Hi Lola, thanks. It seems that the garden will survive without us doing those things that we think need doing, just fine in fact. Take it easy and do what you can when you can. This winter has been a tough one for all of us.

  31. Frances, thank you for this. Your observations help to put things into perspective and I couldn’t agree more! I’ve had to modify, change or eliminate a lot of things I used to do around my yard/garden. Much of it was because I ‘couldn’t’ do certain things anymore, due to aging back, knees, etc…and some of it was out of pure ‘laziness’, I guess. You are most definitely NOT lazy…but it is a good thing to allow yourself to do things differently, or even in some cases, not at all. You described the cycles of nature and power of nature, as well, to do what it will, regardless of our ‘manipulations’. Sometimes just watching the garden ‘do what it will’ is all that’s necessary. And, sometimes changing the way we do things, maybe even doing less, is necessary not just for our bodies and minds…but for the sake of nature herself.

    Thanks Jan. Being able to change the way we do things is vital for our health, both mind and body. Change is good and cannot be prevented so we need to adjust and evolve. Sometimes it is hard to see the need for change, sometimes it is forced upon us. But it is all good. πŸ™‚

  32. I want to add that in the fall I didn’t cut back any of my perennials in my gardens. The 2 corner gardens on either side of the driveway in the front yard, in particular, looked quite messy and I was just ‘waiting’ for our HOA to tell me to clean it up. I was in fact getting ready to do just that when we got bombed with this blizzard, and my plans to check out my hellebores were dashed, as well. I’ve been doing a LOT of sitting around in my pj’s all day long, due to a knee injury and can’t do anything even if we didn’t have snow…so I feel your ‘pain’ of too much time on my hands;-) One last thing: since you are focusing more on being self sustaining and a lighter footprint, I hope you will participate in my garden bloggers sustainable living project. You have a lot to offer;-)

    Hi again Jan. I didn’t want to combine your comments as is usually done so the thoughts could be addressed seperately. So sorry about your knee and hope it gets better soon, soon enough to be outside when all that snow melts! I will check out your project, for that sounds like a goal that I am already working on. Thanks for the kind words. πŸ™‚

  33. linda says:

    Frances, lots of food for thought in this post. De Quervain’s in both wrists ‘allowed’ me to rethink garden maintenance a few years ago. Although we don’t have nearly as much garden as you, it’s still a great benefit being more easy-going about maintenance. We are fortunate in some ways with so much dry shade, including less opportunities for weeds sprouting.

    The little bit of garden clean up we do here waits for spring when what’s left is so dried and dead, if it hasn’t already fallen over it’s easy to knock down.

    For now we’ll continue cutting back the old hellebore foliage – being new to growing them, we’re still at the stage when seedlings would be exciting to see and most welcome.

    Hi Linda, thanks. Glad to fill you plate up! Glad to hear that you have made the adjustment for the betterment of your body, so sorry about your wrists. We first noticed the babies of the hellebores under the old large leaves when they were being cut off for the first time, right after moving to this house. We were thrilled and moved them out all over the yard. I love them, but there are too many now to cut. There is one plant of Ivory Prince along the wall that will be cut because of the location and I can easily stand up to do the job. Hope you get lots of babies, but be warned. πŸ™‚

  34. skeeter says:

    You have been a busy girl. I cannot believe you were on bended knee to cut the Grass! Okay, yes I can :-)That must be a pain you dealt with for a few days. 😦 Ouch!

    Hi Skeeter, thanks. It was one of those rare warmer days a while back when the muhly was cut. Ibuprofen to the rescue. πŸ™‚

  35. joey says:

    Beautifully written, Frances, giving us much to think about. I’m a neat-nick and often drive myself crazy keeping the garden tidy. Each year it gets harder and harder … my garden is over 30 years old and needs constant tweaking … kind of like me πŸ™‚

    Thanks so much, Joey. I used to be a neat-nick as well but have been able to let that go in recent years, both inside and outside the house. Maybe let it go too much, but I am happier for it. πŸ™‚

  36. Joanne says:

    Frances A very interesting post. Having gone through a similar process of getting Mike to change the planting due to my health I went completely mad last year because I could again. I then found I ran out ot time and steam and even now still catching up on winter tasks, although I confess I am really a fair weather gardener. This year I am resolved to pace myself better.

