The Grand Tour

– Posted in: Design, Garden chores, What's up/blooming

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.

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.

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

The Nature Nut May 3, 2005, 10:08 am

Came across your site as part of my “Next Blog” rounds – a new morning routine I’ve recently adopted (since finding Blogger) last week.

I like the description “Grand Tour” … I have a silly routine of doing rounds in my garden every single day (except winter), and sometimes even twice a day this time of year.

As soon as I’m dressed, I grab my coffee in the morning, and head out. I too (like another commenter) have a set route, so I can see every one of my plants.

Sometimes, I think my hubby and neighbours think I’m crazy (especially since it’s usually 6:15AM during the week), when I’m out there rain or shine.

But I just can’t resist seeing every single new leaf unfolding, every shoot reaching up out of the ground …. an obsession you can probably understand.

Nice to know there are more of me out there … smile. Also thanks for the ‘techie’ note on RSS feeds … gotta figure that out, also Blog Rolls ????


Kathy Purdy April 27, 2005, 9:59 am

Those dogs are chihuahuas?

I don’t find it snobbish to know and use the botanical names of plants. To me what’s snobbish is asserting that there is only one proper way to garden, whether you’re talking about formal vs. informal, rock garden vs. pile of rocks, or Italian terra cotta vs. concrete.

Gardening has to fit your life, whether you’re rich or poor, healthy or not so fit, filling your days with gardening or squeezing it in between numerous commitments. And I would put myself as belonging to the second of each of those pairs.

Jenn April 26, 2005, 6:56 pm

“So not the gardening snobs I have been finding at other sites.”

Heee! I can be. When I’m not out on the front porch with a beer in my hand, yelling at my monstrous pair of Chihuahuas: “DO YER POOP!”


I can be quite starched and proper, other times, point at a plant and give you its botanical name and growing conditions… quite the snob, if that’s what you prefer.

We are a pretty human bunch, ’round these parts. Weeds and pets, plants and garden pests, it’s all in a day’s post.

Sandi April 26, 2005, 7:29 am

I have been enjoying the comments I have read here. So not the gardening snobs I have been finding at other sites. I never thought there were others out there doing a ‘grand tour’ like me. I don’t bring a clip board but make mental notes of weeding and moving of plants. Which I usually forget once I get back inside. I love summer when I can get up early and walk barefoot around my beds and note (with some satisfaction) the different plants that are blooming, the areas that look really good. These early moring walks do not see the weeds, they are meant to restore my soul, to prepare me for the day. The weeds will be there later, but early mornings are for daydreams and joy of living.

Kathy Purdy April 24, 2005, 3:51 pm

The clipboard is definitely optional. I only carry it when I plan on writing about my observations when I’m done. Most of the time it’s a cup of tea that accompanies me, as well as a child or two.

Judi Singleton April 24, 2005, 2:49 pm

I have about half of one side weeded. I just made a grand tour and if I just didn’t tackle a small portion of my garden of weedin each day I would be overwhelmed. I am impressed for those who have a clipboard in hand. I just weed a bit everyday. Judi Singleton

Kathy Purdy April 20, 2005, 12:50 pm

Don, you don’t fool me one bit. I know you put your time in weeding–I can tell by the photos you put up on your site.

Bill, some plants are the better for being mowed. Be brave and do it.

ggg, I guess I should count my blessings. I’ve read articles where they claim it is easier to maintain a garden than a lawn, but that’s only if you’re the type who thinks a lawn needs to be weeded, fertilized and watered–which neither we nor (thank goodness!) our neighbors find necessary. And the fact is, a horticultural ignoramus can mow a lawn, but you wouldn’t want him or her weeding the beds and borders. So the choices are pull the weeds, ignore the weeds, or sow it back to lawn. I remind myself it’s a labor of love and not mandatory. Excellence is optional as well, but always desired.

Don April 19, 2005, 10:51 pm

I usually have a can of Bud Lite in my hand on MY grand tour, so no clipboard, no job list. That’s the nice thing about gardening in the woods; you can just pretend like the weeds are part of the natural flora.

girl gone gardening April 19, 2005, 10:28 pm

lack of weeds is the only good thing about having such a small piece of land to work with. when I see a weed it is gone and it doesnt ever get to be a huge chore unlike my old garden where it seemed like the ONLY thing I got to do was to fight weeds and still lost the battle every year.

bill April 19, 2005, 8:26 am

I have kept up pretty well with the weeding in front but out back it is a different story. Not only have weeds invaded the beds big-time but a lot of my plants have jumped out of the beds into the lawn. I don’t feel right just mowing them down so I have left big swathes of grass unmowed which is now 12 inches tall and getting taller. So it is really a mess.