Thursday, August 13, 2015

Into the Dirt (Part 1)

Bare ground, a rarity in garden
The last few days since returning from Pennsylvania, I have been digging out plants and composting them. A plant here, a plant there, to whole planting areas. barberries, rudbeckia nitidia, beebalms, brown-eyed Susans; I like to think of it as editing. Too much is too much.

I have often heard the maxim, "Learn what grows good for you and grow a lot of it." When a gardener first begins this is not bad advice. At a certain point, though, you are no longer a beginning gardener, but something more. It is this something more that drives me at this point in my gardening journey.

I will confess I am a plant collector. The very nature of this statement makes garden design difficult. Finding "the repeat" with different plants or a unifying line to draw the eye can be a challenge.

Yesterday, I spent more than a couple hours digging out native Solomon seals and lily of the valley from a 2' by 6' area. The lily of the valley had even grown under the cement foundation of my porch and under a small cement slab 2' by 2' by 11/2" thick which had been placed at the foundation of my porch from rain water run-off from my sharply-inclined gable. The lily of the valley not only ran under the slab, but across the top forming a thick mat.

This was an area which when I first moved here I had no good, quick ideas as to a foundation planting scheme. I'd plunk plants in which I did not want to lose or accidentally remove. I had underplanted an Annabelle hydrangea with the lily of the valley, because the cottage feel of the "Pink Princess House" demanded it, just as it seemed to call for the row of hydrangea on the east side punctuated with the bridal wreath spirea. Even when I realized I would never grow lawn under the majestic white pine and converted the space to a hosta bed, copied by some in the village (in full sun); I never pulled the plug on my "plunking zone".

It developed itself.

I realized when looking for a "before" picture, I shoot past, or around this area.
A self-seeded pinkish wild looking columbine, hosta 'Fair Maiden', Solomon seals, bergenia, bloodroot; all called this spot home. The ants who also garden here love the bloodroot. They have taken to planting it in the most unlike crevices, in full sun, in places far distant from my original clump.
The removal process also includes the other side of the porch.

A western upright juniper was moved to the corner from the center of the bed.

Climbing rose 'John Cabot' has done poorly this and last year, even though I sprayed for the first instar of sawfly both years and have fertilized heavily, and watered more often. While digging out campanula 'Cherry Bells', Solomon seals, way to much escaped lawn grass (read quack grass), and sweet woodruff; I found rodent tunnels, probably voles right at the main root. Gnawing on the rose, perhaps? Yes, poison bait applied. I think this falls in the "best laid plans of mice and men" catergory.
I realized when I finally got wrist-deep into the digging up that there were very few keepers here. The rose, the begenia, the hosta, bloodroot; but they use very little of the actual space. After a small foray into other areas to collect the widely distributed bloodroot, I realized I have more than enough to plant the space to the right. In some places bloodroot will go dormant when dry conditions and hot weather prevail. In this location it goes dormant maybe once in 6 or 7 years (this year being one). Moving the bergenia to full morning sun also makes sense in terms of increasing its bloom. It also is a good evergreen foliage for me. Moving these few keepers opens up a big, blank canvass for me.

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