Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Working smarter and ageing gracefully

There is a property down the road from us that I call The Storybook Farm, because it looks like it has been transplanted straight from a children's book about an English country farm. The buildings are faced with stone, there is a matched set of five black horses in the paddock, the potager garden is full of lavender plants lined up with mathematical precision, and the flower pots lining the drive are always beautifully blooming. It's a lovely place, one that fills me with awe every time I drive past it, and while these people exert more control over their garden than I want to or am capable of, they clearly know what they are doing.

So when our third spring at Mucky Boots came around (in other words the first spring I had my head enough above water to notice) and the middle of April came and went with their garden still full of winter stalks and dead stuff, I thought something must be wrong, and even though I don`t know them, I worried. I shouldn't have, because in short order everything was looking as spiffed up as I had become accustomed to. Maybe they were just a little late getting started, I thought with the tiniest amount of self-satisfaction.

And now, near the end of our fifth spring at Mucky Boots, I think I get it. They really do know what they are doing: it's all about working smarter.

My practice has been to dip into all my garden beds multiple times through the spring explosion. I usually manage to get the winter clean-up done before the fast spring growth starts, but pretty quickly I'm going at the creeping bellflower wherever and whenever it appears, and trying to clean up the spring bulbs as soon as they start looking bedraggled. And weeding, weeding, weeding. I figure each of the many beds in the perennial garden gets six or seven passes before the hot weather hits and growth settles down.

Well, I have learned a thing or two. For example, I have learned that the best way to deal with invasive perennial weeds like the creeping bellflower is not to try digging it up, which only compounds the problem as all those little root filaments birth new plants, but to cut it down once or twice a year and never, ever, let it flower. So now instead of going into attack mode every time I see some, I let it be and do a complete pass through the garden when the quantity of it merits.

Here's another example. We have such masses of spring bulbs here (especially winter aconite, snowdrops and bluebells) that when they start to die back the garden looks a bit shabby. In the past I have cut back individual plants as they reach the point of no return, but now I pretty much wait for the bulk of them to reach that point, then I clear them all out (the exception being when they are smothering other perennials just getting started). That's way less work. It means living with a bit of a mess for a while...

...but it also means I can stress less and enjoy more.

That's especially important given that the Annual Spring Arthritis Flare-Up seems to be a regular fixture in my life - just when there's lots of work to do, and just when I'm excited to be getting down to it, my joints require me to carefully weigh the necessity of each task.

Working smarter, and not being in such a rush to clear out my beds, means I have had more opportunity to enjoy the special beauty of blooms past their prime, like the wonky tulip at the top of the post. Which is also smarter, because none of us is getting younger.  So in a spirit of affection and respect for all the ages in my garden, here are a few blooms ageing gracefully.


Looking for the really funny "Gotta love that cupholder" post? I'm so sorry, but because of technical issues I threw up my hands and deleted the post. But it was funny. Really, really funny. I'm still laughing...


jeanives said...

oh well, thanks for the "really, really funny" teaser..., and the reminder to stress less.

Alison said...

You are growing smarter than I. I still long for that impeccably-groomed garden. It's easy in the spring here, but once the summer heat hits, all hell breaks loose in weedom! :)

Shim Farm said...

I've got bulbs popping up all over the place. We just let them bloom through their cycle, and then mow them over in one fell swoop when they're done. Yup, it does look messy for a while, but when you want perfection, just nip over to Butchart Gardens where they prune using cuticle scissors...kidding, of course.

Your health and sanity are worth more than your plants, as far as I'm concerned.

(And through the grace of an old Google cache, I actually managed to see the video of Kim on Johnny D. You should see the size of the cup holder on our big JD! I keep telling Eric I'm going to buy him a bladder-bursting Bubba Keg LOL).

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