Garden log, 12.28.14

It’s surprisingly mild today. I went out intending to shred leaves before the forecasted rain arrived, but I found more entertaining chores to occupy me instead. The leaves will be there.

I raked out the new sunny bed and fed everything lightly with a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer. The bed contains some evergreens and some winter-blooming plants, and I learned recently that soils high in potassium, as this bed is, hinder uptake of some nutrients and trace minerals, including magnesium. Washington State University Extension recommends balancing out the potassium with nitrogen. So I did. The soybean meal (7-2-1) I applied will break down very slowly in cold weather, so I don’t expect it to stimulate much if any fresh green growth that would be susceptible to freeze damage in winter. I’ll test the soil again in the spring and see where things stand.

I also fed the camellias with soybean meal. The sasanquas are blooming now (particularly ‘Yuletide,’ appropriately), and the japonicas have nice fat buds on them.

I divided a Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis from the rain garden. I took about seven small rooted pieces from the mother plant and you’d never know it had been touched at all. I transplanted these in the front yard, in a few tricky spots that have not been successful with much else. We’ll see how they fare.

I spent about two hours dividing the Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ near the road. These plants perform very well with utter neglect, but even fescues have their limits. They need to be divided about every other year in order to look their best, as they tend to get dense, congested crowns and will die out in the centers. They prefer to be divided and cut back in winter. I hacked mine apart with a pick-axe (exhilarating!), fed with soybean meal, and mulched with decomposed bark chips. I think about four more days of the same activity will have the rest of the plants tended and looking fresh for spring.

And finally, I cleaned leaves out from within and under my heath plants (Erica x darleyensis). I have been surprised at how well they’ve performed in my hot weather. They sit at the base of an oak tree at the top of a slope in my front yard, so they get dappled light for about 10 hours in spring through fall, and direct but weak winter sunlight. Fed them with soybean meal, mulched with decomposed wood chips.

As I cleared out the leaves, I found some rooted layers. I dug those up and transplanted them into a scree area I am renovating. I also cleaned out some pieces that had not rooted. I am trying to root those, although I’m not expecting great things given the time of the year.

A decent day’s work, I think. The leaves will be there tomorrow. Maybe some other chores will be, too.



Pura vida

I just returned this week from a week in Costs Rica. It is the dry season there, so not much is blooming, although of course things are evergreen. But the best thing I learned while I was there is their philosophy pura vida, which means “pure life.” we all have to work, pay bills, deal with annoying and tiring things in life. But they look for the positive in everything, and try not to get bogged down in anything.

This is not new information, of course. But perhaps I am feeling the way I did as a teenager, when I wouldn’t listen to what my parents said, but if my friends told me the same thing, I would take their advice as gospel. There is a huge industry in the US devoted to self-help and the marketing thereof, but everyone is encouraged to find their own path. A thousand people have written books, blogs, or podcasts devoted to telling us how to slow down, to live in the moment. A sizeable industry exists to help us de-stress. But all these people hope to profit off sharing their wisdom. When a country full of people adopts the same life philosophy, it seems rather more persuasive. Especially when their lives are, on the whole, rather poorer than ours (at least in an economic/material sense).

I came home to find my garden full of pura vida. Because of our remarkably warm winter, everything is blooming at least two weeks ahead of normal schedule. My daffodils are in full force; my crocuses are finished. My azaleas and flowering quince are going strong. Pulmonaria, euphorbia, grape hyacinth are looking good. The Deutzia for whose life I feared is leafing out.

Baptisias are starting to push forth,

and my Camellia japonicas are blooming. Everything is looking invigorated.

Hope you find your own pura vida.