Waiting

I’m not the best at waiting. Like a lot of people, I value efficiency. I want things to happen when I want them to happen (that seldom works as I hope it will).

The one place where I seem to not mind waiting is in the garden. We didn’t actually have much of a winter here; the flowering quince bloomed sporadically from November until now. The hydrangeas leafed out twice and got blown back by freezes. The witch hazel, on the other hand, offered up only about four flowers; I presume it didn’t have enough chilling hours to produce a show. But a few plants wait patiently, and I watch them waiting.

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Fern fronds are curled tightly.

I love curled fern fronds. The idea that this spiral, like those of pinecones or aloes or many other plants, follow the mathematics of the Fibonacci sequence, fills me with wonder. I take as much delight in staring at this lump in the ground and thinking about the mathematics replicated throughout the natural world, as I do in admiring their feathery green fronds after a summer rainstorm.

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I have no idea what this plant is. If you know, please comment.

I acquired this mystery houseplant (yes, yes, it’s not in the garden, technically….) from a friend on a gardening listserv in my area. She didn’t know its name, either. It replicates itself by forming babies on the periphery of the leaves, then the main stem of the plant falls over and dies and the babies root. In the background of the photo, you can see the withering stem of its sister who already reproduced and shuffled off her mortal coil. I’m waiting every day for the big one to do the same. I feel slightly vicious, anticipating this plant’s death (it never did anything to me other than please me), but it’s exciting, a bit like watching a tree fall in slow-motion.

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Primula vulgaris, grown from seed.

I have been waiting for this nickel-sized bloom for two years. I love primulas but never had success growing them from seed. Most instructions advise sowing the seed directly in the garden in early spring.

Following those instructions got me nowhere. Two years ago, I learned to sow the seed in August, in a pot outdoors, and let it overwinter exposed more or less to the elements. I kept mine in a cold frame whose windows are a bit leaky, particularly when I forget from time to time to close them.

Success! I transplanted about a dozen seedlings and kept them watered particularly through the hot summers. A few weeks ago, I saw the first tiny little bud. I squealed like a toddler and frightened the dog.

I tell you, I am absurdly proud of this tiny little flower. I hope its siblings will bloom soon. But if not, that’s okay, too. I will wait.

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Garden log, 7.25.15

Today’s temperature was only in the high 80s, so I felt brave enough to venture outside and tend long-deferred tasks. Weeded grassy area off the deck; I’m impressed with the resilience of Eco-Grass, a fine fescue blend I’m trying out. I sowed it in cool weather, early spring, and did the requisite watering to get it established but since then haven’t watered or fed, or even mowed. It’s long, at about 5″, but what’s growing in the shade is still very green. I’ll have to be careful establishing it in the main pathway between house and shed.

Made notes of shrubs to buy for fall. Started weeding rain garden; weeded & mulched maybe 20%. Weeded and mulched 1/3 of ophiopogon path, watered with nettle tea. Made more comfrey tea. Both plants have made a rebound after a brutally hot and dry June.

Moved a Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) to where the side gate will be (oh, yes; we’re getting a fence for the yard to contain Henry). Watered and mulched it, the existing jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides variegata), and the ‘Yuletide’ camellia. Moved 2 loads mulch to the very damp corner behind T’s room; perhaps later this week I will till it in to improve drainage. Ferns looking superb in the rain garden and hanging in there in the new rain barrel bed. The fungus that grew on the blueberries earlier this year seems to have stayed away. Found a big fruit on Arisaema.

arisaema seed head

Immature seed head on Arisaema triphyllum.

New Project: Building a pathway garden

It’s time to tackle a new spot in the garden. Actually, I have two areas that need reforming, but I’ll get to the second, and larger, area another time.

Here is the wasteland between the rain garden and the property-line fence.

new pathway garden starting site

The excuse I offer as to why I haven’t done anything with this spot is that it’s an easement for the power company. Of course, if you take a look at the post oak that’s sitting in the top of the photo, in the middle of the easement, you’ll see how often the power company makes use of it.

The space is 10 feet wide from the fence to the bricks that line the back of the rain garden. It’s time to do something here.

We’ve had 10 inches of rain over the past week, and rule number 1 of gardening is to never work the soil when it’s wet. A footnote to that rule, however, states that gardening in wet soil is permissible if one has been shut in the house with two bored children for a week, going steadily mad.

What luck!

Step 1: Layout

Using a garden hose, I laid out an outline of the path and bed. The path will echo the curve of the back of the rain garden, and the bed will be everything that’s not path. I used a scrap piece of lumber, about 4′ long, to help guide the hose and ensure the path’s width is even along its length. Then, using a flat-edged shovel, I dug a smooth edge behind the hose.

laying out the path and bed using a hose and scrap lumber

Step 2: Soil prep

Compacting the already-tiny pore spaces in my heavy clay is not an optimal way to start off a new garden bed, but working in 3 inches of leftover grit-manure mixture to improve the drainage seems like a reasonable compromise.

path garden till

I tilled in the mixture only for the first third of the bed, because it was 92 degrees and steamy out, and clouds were on the horizon. I took a soil sample of this area a week ago, so I hope I’ll have a response after the holiday weekend. But guess what? I know it’s going to be impossibly acid and void of any nutrients, since that’s the condition of the rest of the unworked garden, so I sprinkled in a very light mixture of lime and a balanced fertilizer. I’ll add more as appropriate when the test comes back.

Step 3: Install edging.

I still have plenty of salvaged brick lying around. Some bricks have more mortar on them than I want to chip away: The return on the labor involved isn’t that high, particularly in the current semitropical conditions. But those bricks are perfect for garden bed edging: Set them so the mortar will be on the planting side, and no one will know.

leveling the brick edging on the path

I dug in the trenched space marking the edge of the bed, and laid the course of bricks. If you look closely, you’ll see the bubble in the level is high on the right. That means it’s not remotely level.

This isn’t surprising; the lot slopes downhill to the north, and the fence runs along the north border of the property. What was surprising was the amount by which I needed to raise the bricks to make them level.

By the way, like many projects, I am doing this one backwards. I should set the pathway first, and save the bed for last. But that’s not as much fun, and I have plants I shouldn’t have purchased now waiting to get in the ground that’s too soggy to be worked.

I leveled the bricks, to each other and to their mates across the way, using a layer of rubble. Then I packed everything firmly in place with lots of sticky mud.

Step 4: Plant those things you couldn’t resist buying last week.

When I stopped off at Big Bloomers last week and hauled away three flats of perennials, among them were 2 oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’) and three Japanese beech ferns, Thelypteris decursive-pinnata, which may be semievergreen here. Crouching on a scrap piece of wood to avoid compacting my fluffyish new garden bed, I planted one of the hydrangeas, adding a mulch of chicken grit around the crown to help stave off rotting, two of the ferns, and a handful of seedlings of Iris tectorum that I grew in my winter sowing adventure. I mulched with a layer of shredded leaves on the newly tilled section.

path garden planted 3

The sun is out today, so perhaps, if we are fortunate, by Sunday the ground will be sufficiently dried out to carry on with the rest of the bed.