I was having a Winter's ponder a moment ago. This particularly long ponder
started coming to me yesterday as I stood in the doorway of the livingroom
with the neat stained glass inner door, and the storm door that has as much
glass as possible to let in ALL of the light on the south and west.
The new kitten, Maggie had shot outside and was bouncing thru the leaves of
the spent perennials and oak, pawlonia and other additional leaves that were
caught in drifts on the mounds of perennials. I knew she'd be alright for
the moment, but I'd have to keep an eye on her, as she doesn't know how to
navigate the cat door yet. Once she figures it out, she'll be good to go.
But my gardener's eye caught glimpses of colors that I sometimes miss when I
get in a hurry. Winter's light I believe is perfect to show off some muted
colors. I love the Irish red/brown of the wild grasses in the pastures I
drive past all the time that glow in an early bright sunrise.
I was seeing the many colors of tan, and the amazing variations of browns.
My memory teased me with images of the spent seedheads and bracts of my Oak
Leaf Hydrangea flowerheads, and as I focused, I saw broccoli heads of a rust
reddish brown that would have made a piece of iron proud. It was the sedum
heads, and with the freezes and warm spells and cold snaps and moisture, the
colors were almost perfect on the Matrona remains.
All of the sedums have little green roses at the base of the stems. I need
to topdress a few pots of some with pea gravel to insure they don't get too
much moisture around the new plantlets. Eventually they'll grow into little
green fists, before they truely make the sedum they make in Springtime.
My eyes snag on the clump of Heavy Metal grass. This grass hasn't been a
thug. Despite it's wild name, which was why I got it, it sits there bulking
up a few inches, but nothing more. Standing fairly straight, with just a
list to the northeast sometimes. But the beautiful light tan of the spent
leaves look good with the dried seedheads about them about a foot. Finches
have perched there and the stems have bowed just enough not to snap but to
give them a ride.
My eye followed the whole bed, now more visible as a BED now than any other
time with exception to February and early early March when I can spot the
clumps of persistant Vinca despite my efforts to rip it out.
The bed is indeed rectangular. It needs raising desperately. It started
out raised. Squire had tilled that bed pretty well when we first moved here
11 years ago with my mantis and killed the mantis. But I had moved not
only all the plants I had brought with me, but the bags of soil's around the
raised beds from the farmhouse I'd lived in for 3 1/2 years. The farmer who
was my landlord was amazed I took my dirt........well, yeah, at $3.50 a bag
when I was kinda poor and the house we'd just bought had ONLY CLAY
soil.........well, yeah, I was taking my dirt! (I had kept the bags the
bait shoppe had originally kept from the Michigan Peat topsoil they used to
grow their nightcrawlers in, in the styrofoam trays, to when they changed
the trays with fresh soil and larger worms to dump the worm castings back
into these same bags.
But I see that landscape timbers I used to shore up the edges of the bed
have finally gone into quick decay. they held on and looked really good for
about nine years, but they have finally wheezed out at eleven. And some of
THOSE are older than that. They were hand me down's from Mary Emma.
But my eyes traveled along the lines of the bed, noticing the inhabitants.
The tall, fuzzy spires that shoot out now at all angles of the Frakartii
aster (or Michelmas aster, if you insist) The finches and tit-mice land on
these and have a blast. This is the odd shaped jut of the bed. it's fairly
rectangular until you get to that little jut.
Originally there had been this incredibly healthy Euonomous of yellow and
green and probably 20 years old. It took weeks to remove the last great
grasping chunks of it. In it's place now, though I struggle with the
persistant vinca. The green of it rises in great crashing humps of it
dotting the whole tan and brown and sienna and rust with the dark, dark
green of the leaves. If this plants weren't such a sonuvabitch, I'd keep
it. But just as sure as I find an endearment for it, it will throw me down
and strangle me when I hit the dirt. I pulled a tendril of one yesterday in
my madness of planting the last of the bulbs and dried rhizomes, and I
pulled until I have three feet of it before it snapped. I have no doubt that
there was about another five feet or ten on the original clump. And this
was some that had thrown their vines thru the fig tree and was intent on
rooting there to anchor down the fig with vinca.........oh no!. so I
pulled the ends and heard that distinct thunk! when it finally snapped. I
shouldn't have been so half-assed about pulling it and done it correctly and
gone around right then and lifted up the whole clump, but I was distracted
by trying to clear the leaves to find spots to plunge little dry rhizomes of
Lord Lieutenant anemone.
My eyes travel all the way to the end where the van is parked, but also at
the edge of those aster stalks, and I can see just barely from the doorway
the tops of the smaller clump of perennials in the little bricks bed.
As I pull back visually, I notice the dried trumpet lily stalks like small
trees, shoving thru the spirea's twisted branches near the den, and odd
shaped branches of the hardy Cumberland River hibiscus, the weak but still
here, Lord Baltimore hibiscus, then I start searching for the signs, and see
the bare straight branches of the loosestrife and golden rod.
