(The clock ticks, the mice play, the gardener copes …)
Its been a very productive week in the garden. The weather took away any excuse to stay on the couch. With gardening juices flowing freely in my veins, I went at the list of chores enthusiastically. Come July, that same energy will be mighty scarce. At this point, the clock is ticking as Open Day approaches and I use it as impetus to get everything done. If you don’t have a public opening as an excuse, just set a date and send out invites to a garden party. Then see how you charge around accomplishing all the necessary to-do items on that long list. Amazingly effective.
The major task was the clean up. However diligently the garden was cutback, tidied and organized in autumn, winter manages to big mess of it. As though it had a rollicking old party where everybody proceeded to go crazy. Removing the winter debris and detritus must be how the cleaning crew feel after Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Its a good thing that once this work is done, it shows. Unlike weeding which nobody notices until you neglect to do it, clean up is hard to miss.
The ‘meadow’ in particular responds well to a good scrubbing. Twigs are picked up as in a game of pickup-sticks, leaves are carefully raked, blown and gathered so as not to disturb or damage the hundreds of emerging bulbs. The early, small bulbs such as snowdrops and crocus are already in bloom and dotting the meadow. They positively sparkle after the clean up. Relieved of the smothering effect of the fallen leaves, its as though they are breathing freely at last.
Something I finally took to task this year was the ivy. Many years ago, I had planted English ivy along one side of the back garden with the intent of quickly covering up the neighbor’s chain-link fence. This worked in some parts but over time, the ivy has been making inroads in the meadow and checkerboard garden. The plant is invasive and knowing what I know now but didn’t all those years ago, I’d never plant it again. The creeper has been ruthlessly removed from any part for which it was never intended. For the time being, it is left on the fence and will be strictly monitored so it is not permitted to stray. I do intend to replace it entirely in the not too distant future.
The front lawn has been cleared of thatch build up, reseeded and given a good layer of compost to mulch and fertilize. Already I can see that the new grass has begun to sprout.
Other assorted jobs like pruning the roses, straightening the fence posts in front, redoing the rustic fence at the far back, tidying flower beds, preparing and planting up the vegetable plot with cool weather greens have also been completed. For instant gratification, urns and window-boxes are bursting with daffodils, pansies and primroses purchased from the nursery. Makes me so happy.
Much still needs doing but at least a good start has been made. I’m loving waking up everyday to see what else is in bloom. The iris reticulata are shyly joining the hellebores, crocus and snowdrops. I see the tight scilla buds waiting in the wings. The daffodils up close to the greenhouse will open any day now. One by one the plants awaken. Soon, there will be a profusion of flowers and I’ll be in my element. This is what I live for.
Update on the mice attack on the espalier: some of the Creeping Jenny planted along the side path, had gone rogue and crept on to the ground beneath the espalier. I was well aware that there should be nothing planted beneath the fruit trees but the chartreuse creeper looked so darn charming scampering over the river-rocks that I’d let it be. Well, no more. All undergrowth has been removed. Plantings in such places, translates to havens for moles and voles.
Only once the hot weather arrives will we know which trees have been decimated by the mice. Due to reserve nutrients, they will look fine and even flower in spring. I have yet to do a little digging around to see if the mice have been nibbling at the roots. I’m still screwing up the courage to do this investigation. It is heartbreaking to see any tree suffer. For now, the espalier will be fed a root fertilizer and as a further effort to direct all energy to healing, I intend to remove all fruit buds after the flowering. This year, the espalier will be in an infirmary of sorts. Trees that are at major risk will be ‘nursed’ with a bridge-graft – something I’m only just learning about. It is apparently very effective in saving fruit trees but not at all fun or easy to do. I see this crisis as I try to see all things in life. They arrive because there is something I must learn from them.
I’m learning, I’m learning.
Reminder: My garden is open on May 10 from 10 am – 4 pm. Rocky Hills from 2 pm – 4 pm. www.gardenconservancy.org/opendays
(c) 2014 Shobha Vanchiswar