Monday, March 18, 2013

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary...

How does your garden grow?  I am one of those people who aspire to be a crack gardener.  However, I am embracing the fact that I have too many hobbies and will end my days as someone who is proficient in many things and expert in none.  C'est la vie.  Gardening is a hard one for me.  As Rudyard Kipling said:

"Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made,
By singing "oh how beautiful!" and sitting in the shade."

What a pity!  Because I am an ace at sitting in the shade and not yet an ace at spending hours of work in backbreaking labor in pursuit of dubious things I'm not good at.  Here's what I know about gardening so far:
1.) Nothing is certain
2.) Experience is critical
3.) Reading does not help

This puts me already out of my element.  I love books and reading is the most sure way for me to feel more comfortable with any new task.  Reading about gardening serves to inspire, but when you actually get out in the dirt, reading doesn't ever seem to help.  So, experience.  Given that this is my third year with this garden, I feel like I should be doing better.  That said, there are a lot of exciting things that have gotten established since I moved in.  What we have established in the past three years:

1.) Peonies!  The peonies are already growing and there are seven plants that I can see coming up.  Seven!  So excited for peony season.
2.) Daffodils! 
We actually could have more daffodils but I have a hard time with how to plant many daffodils and also plant things that will bloom when the daffodils are dying.  So tricky!  I think this falls squarely into the "need experience" camp.  There are some tulips as well, which appear to be being ravaged by slugs.  More on that later.
3.) Snapdragons!  OK, to be totally honest, these are some tall perennials in the front bed that could be hollyhocks.  Or something totally different.  I know they aren't a weed, but since they haven't flowered yet I don't really know what they are.
The Mystery Plant

4.) Lilacs!  We added two lilacs and are trying to prune the one old lilac that is way too leggy.  It's not a total success yet as the lilacs we planted aren't super bloomy yet, but I didn't kill anything.
5.) Coral bells!  AND bleeding hearts!  These comprise the only effort I've made at shade gardening near the trees in the back of the yard and I'm so pleased to see that they haven't died.  The hostas I planted last year are either on vacation in Mexico, sleeping it off, or totally dead.  TBD!

Note: I am not gardening anything edible except herbs.  I love flowers.  I figure I'll grow flowers first and then if a great spot for a vegetable plot presents itself, I'll move on to vegetables.

Today we got a great start on the 2013 garden tasks.  I think I may have already done better work for the beds than I did in all of last year.  Fred tackled rebuilding the rose arbor and did it in one day! 

What we accomplished:
1.) I weeded all the beds.  So much weeding!  This enables lots of things like earlier/better plant placement planning, which will hopefully spur a good cycle of keeping the weeds down.
(OK, not perfect (ugh, that fence!), but a vast improvement.)

2.) I spread a layer of compost in the beds.  I failed to get enough compost, so it probably needs another coat, but I think it was a good step in improving our soil.  I splurged on the soil amending compost for clay-heavy soils so I'm excited to think the soil will only improve from here on out.
3.) Fred rebuilt the pergola.  Arbor.  Whatever you call the thing that roses grow on.  It looks SO. MUCH. BETTER. 
Pergola and freshly weeded stepping stones.

And of course, because he is WonderCarpenter, he did it in two hours.  Le sigh.
4.) Scariest of all, we tore out the two ugly climbing roses that had been on the arbor.  (I know, I love climbing roses and did not think there WERE ugly climbing roses until I saw these.  Two blossoms a year each, which were reddish-pink and such a boring wood rose shape they weren't even worth cutting for vases.) 
5.) We replaced those roses with a climbing Joseph's Coat rose and a Peace rose AND planted two more.  We planted a Nicole in the front bed (worried it will be too shady!) and a Dreams Come True near the auxiliary back porch.  Planting roses is backbreaking work and I'm nervous I didn't do it correctly. But I followed the information sheet from the nursery and soaked the roots, dug a giant hole (OK I let the husband help,) amended the soil with compost, mounded a dirt cone, spread the roots out on the cone, refilled the hole, watered deep and then composted over the top. 
The Peace rose in its new home

Ta-da!  Whew!  I'm tired just typing it.
6.) I gave the jasmine something to climb on.  This jasmine is an underachieving climber.  It doesn't seem to have any chutzpah for getting up anything.  I gave it some twine today and tried to wrap it securely, but I may have to resort to some sort of trellis stripe or something if it doesn't take.  However, it already looks a billion times better.
Grow jasmine, grow!
7.) Killed eleventy billion slugs.  I found out yesterday that slugs have been ravaging our daffodils.  Noooooooooooooooo!  I unearthed and mercilessly slaughtered a horde of slugs today but I'm sure there are more hordes waiting.  This means war.
8.) Made slug traps.  Otherwise known as solo cup bottoms filled with beer.  I felt like a frat boy, but I'm excited to see if I can save the tulips!  Wish me luck as I do battle with the evil slimers.
The pictures are a little uninspiring (especially because I didn't take before pics) but to me, they already look so much better than last year that I am truly inspired. 
(Red Solo cups make everything classier. Right?)
So happy to have the garden feeling like it's cared for before it is even April.  Yay for spring!

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