Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Garden Inspection

Blue skies this morning--a welcome change from the surly weather that prevailed through
the days when we had guests.
I tided up the kitchen after a breakfast of pecan waffles with home-canned applesauce and maple syrup, pulled on my boots, layered sweatshirts and a down vest, and went out to take stock of the gardens.
The ground is soggy from so much recent rain, so I reconnoitered along the edges of the perennial strips.
The shiny green leaves of lemon balm have been crisped at the edges by frost.
Most of the herbs in the little plot by the carport are straggling and in need of judicious pruning.
The mat of thyme which spilled so charmingly over the concrete is a heap of
woody stems--wild and tangled.

Willis the Cat joined me and was quick to recognize a clump of catnip which has established itself at the base of a Yellow Simplicity rose.

The iris in the background were transplanted during our first season here--many clumps of them are still dotted around the yard, the roots heaving from the earth and needing to be divided.

Willis has thrashed and wallowed in the catnip and his eyes are crossed in inebriated bliss.

Recovering slightly, Willis walks with his shadow, muttering under his breath.

I despair of the weeds which have spread during the winter.
I spent many hours late in autumn clearing and tidying the beds.
We bought many sacks of mulch last summer which seem to have been less than effective
as a weed barrier.
The worst culprit is a wild form of lamium which invades ruthlessly.
I think the slightest thread of root can produce a whole colony in a matter of weeks.
Balancing on my haunches at the edge of the flower strip near the clotheslines, I grubbed weeds away from an emerging peony.
There should be--or should I say, there were planted--five peonies.
I found only two today.
The neighbor's cattle stomped about there when they broke through their pasture fence several weeks ago. Hoofprints and depressions remain in the soil around the plants.
It seemed that trying to smooth out the humps and dig out weeds would do more harm than good until the ground has dried a bit.

This vintage peony, one of two in place when we moved here, shows healthy new growth amongst the dried stems of last season. Several later-blooming peonies in this area are still hunkered down in the cold soil. Mole tunnels are evident along the edges of the stone-edged strip which borders the vegetable garden.

The tree peony puts out new leaves very early, even when the weather is still cold.

I am dismayed that few poppies have seeded from those that bloomed last year.
I brought several seed pods from the other garden last fall and sprinkled poppy seed here quite liberally.
As I was tugging at weeds to give the poppies more space, I realized that one had sprouted on top of the yellow peony, 'Molly the Witch'.  I ordered two of these last spring from a nursery specializing in peonies.
They were pricey and arrived as mere rooted cuttings rather than sturdy plants.
I cossetted them in pots through the long hot summer, putting them in the ground in September. 
I could find no sign of the second one today, nor of the other two peonies, a white one and a dark red.
Those were both sturdy plants from a local garden center.

Strands of clematis winding up the new trellis.
The process of removing the rusty wire which had supported the vines in the past disrupted some of the roots, but I think the plants will flourish again.

There are many gaps in the perennial strips.
Endless experimentation and continued replacement of perennials is not in my present budget!
I will need to rely on plants that I can start from seed, plants which have proven they can take the weeks of humid heat in July and August. More daylilies, perhaps, achilleas in varying colors, phlox, salvia.
If only the beautiful and choice plants were as hardy as dandelions!


  1. Your garden sounds - and looks - a lot like mine at the moment. I only have a couple of Paeonies, and they are the standard red sort. I know how much you treasure yours, especially the rarer sort, and hope they are just malingering beneath the soil, waiting for a bit of encouragement from the weather. With the outside temperatures here around freezing and a howling wind that seems to be on holiday from the Falkland Islands, I have no inclination to get out in the garden just yet.

    1. Jennie; I'm not sure how I developed such a fascination with peonies. They are so lush and lovely in bloom--but nearly always get smashed by rain and wind when at their peak.
      Gardening weather is so slow to arrive here this year I fear we will suddenly gallop from winter directly into hot summer.

  2. I love seeing cats high on cat nip ...bless Willis....and seeing the new shoots must be exciting for you ...hope the weather improoves so they are not damaged.
    BTW ...I like the new profile photo ...its probably been there for ages and I've missed xx

    1. Angie; Cats on catnip are so funny--and it doesn't take them all the same way. Willis had his eyes alarmingly crossed.
      I changed the profile photo about two weeks ago--one my daughter took. Hair straggling in my face--as usual.

  3. Is it finally time to wander around and find out what survived the winter? Lovely post, again, and I liked the part about Willis muttering under his breath.

    1. Lillian; I trudge around the edges of the garden whenever I have an errand in the dooryard--unless it is too cold and windy to linger.
      Willis is surely a character among cats.

  4. I always love seeing the cats enjoying the cat nip!

    1. Kath; I was snapping photos as fast as the camera would refocus--Willis was a hoot!

  5. Don't even mention those dratted Dandelions! The bane of my life. Your breakfast description has made me VERY hungry....

    1. Em; I wonder if dandelions are a world-wide bane! My pecan waffle was heavy on the applesause, light on syrup--my husband likes his with just the opposite emphasis!

  6. Love Willis in all his bliss. A couple of days ago whilst fighting the cutch grass in our old garden, which I still care for, my son's cat lolled at my feet companionably, chewing on catnip, Not sure whose eyes were crossed, - his or mine, and if it was mine it wouldn't have been from bliss.
    I can empathize with your peony problems. Of the five I moved from the old garden to the new one in town only one really bloomed vigorously last year. If this year they are the same I will presume it is because I planted them at the wrong depth, - I do love their blowsy beauty.

  7. Nice to see some sunshine and the buds coming thro,long may it continue.Love Jill xx

  8. Hi MM, Spring always bring hope with new buds, the promise of colour in the garden, even here in bitterly cold England, plants are thrusting through and the blackbirds are noisily protecting their territories. Roll on summer, and Happy Easter to you and your family X