This week’s achievement

– Posted in: Garden chores

When we last visited our heroine, she had just finished planting most of the order from Paradise Gardens Rare Plant Nursery. You can read about it here. Let’s rejoin the Intrepid Gardener as she continues her tale . . .

I wanted to plant the double white soapwort in what I call the Purple-and-Gold bed, which is really purple, gold, and white, only that’s too ungainly to say. This bed started out as a place to put all the plants my husband hacked out of the frozen earth of our mobile home lot shortly before our lease ran out.

Among the plants that got rescued were some clumps of rhubarb–the edible kind, not the ornamental kind, though in these days of sculptural plants, you can hardly say the edible rhubarb is lacking in ornamental qualities. Anyway, it became part of the Purple-and-Gold bed by default. A few years ago I divided my ‘Purple Dome’ aster and put some between the two rhubarbs. I thought the soapwort would look especially good right behind the purple aster . . . if they bloomed at the same time, which was iffy. But it seemed like the right place anyway, because it was both moist and sunny.

Only problem was, I couldn’t find the aster. I couldn’t even remember quite where it had been. Probably where the grass was growing so lustily. Oh, well, I’m going to have to dig the grass out to put the soapwort in, even if there’s no longer any aster to keep it company. When I stuck my garden fork into the sod and started to lift it up, I finally could see the aster intermixed with the lawn grass. Sigh. What a job to get that out. I put it in a 5-gallon bucket with some water to soak the roots. That was either April 25th, when I planted the other stuff, or April 26th, the next day. It wasn’t until yesterday (May 10th) that I finally got the opportunity to tease out the grass roots and replant it. So it spent two weeks in the bucket. Not every plant would still be alive after two weeks in a pail of water, but the aster appeared unfazed. The water, on the other hand . . . “Mommy, what smells like cow manure?” ‘Nuff said.

Those of you who are “willing slaves of the goddess Flora,” as I read of someone once, will find it hard to understand how I could have left that plant in the bucket for so long. Those of you who have spouses, children at home, and/or an outside job should be able to imagine situations that might come up. I won’t go into my excuses in detail, but during the last two weeks I have been coping with my husband’s stay in the emergency room, taking my daughter parallel parking, repairing a flat tire, shopping for 3 birthdays, administering standardized tests to my homeschooled children, and a baby who briefly but repeatedly cried several times every night, just long enough to wake me up every time, but not long enough to convince me she had a problem. And that’s not even bringing up the weather, which seemed to be raining whenever I had a chance to work outside.

I mention this because some people feel guilty when they have to put gardening on the back burner when life happens. Kathy’s First Rule of Gardening is: “If it isn’t fun, don’t do it.” Of course, as any non-gardener will tell you, gardeners have a strange idea of what constitutes “fun.” The soil around the rhubarb plants had never been amended, so in these past two weeks I have been squeezing in some fun loosening the soil with my garden rake, removing all the big rocks (including two I needed help with, they were so big), inserting some plastic carpet runner as a weed and grass barrier on the side of the bed, and sifting two wheelbarrows-full of compost, dumping it, and raking it around. (I sift my compost because it’s never decomposed all the way when I want to use it.) This was all in preparation for the “fun” of getting all the grass roots out of the smelly aster clumps. Then I finally got to the part most people would consider fun: I planted the aster, the soapwort, the variegated obedient plant a friend gave me recently, and two boltonias that have been languishing in pots for two years. I think. Given that I thought the aster had only been in the bucket for a week, until I actually looked at the calendar, it is possible the boltonias have been in pots for 3 years, not 2–but I’m not going to look up my records and check.

And that is how my gardening life goes. You can be sure that if it wasn’t fun, I could find plenty of other ways to fill up my days. The fact of the matter is, I have way more garden than I have time to take care of. Instead of letting some go back to lawn, I keep waiting for my life to make more room for gardening. Hence I end up with a mess, but a mess that makes me happy whenever I get a chance to work on it. Actually, it’s not the mess that makes me happy, but straightening the mess up, rediscovering and rescuing plants, and maintaining the delusion that this year I’ll catch up.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

When dealing with frost it is always best to be paranoid. In the spring never think it is too late for one more frost to come. And in the fall never think it too early.

~Rundy in Frost

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