You probably have a Grand Tour of your own, even if you don’t think of it in terms of “grand.” It usually starts with drinking something hot in a mug and looking out the window. Somehow you find yourself outdoors, checking things out, and you’re “only going to be a minute.” Your feet know the way; by now you’ve figured out the best route to take to see everything that could possibly shows signs of horticultural life. I took my first Grand Tour of the season about two weeks ago, with a clipboard instead of a mug in hand, fully intending to share the results with you. After writing “needs weeding” at every bed and border, I decided it was getting too repetitious.
And discouraging. If I ever had a year where I weeded every bed at least once, it is so far back now in time that I don’t remember, and I’m sure I didn’t make note of it, because at the time it would have seemed unremarkable, as in, of course everyone weeds their beds at least once in a garden season, that’s the bare minimum. I have been out taking small stabs at reclaiming the garden beds, trying not to overdo as the problem with my thumb-to-wrist tendon is much better but not completely healed. But I have also been rethinking my garden layout.
I have to assume that this inability to keep on top of things in the garden is only going to continue, so I’ve been looking at each bed, analyzing what, exactly, makes each bed hard to maintain. I know I’ve said this before, but I can see that if I made the time to mulch it would help cut down on the weeding. I now try to mulch every bed immediately after weeding it. In some beds, I mulch in sections as I weed in sections. There is one bed that I built around an existing single white lilac in the front yard. The lilac seemed to have been plunked down there without rhyme or reason and looked fairly old when we moved in. I decided I wanted more privacy in the front and started adding shrubs. The purple-leaved smokebush was planted there and also a golden-leaved viburnum that has since died. There was plenty of room for other plants and I put them in. One year White Flower Farm had a real good sale on Oriental lilies. I had originally planned on putting them in various spots in the garden, but I wound up planting all two dozen of them in this bed because I was being laid up with gall bladder attacks and it was the only place already prepared. The lilies were already in growth and had to go in the ground ASAP. That was in 1997.
Ever since then, I have hesitated to give this bed an early weeding for fear of damaging the emerging lily sprouts. That gives the weeds an edge. I had also underestimated the incessant suckering of the lilac. It wants to take over all cultivated ground. Well, I gave this bed a cold, hard look on my inaugural Grand Tour. I noticed the periwinkle (Vinca minor) that I had planted in the heart of the lilac and had despaired of it every covering ground, was now doing just that. I decided I was done fighting here. I was going to make this a shrub border, with periwinkle as the ground cover and a nice selection of spring bulbs. What perennials were still left were going to be relocated, and from now on the only thing I am going to fight is grass. And when I uproot grass, I am going to plant periwinkle. Now, about replacing that viburnum . . . The available space is on the north side of the lilac, so it gets part shade. And the lilac and the smokebush suck up most of the available moisture, so the prospective shrub must either like it dry or be equally greedy. Any suggestions? I don’t have a candidate in mind at present, but that’s okay, because I’ve still got plants to rescue.