April 11th and 12th Garden Diary

by Diann

Two weeks ago I had the brief opportunity to clear old deitrus off the rock garden, oogling the fledgling herbs as they tentatively emerged, one leaf at a time. This weekend, I got further down to business.

The woodruff was taking over. It's a fine little herb, grows well in sun or shade, and extends runners so that it can participate in its own version of "rural sprawl". It blooms in May, and is the flavorful ingredient in May wine. Since I've never gotten around to making any May wine, it was my determination that most of it had now become a "weed", and must be Dealt With. I'd transplanted small bits of it in the past, which had taken reasonably well, and I've also given portions away. At the moment, I couldn't wait to track down a new woodruff recipient, so most of it was mercilessly expunged. Yank, yank, yank -- for being such a low to the ground plant, it is amazingly tenacious. I did get a whole section at once, rolled it up like sod (I guess I can no longer laugh at the concept of sod -- instant lawn you unroll and install), and plugged that hunk into a nearby reasonably vacant patch of woods, where it can now fare on its own, if it dares. I did leave a small patch in a hard-to-garden speck of the rock garden.

Next, the tansy. Tansy is another tenacious plant which seems to propagate largely by runners underground, but it is actually easier to deal with. I was ready to yank, hard. Whitened root systems went flying. There's one good thing about having a garden that abutts the woods -- you can heave and fling randomly, and not have to pick up after yourself. Tansy grows tall, has fine and distinctive leaves, and grows up pretty yellow flowers that are daisy-ish. Thus, I didn't get rid of all of it, just some. It also has the property, upon reaching adulthood, of collapsing at the slightest breezelike provocation. It is also considered an herb, but not a medically reliable one. And it is certainly not culinary.

Rooting around (as it were), I also discovered that the St. John's wort also evidently propagates by runners, which I attempted to re-root after this inadvertant disturbance. (Two weeks ago I evidently did in the poor little scullcap by pulling on it and noticing what it was, just a few seconds too late. I tried to re-plant, but I fear the herb has given up the ghost and is now nursing soil fragments in the sky.)

After noting all the herbs, and clearing out the weeds (some of which are weeds by most anyone's definition), I spread out the shredded cedar mulch, gently nestling it around the emerging oregano, the defiant rosemary (still alive after an El Niño-induced mild winter), the self-seeding feverfew (which even seeds itself in the driveway -- and thrives), the yarrow, the bleeding heart (which will shortly shoot forth in a full frenzy of stalk and little macabre dripping hearts), the garlic, the echinacea, the valerian, the comfrey, and the tags marking the spots of the (still-invisible, and possibly missing) sage and tarragon. The putative bee-balm (or whatever it is) has moved from one side of a rather large rock to another. More runners, I presume. The daylily tops are emerging -- I performed some population explosion control work -- talk about things that flop over in one's garden with no acceptable provocation -- and the irises my housemate gave me a couple years ago are in eager leaf.

Since there's more to this yard than the rock garden, I moved onwards. The area in front of the living room window is scheduled for a major heave-ho come late next fall -- anything I plant here this season will be annuals. (Right under the soil outside the picture window lies an old oil tank. Last year I had a new one installed in my basement. Folks have to come roll over my septic fields and rip up my yard to pull the old clunker out, for environmental reasons. Outdoor oil tanks are going the way of the dodo bird. Good riddance, but I wish this one had already gone.) At the moment, this plot is growing an azalea plant, an oil intake valve, several poppy plants, renegade chocolate mint, and some snapdragons that didn't realize they were supposed to die off during the last winter. I weeded it out, murdered a bunch of helpless mint plants (Helpless??? Mint???), and mulched with pine mini-nuggets (which almost sounds like a breakfast cereal).

A few pansies went in by the front walkway, and the hyacinths emerged. Crocuses have come and mostly gone in the lawn. Forsythia blooms wildly, but I suspect they have already reached their peak. I have a few bits of raggle-taggle forsythia I inherited with this place -- the stuff alongside the driveway which I can trim never looks too great, but the batch of it that I cannot get close enough to do any effective trimming looks best. Moral: don't bother trimming your forsythia unless, of course, it is in the way of something else you want to use space for. The daffodils look quite well -- I planted some unusual variety bulbs last fall.

I cleared the mass of leaves off the mass of lilies-of-the-valley growing off the back porch. At first, they looked like a vegetarian's nightmare, all sorts of whitish green stalks in insane profusion, reaching out and through the leaves in an effort to strangulate the skies. The pachysandra has encroached further, requiring efforts to keep them from appropriating the backyard flagstones as their own. (This pachysandra had been growing wild in the woods, dumped there no doubt by some frustrated ancient gardener. We merely brought a few sprigs of it back -- it does serve its function as erosion control on the hillside behind the house. Very well. Perhaps, dare I say, too well?)

I tossed topsoil into the crevices left by the local mole population -- My cat found a particularly large specimen last week, and ridded the world of one more mole. But there's a lot more where that one came from, and the only thing the feline accomplished by going outside this weekend was to regurgitate the grass she decided to eat instead. Indoors. Thanks.

At this point it occurred to me to do something about the untidiness by the road. You know, where people drive by and see how one upkeeps one's yard? I hate that area -- there is endemic poison ivy down there, crawling up the stone wall, playing stealth vine under the soil. Well, I raked a goodly part of it of the leaves we'd tossed down there on our New Years Eve yard raking spree (another gift of El Niño). The hollies are growing well, the pussy willow plant my parents gave me last fall took in part, and the hideous barberries are rejuvenating nicely from the barbering of previous years, thank you. Alas.

I still have more garden-prep to do: more weeding (down by the road), more raking, more slinging of topsoil, more mulching, grass-seed to spread, seeds to start indoors (some are already under way: I'm going to attempt growing cucumbers, sunflowers, borage, okra, basil, echinacea, parsnips, and nasturiums from seeds -- not all of which start indoors).

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