Scraped, scratched, bloodied, and bruised

I’m in bad shape, broke down, beaten, and bewildered!

One minute I’m feeling hopelessly behind in my garden, the next that I’m nearly caught up. Then I walk around any corner, and I have a lot of corners, and there’s lots more to do. There’s no fooling myself, I have a lot of chores ahead. After a slow start (I depend on getting a little work done on warm days in February, of which there were none this year) I think that I might be approaching my normal status for this date, which of course means there’s still plenty to occupy my weekends for another month.

The weekend past was beautiful, low humidity and warm enough to work in shorts, so most of the two days was spent outdoors working, but with a little time to appreciate the trees, shrubs,and bulbs blooming all around the garden. In addition to weeding and pruning I’ve been trying to clean up from the February snow, mending broken branches and tying together arborvitaes and cryptomerias that had branches bent askew, and there’s still some clean up from a forty foot Leyland cypress that was irreparably damaged and removed earlier in the week.Crocus

Beneath the fallen cypress were parts of a sparsely branched boxwood that has been shaded for too many years and a China Girl holly that had become a tangle of rose and locust seedlings before it was flattened. Sunday’s adventure included trying to untangle this mess and save what could be salvaged of the holly. The holly escaped with minimal damage, certainly better than my bare legs fared in dealing with the rose that reached out to grab me at every opportunity. Not a pretty sight, but I can imagine your lack of sympathy. I know, I should have worn long trousers. You sound like my mother!

Then I found that a gold arborvitae that had bent in every direction under the snow’s weight was taller, much taller, than one planted on the other side of the garden that was planted at the same time. I tried to tie it, just like I demonstrated on its shorter cousin a month earlier, but found that too much of the large evergreen was above my reach. The only way this could be resolved was to balance an eight foot ladder on the uneven ground, climb to the top rung (clinging for dear life to the arborvitae), tie the strapping off to draw the branches together, and then prune the top three feet that failed to cooperate. When I advise that some tasks are better left to professionals, this is exactly the point. In any case, I lived through it, though probably no wiser for the experience.

There’s so much blooming in the garden, or coming into bloom, that it’s tempting to stop for precious moments to enjoy the huge weeping cherry (above), to stand under its pendulous branching as the spent blossoms fall like light pink snow. But the chores I have mapped out for the day are not complete, so I’ll delay for only a few minutes on the way to grab the pruners, or a screwdriver and wrench to repair the chainsaw blade that has jumped off again.

Many of the spring bulbs are still blooming, narcissus, puschkinias, and hyacinths have not begun to fade, and the crocus have come on a little stronger now that the weather has warmed.  The spring windflowers (Anemone blanda, above) are blooming, though only a few dozen since I am prone to pulling them, mistaken as weeds. Their delicate foliage is similar to several common weeds, and once I have summoned the energy to get started on tasks in the garden a frenetic pace kicks in, the brain goes blank, and often desirable plants are destroyed.

Chionodoxa (above) are popping up everywhere in greatly increased numbers, safe in an area where I seldom weed, some quite a few feet from where I once planted the small bulbs. The alliums (ornamental onions) aren’t blooming yet, but it won’t be long. An older clump has been undisturbed for years, and though it is heavily shaded by a large Jane magnolia and a gnarled dwarf peach (below)Dwarf peach in bloom, the clump continues to expand. I should dig the clump and replant in a sunnier spot, but then there are many things that I should do that probably won’t happen.

The magnolia and peach are both blooming, a gaudy combination of pink and purple, but more so with a large drift of the bright yellow dwarf narcissus February Gold at their feet. I paid no attention to the concurrent blooming when I planted the trees, it’s far too late to move either, and I don’t mind the odd combination in any case. If this composition is not for you I would suggest that you not drop by to visit.Jane magnolia

The backside (facing from the house) of both the peach and magnolia (above) do not bloom since they are shaded by a golden raintree, and a red maple and willow oak from the neighbor’s property that are rapidly growing too large and overhanging treasures in my garden. No matter, the neighbor’s trees are here to stay, and he was not the culprit who planted them too close to the property line (it was two or more owners prior), and who am I to talk about planting things too close anyway?

In any case, at this time of the year I don’t mind that colors don’t coordinate, or if this is too close to that. I’m happy that winter’s a memory, that the garden’s exploding in bloom. In May I can rest, but for now I have a narrow focus, straight ahead, one tree at a time, full speed ahead, and try not to lose too much blood in the process.

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6 thoughts on “Scraped, scratched, bloodied, and bruised

  1. I concur. I too am bloodied but not broken. So much to do in so little time. The fact they we lost February does make for more work now.
    However, I am on a roll now with this gorgeous weather.
    I will admit that some cooler days will be more enjoyable for the work ahead out in my yard.
    The Rx from the winter snow is done and all looks pretty good.
    We lost a large limb off of a Japanese maple but it seems to be filling in and the top of a white pine will forever now look a little off but we can remember the Bilizzard of 2010 every time we look up !
    The perennial bed is filling in and I always want to plant more forgetting how full it will be in the months ahead.
    And too my peonies are coming up and again I always want more !!!
    The daffodils are a little limpy already but the tulips are just blooming.
    Off to fill a few more pots and look forward to the tropicals arriving at the garden center so I can get those in !

    • With the warm weather, and plants exploding into bloom, it’s almost hard to imagine that it was only a few weeks ago that our plants were bent, broken, and covered in snow. I’m much happier today. Thank you for your comment.

  2. I too have been working on winter damage clean up and finally have my front garden ready for mulch. What’s with the huge increase in the cost of bulk mulch this year – $5 more per yard that the past few years. When I need 15 – 20 yards for my entire yard, that’s a bucket load of money. Not a happy camper on that front. However, all the dividing and relocating of plants I did last fall are looking good – sedums and asters are finally showing some leaves – caryopteris have the broken limbs removed and the entire plant re-shaped. Still have clean up in my back yard – hopefully this weekend will give me time to finish that and decide on any additions I want while we have much cooler weather. Love your ramblin’ Dave – keep me motivated!!!

  3. Hardwood mulch is a biproduct of trees that are harvested for lumber, or, as has been the case in recent years, for property development. With the economic downturn the supply of raw product for mulch and topsoil has declined dramtically, so prices have increased to balance supply and demand, and because raw materials must be trucked from greater distances.

    Recent recycling initiatives by the federal government also raise a potential issue that might result in mulch prices skyrocketing.

  4. Hi Dave,
    Your ramblins are excellent and the photographs are dazzingly beautiful. Are
    they yours? The summer-like weather has propelled everything along so fast…hard to believe. But it was so lovely after our hideous winter.
    I look like I’ve been in a cat-fight – cuts, scrapes, bruises -and ridiculous fingernails – I wear gloves but still dirt gets thru. All of this matters not – it’s being out there with all the splendor that comes with spring! What’s your take on growing astilbes under oak trees, with so many roots traveling above ground? They’ll obviousy be vying for water and nutrients.
    Keep up the good work – great fun to read.

    • The photos that I attach to these posts are all from my garden. I have always taken some pics of the garden, but since I began writing more than a year ago I am rolling around in the dirt to get a better camera angle nearly everyday, and I notice things that I was oblivious to before. I recommend that everyone keep a photo journal of their garden.

      I have found that astilbe are marvelous perennials for damp shade. As soon as I find a spot with those conditions I’ll plant a bunch. In dry shade astilbes fade in late July or August unless they are irrigated, which never happens in my garden. I dislike unhappy plants, so I’ve opted for epimediums, helleborus, hostas and ferns that will tolerate my dry shade and neglect.

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