    Mike tells me the garden benefits from being left alone.
    Many thanks for commenting on my Lyme blog.

    Hi Joanne, thanks for visiting. Mike sounds like a wise fellow. Do pace yourself, but I can understand your enthusiasm for wanting to do it all after regaining your health. I would do the same thing. πŸ™‚

  37. Hi Frances,

    Re: the broken link you pointed out, thank you for doing so! I have fixed it now. I appreciate you letting me know. I do have it mentioned at the very top of the blog, and on the sidebar, with a link at both places–but I understand that when you are reading a post you don’t want to be trying to make your way all over the place to find something!

    It would be wonderful if you’d join in. If you’d like to put up a brief post and mention a thing or two that you do to contribute to a ‘green’, then go back to my original post and leave a message with your link, I’ll add it to my sidebar. If you’d like to take a look at the original post here it is:


    I sure hope that link will work for you!

    Hi Jan, thanks for returning. I did find the original post on your sidebar, but just wanted to let you know about the link so it could be fixed if you wanted to. I did a post about Earth Day in 2008 that is still one of my favorite posts of all time, if not THE favorite. I don’t know that I can do any better. Would it be okay to leave a link for that on your original post?

  38. Hiya Frances

    Nature be the gardener, we, just the umpire.

    I wonder, just set that mower on high and cut and shred those perennial beds, self mulching.Well, OK, not necessarily that easy, but sounds like low energy gardening with a ‘green’ twang.

    That photo of unfurling croziers, roll on spring!

    Hi Rob, thanks. The mowing would be so much easier if our property were not such a steep hill. And if it was flat, we could then use a riding lawnmower. Maybe. We do think letting it be is the greenest twang of all. πŸ™‚

  39. paddysdaughter says:

    Lovely photos, most interesting blog of garden stories, so glad I stumbled on to it, will be back again.

    Thanks so much and welcome. Do stop by again. πŸ™‚

  40. Frances – A lot of food for thought here.
    I still work as a gardener, but I have reached the point where I don’t take on gardens on steep slopes. As for my own garden – well I am still in denial about my age – although my knees tell me otherwise.

    Hi Karen, thanks. It is the slope that is the killer here, for sure. It is just the last year that my brain has caught up with my knees and hips and hands and ankles….. well, you get the idea. When the warm spring returns, I will revert back to youth and ignore those pesky stiff joints though. πŸ™‚

  41. sequoiagardens says:

    A lovely post, Frances, and an interesting series of responses and answers from you. (‘Be a good friend for success on Blotanical’, Steve advises. Here is the living proof yet again! What’s going on there, by the way, I’ve not had access for 48 hrs and it seems ‘official’.)

    I have gardened this way by necessity in large parts of my over 20 acres. In fact, one of the things that made me a cap-G Gardener was the way nature moulded itself around what I was doing. During these last weeks I’ve unearthed and scanned old slides from 30-20- 10 years ago and suddenly understand why of late I’ve felt there is an overwhelming battle out there which I am loosing: this whole valley used to be grass and low indigenous shrubs, now it is becoming woodland garden. The biomass increases exponentially. And the need for large scale clearing, a mere ‘must do’ a year ago, is now a two month project for the coming winter… just as I am officially opening my garden and property to paying guests. So I need your timely reminder to help keep some sense of perspective! Thanks!

    Hi Jack, thanks so much. Stuart? may be changing servers and will be offline for a day or two, is the word I got. He had written that he was going to do that, for the site had grown way beyond his expectations. It should be bigger and better than ever when we gets the kinks out, and there will be kinks of course. Your garden is so fascinating, Jack, I look forward to learning more about the changes you have made and have planned! Good luck with it! πŸ™‚

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