On the edges of this bed, are the many pots that dot the edges like drifted
containers of perennials. It's treacherous to get too near the corner of
those asters, because I have that massive concrete planter that has a
wonderful assortment of bulbs, daylilies, daisies and sprigs of dianthus and
phlox. It changes when I lose someone.
There are the little rising garden markers that catch the eye as well. From
my mother in law's front yard stoop, a little teacup on a saucer, and a
sailboat which was because of Lake Michigan right down the street. The
smaller flamingo has been dragged down by vinca, and needs saving.
The edges of the sidewalk are lined in those garden edgers that were four
foot wire mini trellises with a glass insert in the arch that Lowes put on
sale for $1 each the first year I worked there. I got all of them and use
them to hold back the towering trumpet lilies, the asters that get five
foot, and lately, the Blue Enigma salvia on the west side.
Noticing these, I also take closer look from my perch in the doorway to look
at the clumps of daylilies. They are mounds of frost and freeze burn leaves
over the crowns of the next year's flowers and leaves. My mind reminds me
if nothing else, top dress around these clumps with compost, so they will
bloom more in the late spring.
The day was bright blue and just warm enough to entice me outside with just
a short sleeve shirt before ducking back inside to put on a sweatshirt on
top. The garden and day was beckoning me.
I knew I still had those Dutch iris, and now I had several bags of Lord
Lieutenant anemone, three bags of DeCaean anemone, a bag of Viking peony
tulips, and two bags of 20 minature narcissus, of unknown varieties.
The dogs weren't too happy that I was ditching them. But Sugar had rubbed
into something stinky and she was on a grounding. She and Smeag could just
hang with daddy in the livingroom and give him grief (Squire). Besides, I
still had a rambunctious kitten to locate and toss into the house.
As I puttered from one end of the house to the other, getting socks on, and
finding the jeans still needed washing, so I decided to wear the joggers
(big mistake), I was picking up speed. My mind started shifting into
gardening gears. Did I need my pruners? no, this was strictly a planting
thing. Hat? well, it was nice and sunny enough I didn't need a hat or scarf
this time. I intended on getting this done by the bright light as quickly
as I could to see how well I could accomplish this. I figured there were
probably just under 200 rhizomes and bulbs to plant that were left. And a
lot of them would be littles as well as decent sizes.
I popped out the nook door with the bag of anemone, tulips and narcissus to
add to the cat bag of Dutch iris and the trowels lying on the porch swing on
the western end. Grab both the cushion and the bean kneeler pad, take the
dibble out and the large trowel, and put them back in the garden tool bucket
on the potting table. Settled on the red wedge of Mary Emma's since I was
intent on planting in loose soil the whole batch. Well almost the whole
I changed my mind about the Dutch iris bulbs. There were so many that I
decided to get the shovel, dig a trench at the "back" of the western bed
which is really a too narrow strip on the north side of the raised bed
across from the Vitex bed where there are Hellebore, crocus, small woods
asters, the Vitex and possibly some waterlily tulips (we'll see in the
spring if they return).
I made a rectangular ditch next to where the black worm casting soil and the
topdressing of compost and leaves and such had sifted a bit thru the timbers
I'd used to build up the box three high. It was 2 inches of black with
eight inches of red clay and a sliver of gray from probably the ashes of
some fire. I laid the chunks of red over to the north, against the edges of
the pawlonia limb I used to line the Vitex bed on the south side and dug to
a shovel deep. Sat next to the corner on the edge of the timbers and
started grabbing a handful of bulbs out of the cat bag and firming them on
the damp clay. I'd find myself planting iris, iris, iris, iris, tulip??
stop for a moment, then firm it too, then reach into the bag and get another
Tulip....tulip.....iris, iris, iris, iris. This was hilarious. These were
unknown tulips. Oh well, let the mystery be, as Iris DeMent always
said......... I kept taking handful's of bulbs out of the bag until the
bottom of the trench/ditch was covered. I looked over into the bag and saw I
had about 20-23 more to go, not including the anemone, narcissus and that
other bag of Viking tulips.
I got up and decided to steal two cat little bucket's full of compost and
top dress the trench. I discovered just how dry and of a drought we've had
thus far when I found digging compost was like shoveling black sand. I had
two buckets of dry black gold very shortly.
I spread poured the buckets over the bulbs, and checked the depth. The soil
was about seven inches deep. The trench was about a foot wide, and not
quite three feet long. I placed the bucket back at the compost pile, and
returned the shovel and spade underneath the side porch.
Back to the bed (I need to trim that Vitex! but in order to do it properly,
I need to stand at a distance and really LOOK at it before I just go
whacking a major limb) I got back on my knees, and pushed my hands palms
down on the black soil, then turned over the huge clods of red clay. Grabbed
the smaller chunks, chunk spread them, and made sure the whole top of the
little trench was covered by the soil I had removed.
My reasoning was once the weather had done it's thing for a few weeks, I can
go out and literally crumble those clods easily. Clay isn't as bad as people
think if they know how to work it.
