I’m nearly certain I’ll be pleased with the progress made in the garden in the past year, though I have little recollection exactly what changes were made other than a few (or a lot of) things were added and plants are a year older. I’ll be more certain once ephemerals, bulbs, corms, and rhizomes that I’ve long forgotten about come up in spring. After so long, one year blends with the next, and it’s difficult to recall what happened, and when, but in any case I’m pleased that the garden continues heading in the right direction.
This should not be taken for granted, I think. This spring will mark thirty years in this garden, which started with a blank slate except for the forest that edges the southeast border of the property. In recent weeks, I’ve been reminded by surveying stakes, with the neighboring farm being sold, how far I’ve strayed over the line, and when I look at what’s on the other side I know I’d be terribly disappointed to give it up if the new owners objected.
Of course, there’s no reason they should. My acre and a quarter is several hundreds yards from the farmhouse, with a rather large pond between that overflows into a narrow creek that borders the area that I’ve borrowed. Though I’ve seen strangers wondering about in the forest behind the house in recent weeks, there’s no reason they should care to do this regularly, and this relatively small piece of land that I’m planting on cannot be reached without veering around the pond and crossing the steeply banked creek.
As the garden has become more congested over the years, my wife has often suggested planting onto the neighbors’ properties rather than cramming more into this one. She has, I believe, an eye that appreciates more formal lines and organization, and simply, I do not, so while I’m all for planting onto this borrowed space, I’m not finished planting into the jumble that we own.
I say that a positive progression should not be taken for granted because there are so many mistakes that can be made without consequences in the garden’s first years and first decade, but as the years mount trees and shrubs continue to grow, so the chances that errors from long ago catch up with you are much greater. My wife is happy to point out branches from Japanese maples that screech against the house in a breeze, and stone paths that she keeps open by mercilessly chopping branches of viburnums and nandinas that stray. These are errors, I agree, but very minor in my view, and hardly worthy of discussion, I inform her.
At least two trees, a dogwood and a Japanese maple, both ten years in age or older, have perished due to flooding rains through much of the back end of last year. Both trees remain standing, so there’s a bit of work to be done before spring, but the bigger concern is what will go in to replace them. Ideas are floating around, but some day the answer will settle in, and in late January there’s no rush.
These are not the first trees to be lost over the years. Occasionally, losses are considered opportunities, and in the case of the perished ‘Oridono nishiki’ Japanese maple, it never lived up to expectations, with foliage that was unremarkably colored, so it will not be sorely missed. Whatever goes in its place is likely to be a change for the better. And, if there’s a delay finding something just right, well, I think there’s enough around that I’m the only one who’ll notice.