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Garden report

12 years ago

We're coming to the end of what has been a beautiful October, and a busy one in the garden. We've had a lot of sunny days, interrupted by enough rain to keep the garden well watered. The fall color, never a strong point here, has been the best I've ever seen it, due probably to the rains that started in August and have continued intermittently until now. Temperatures have naturally dropped and around the middle of the month we began lighting fires in the wood stove, the latest we've ever begun; but sunny days are still warm while the sun is high, and mornings are cool but not the dank chill with occasional frost that people in town down in the valley are experiencing. This is the time of year when we appreciate our sun-baked southern exposure.

A local nursery decided to get out of the business of providing hedging plants, and is selling off their stock at bargain basement prices. We've been loading up on cotoneasters, ligustrum, forsythia, Viburnum lantana, common lilacs, shrub honeysuckle, mock orange, abelia and deutzia and spirea, loading up the car at each visit will all the plants it will hold and then returning for more. My feelings are a combination of gratitude and anxiety: on the one hand I never have enough shrubs, and these are big, stout, overgrown (but I think they'll recover) plants; on the other hand they're mostly somewhat anonymous shrubs that need to be mixed with more distinctive plants if the garden is not to look like a suburban park. I experience considerable frustration when I think about all the less than optimal plants I put in the garden, because (theoretically) superior plants aren't available, or are too expensive, or are too much trouble to get hold of. On the other hand I have a couple of acres to garden in and I really need to stop whining. The shrubs ought to bulk up the garden considerably, and it needs it.

We haven't really gotten around to planting the roses yet, partly because I don't think they're ready, and partly because I'm not. I believe they could use another month before being moved while my husband is red hot eager to get them in their permanent positions. I did lift and divide two officinalis peonies, first time for this experiment.

Yesterday's minor (major) delight was stumbling over the myrtle that I planted last fall. The plant was tiny and dubiously hardy and it got stuck in miserable ground in the middle of the Bermuda grass, and last winter was the coldest in a quarter of a century; I just assumed it had died. It didn't die. There it was, and it had even grown a little. Ha! I may now reasonably assume that I can grow myrtles here, placing them in the warmer parts of the garden of course. They're native and evergreen and have aromatic foliage. In fact I bought them again this fall, three babies like this survivor, one subspecies Tarentina that's supposed to be a little hardier, and a form with white fruits. The babies are potted to grow, while the two varieties are in the ground in warm areas and we'll see how they do. What satisfaction. What happiness.

The last note is that looking around the big (sunny) garden yesterday I thought that it's beginning to look like a garden, and not just a weedy field with plants scattered here and there. The Italian cypresses help with their emphatic punctuation: we planted them a few years ago and they settled in happily at once. This is north of their native range, but they grow well in warmer parts of our province. The Italian pines also look happy, though they'll take longer to become robust and occupy, before they exceed, their space. The roses are growing; and the Damask roses down in the bottom bed where one of the slides happened last winter are suckering and, I hope, busily consolidating the ground, which is still alarmingly loose. A week or so ago my husband yielded to my pleas and cut the grass, which nicely defined the walks and contrasting plantings. It's coming along. There's not much in bloom now, but this is one of the prettiest times of the year in the garden.

I would like to hear about other people's gardens.


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