Now I had a couple of tens of iris bulbs left and that smaller bag of final
goodies. I decided to plug the Viking tulips in the aster pot where I'd
dragged it to let the long and lanky branches loaded with white and yellow
pom poms be suspended properly. Tufts of tulip leaves would be interesting,
(there is also a youngling Clara Curtis mum that I hope takes in that pot)
but the show will be the double peony blossoms in screaming red. I can't
wait. To see how this does will decide if I plant screaming colors of
tulips in this pot every year. And it will go back to it's place at the
point of the western bed come late winter.
I decide to plant the remaining iris bulbs at the corner of the odd fig
bed's point just beside the Lemon lime spirea where a gasping and dying
clump of Autumn joy sedum demised on me. I shoulda known better. The fig is
a greedy tree and refused to let the sedum get nearly enough sunlight from
the west and south during the summer when it really needed it to bulk up for
early fall display and had started growing the limbs reaching. then the arms
started being prone. And the third year, when I could hear it's death
rattle, the stems weren't strong enough to even push past six inches. I did
it a favor and finished it off.
but now there was actually a little humusy point with nothing in it.
Perfect. Maybe. So I plunged the wedge into the loose soil, and planted iris
bulbs. all up in drifts where I ran into regular iris tongues poking thru.
If they don't bloom for me, I'll lift them and free up more space.
I planted up to the spirea's skirts. Then I went to the south side of the
spirea and started parting the leaves in search for bare soil to put little
minature narcissus bulbs into. I found clumps of next year's asters. And
the remains of the little blue Baptismia that struggles to survive. It's not
in it's favorite spot or it would be huge by now.
I discovered a small clump of Arum leaves growing in the middle of the
crotch of the fig tree, and I knew eventually the fig would win out over the
Arum plant, unless it moved. In searching the soil for bare area's to
plunge safely, I saw white tips of tongues poking out in a cluster. I
looked closer. They were crocus nibs. I slowed down. aimed and plunged the
wedge in a few inches from the noses, and planted some small narcissus bulbs
I moved over and plugged Lord Lieutenant anemone chips into the black, cold
soils. Reach into the bag and pull out DeCaean anemone. brush leaves over
and shove the dried little corms in to my first knuckle. pull dirt over the
tops but being careful not to break any nibs that are just pushing thru.
I slowed down. Placed the leaves back where I had been, then cleared a spot
and put some more narcissus and a few anemone. Then I noticed the bags were
empty. Good deal................... Put all the bags in the nursery pots
that are going to the landfill Tuesday, and see I could steal some of the
composted mulch in the paths that broke down this summer, back into the bed
as the black dirt it's become. So I scoop the black stuff out of the path
and pour it over the area where I'd put the iris bulbs on the corner. If I
cover the other irises too much, it will give me more reason to put them in
a sunnier spot to really flower.
It had taken me an hour. I felt pumped over it, and went and sat on the
edge of the BBQ fountain's garden. There were two bags of anemone sitting
there. Where did they come from?? So I carefully pushed leaves around,
encountered wire that I'd laid in the beds once again because Smeagol had a
digging moment a few weeks back and I almost killed him............... and
carefully tucked about 40 more dried corms into the already crowded soil.
There are hosta rootlets, perennials, other bulbs, daylilies. All manner of
surprises that will change the south side of the BBQ fountain garden again.
And those awesome Japanese iris. Hope I didn't top dress them TOO much!
All this because a fiesty little kitten shot out of the front door into a
bright sunny, blue pre-Winter's Solstice day, and in order to capture her, I
decide to finish planting all the treasures before the moistures returned
later in the week. It was awesome.
I popped into the livingroom, was mugged by the muttlies, tossed the kitten
just over the muttlies, who immediately scrambled to give her hell, and
rushed over to the futon to where Squire was running an island of pirates on
his laptop, and gave him a sound smak................he wondered what'd he'd
done, but I just told him I was happy and had planted stuff and was fulla
leaves and dirt and thought he needed a kiss....<g>
The afternoon went along rather well from there. Little accomplishments. A
great idea I hit upon for dinner became a dash to the store where I lucked
up on some awesome fish. Made a great batch of sticky rice, sauteed a pound
of mushrooms in their own juicy gravy, steamed broccoli, and fried in a
titch of olive oil the Talipa fillets, and made a healthy but light dinner
for all of us. Now if I could only teach the cats how to wash
I had remembered to bring the cards of the bulbs inside. One of each kind.
But I'd forgotten to open the bag of bulb food and sprinkle it on the
magnolia bed's bulbs and the rest over what I'd just planted. The bag was
still waiting for me on the swing. Well, I can do that later before the
rains, I hope. Or ice. Whichever it decides to do.
That's the gist of the Winter ponder. Thanks for allowing me to finish up
this moment. I'm sure since the dam seems to be breaking, I'll have more of
them as they occur.
madgardener up on the chilly ridge, under almost a full moon before Solstice
back in Fairy Holler, overlooking a twinkly English Mountain in Eastern
Tennessee, zone 7, Sunset zone 36