A Garden Blog About Saying Goodbye

I'm a gardener in Chicago, IL, and I'm leaving my garden behind at the end of the year - The Last Garden is about my garden's final year. Share & Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The March Philosophy Post

Just in case you're late to the party here, the philosophy posts are monthly diatribes on the official theme of this blog. Also weather updates. You'll discover I really like weather.
Today I must immediately mention that I am happy. It's a funny thing you notice about some gardeners - in the winter they grow tired and angry and bitter and other unpleasant adjectives, but once spring comes, their furrowed brows melt into jubilant smiles and they skip through their rows of lettuce and daffodils in frank delight. I'm one of them.

Once the wind starts to smell of spring, and the ground melts and the buds push up through the soil, that's it. You just can't keep me angry for very long (well, you can, but not by means of flowers).

This March inevitably exceeded my lacklustre expectations! That's definitely the benefit in expecting the worst. I had predicted a beautiful, sudden warmth and thaw, tragically cut short by a long cold spell accompanied by hail and slushy rain which incidentally would have damaged all the bulb foliage and early flowers. In fact, we had a moderately slow start to spring, with chilly nights and gradually warming days. We did indeed have a cold spell later in the month, but it wasn't terrible and it only lasted a week. Nothing died except for two Hellebore stems which may have been nipped by rabbits (who will nip at poisonous plants like Hellebore and Daffodil before deciding it's too risky and leaving the bitten stem to dry out and die).

Weather concerns aside, I'm growing accustomed to the idea of leaving the garden in the fall. I'm not exactly pleased about it, but I have the idea that I can probably wrap all this up with a minimum of pain, though it will probably involve a lot of fuss. I can't really imagine not going out in the springtime to rake the garden, and I can't imagine not having all the flowers I like just outside my window at every moment, but I'm thinking that those are concerns I will have to face once they are immediate. For now, I will do what is currently required of me: transitioning the garden from high maintenance to low maintenance.

I've already made a couple important steps in the right direction. First of all, say hello to the new witch hazel!

This is Hamamelis x intermedia 'Diane.'

Probably I've planted it too close to the house, but it can be trimmed a little if that's needed. Plus, you know, it's a witch hazel, they grow about half an inch per year. As I said last month, my transition to a low maintenance garden entails replacing the vast swaths of perennials with shrubs, which will be easier to maintain. This witch hazel will fill the entire corner, and I'll be removing and giving away the perennials and bulbs it has displaced.

Witch-hazel flower close-up.

More importantly, I've had to remove my roses.

That's Rosa damascena 'L├ęda' on the left, and Rosa damascena
'Madame Hardy.'

I only got them last year, and they've only had one bloom between the two of them thus far, so perhaps "my roses" is a bit of a stretch, but the point still stands. When I was younger, I hated roses, but I grew to love them (well, at least some of them) and last year I finally decided to add these two to my increasingly gigantic collection of plants.

The problem is that they're not prissy little hybrid tea roses that I could leave to rot - not at all. The reason I love these roses in particular is that they get to be huge and robust and vigorous, but those qualities will also make it nigh on impossible to control them. They'll sucker crazily all across the yard, until all that's left is a sea of deadly thorned canes, unless their owner has the will and opportunity to heavily prune them once every year, sometimes twice. As much as I love their exuberant qualities, I'm not daft enough to believe that everyone is willing to have semiannual battles to the death with an armed shrub that's almost as tall as they are and twice as wide, so they've got to go. I think I know a couple people who'll take them, so they won't die, they're just being relocated. Hence the pots.

Chionodoxa forbesii 'Pink Giant', emerging from a mat of
reviving Dianthus x 'Mountain Mist.'

I actually seem to be adjusting fairly well. I guess you'll all have to wait 'til next philosophy post for real drama.

Oh yes, I promised I'd reveal the reason for my move from the garden at the beginning of April. Here it is: I am currently 19 years old, and will be going to college in the fall! For the curious, I started gardening when I was 12 and have been at it for 7 years (though my mother argues that as soon as I started to walk I was fiddling around in the dirt).

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