Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Inheriting a Garden: Lesson Learned

Perhaps as a new blogger, I should provide followers of Garden Musings a brief introduction. There are gardeners who are so knowledgeable and experienced that I see them almost like presiding deities of horticulture, and I dream that someday I will be among their ranks. Yet my delight in gardening is frequently offset either by ignorance or by thoughtless action or inaction, and to be truthful, making these mistakes is how I learn. Writing about my garden experiences is likely to be confessional, as is the case in this first blog, and I hope that readers can find something useful if not entertaining in my learning experiences.

In December 2012 I moved into a a century-old midtown house with a beautifully landscaped backyard. Now, most people unpacking boxes, moving furniture around, and worrying about window treatments would simply rejoice that the outside was taken care of. But I knew me and my propensity to find a way to mess up what someone had paid to beautify. After all, hadn’t I, in a former life, allowed Russian cyprus to run wild over and beyond the natural areas it should have been confined to? doomed peonies by planting them too deep? destroyed any joy of a herb garden by putting it in shade? drowned a weigila by planting it in the only hole I could dig in that sloping backyard? You get the idea. I feared with such beauty now my own, I was surely on the verge of discovering new ways to uglify. My mantra became WAIT AND SEE. It has taken me 
a few years to figure out that “Do No Harm” is not the same thing as “Do Nothing.”

On jaunts around the circular lawn (maybe 1/3 of my .18 acre lot), with a dog or two in tow, by early spring I had catalogued the perennials in the beds stretching back to the wood fence on the west and south and up to the carport on the east and patio to the north. Autumn fern nestled among boxwood, azaleas, and spirea. Lorapetalum provided colorful purple splotches on either side of the lawn. A large fig tree leafed out over a ground cover of Dutch iris and periwinkle major. A weeping Japanese maple, althea, crepe myrtles, nandinas. and witch hazel were spaced around the lawn. A row of Ocala anise, Virginia creeper and forsythia lined the back fence. Wild cherry and mystery vines grew in and up the fences.

Over the next few years, I sat in the backyard and luxuriated in my tidy little property, my Eden. Four hosta varieties had emerged, along with Solomon seal and a beautiful orange honeysuckle which draped the arbor in the back corner and reached over to cascade down the fence. My additions to the display were modest at first. Petunias and lantana in pots brought color where a sunbeam penetrated the deep shade of the overarching oak tree next door. Giant coleus sparkled in beds with dappled shade. Later, empty spaces vanished under an Anabelle hydrangea, new ferns, varied hostas, bright caladium, giant elephant ears and more.

I’m not sure when it happened, but one day I looked out the kitchen window and saw not a neat garden of beautiful and varied plants, but a jungle of crowded foliage with plants fighting for survival. The fig tree, which had never borne a fig, branched over the middle of the lawn. The lorapetalum had become scraggly trees overlooking fences, and one of them was seriously challenging the space allotted to the witch hazel. The arbor in the far corner was hidden behind a lorapetalum and massive nandina. Dead limbs were hanging from the oak tree. And that was only the most visible evidence of riot. 

My new mantra became CONTROL! I hired tree trimmers to clean up the dead branches and thin the oak canopy. I whacked the fig tree almost flat and lopped the nandina to a civilized size. This winter, I will seriously prune the lorapetalum so that again I have full purple shrubs to enjoy. There is more pruning ahead, but eventually I imagine once again sitting in the backyard enjoying my tidy space, only this time taking care, occasionally, to maintain its beauty.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated and will appear as soon as they are approved.