Marty's Garden, August 25th, 2018

With two thirds of summer gone it is time to take stock in the garden. It really hasn't been that hot for very long, but we have had plenty of moisture and it might be the wettest summer in decades. I certainly don’t remember any summers this wet since I landed on these shores in 1981. Most rainfalls were torrential in nature; no gentle rains slowly soaking into the ground!


 With two years of gardening under my belt in this new garden I admit I am starting to look forward to next year. There is a saying in gardening: when you plant anything in the garden, they (the plants) “sleep the first year, creep the second year and leap in the third year”. Yeah, my garden should be leaping all over next spring and summer since the backbone of my garden (shrubs and trees) were put in the ground in the summer and fall of 2016. Unlike unexperienced gardeners who tend to put plants too close together to make more of an impact, I carefully spaced my plants. It allows the plants to mature into healthy plants without pruning to shoehorn them in their intended spot. While I wait for the plants to fill out I must deal with open spaces between the plants. If you don’t care for the “open look” as your garden grows to its potential, you can use annuals to fill in the gaps. Oh, without a doubt, gardening is a game of patience, something I have not always been good at (the patience part, that is).


These days as I sit in the garden in late afternoon, I overlook the main garden and pond. There are few flowers and the main colors here range from creamy white, blue green, greenish yellow to bright green. A few clematis plants are in bloom and I can see puddles of blue. The gravel path is a light grey river next to the water of the pond. The spiky variegated foliage of iris glows in creamy white and green and contrasts with the sedum growing around the edges of the pond. The Canadian redbud tree towers next to the waterfall and behind it I can see the rounded shapes of my yellow green evergreens. The other side of the waterfall is now completely covered by blue rug juniper which I am training to grow over the rocks and down the backside of the raised bed. It’s a view that is restful and pleasant to look at.

 As we get closer to fall the inevitable fall gardening catalogs have arrived in the mailbox. As always, I peruse each and every catalog, dog-earing pages with interesting bulbs (as bulbs are the mainstay for planting in fall). I compare prices among the various providers and then wait a bit longer to see if any deals crop up. But don’t wait too long or all the best bulbs will be gone, and you will have to make do with leftovers! For the last two years my garden was still too new to start planting bulbs. The soil was heavy clay, compacted from building the house and then the pond and most bulbs would struggle to grow, let along bloom in splendor in the spring. And to be honest, by the time fall came around I was too bushed to amend the soil and dig hundreds of holes for planting. But this year… oh, this year I am ready to create a spring blooming garden. I ordered two different varieties of daffodils, various grape hyacinths, plenty of Dutch irises in bright yellow, two different varieties of iris reticulata, dwarf irises, one of which is called ‘Alida’ which happens to be my mother’s name and finally more snowflakes (those snowbells on steroids). All in all, 550 bulbs which will give me more than enough work to do once they arrive. Most likely sometime half way through planting I will wonder why I ordered that many bulbs. On the other hand, though, I will also know that come spring next year my garden will come back to life earlier than ever before and brighten up the block.  The witch hazels, which bloom in late winter, early spring, will be underplanted with daffodils and grape hyacinths and compliment each other. In other beds, the bulbs will work their magic first before their foliage dies back and make room for perennials which will strut their stuff in the weeks and months following the spring blooms. For the wettest parts of the garden, wherever the downspouts or sump pump dumps water, the snowflakes will bloom for weeks on end with bright white bells atop large grass-like leaves. When conditions are consistently damp the foliage stays green throughout most of summer before finally dying back in late August, early September. All these bulbs will add an additional layer to the garden and provide an early source of nectar for those first insects buzzing around in late winter and early spring. As for me, after months indoors during winter I will be more than happy to see my garden erupting with spring colors.