Monday, August 10, 2009

Hurry up and wait

I've said it before and I'll say it again: gardening is an exercise in patience. Much needed patience, to be sure, because around here it often feels like there is nothing but time--endless time--stretching out before me and any tangible "goal" is hopelessly distant. Time is an enemy to be vanquished.

The, um, misguided former owners of this property filled most of the garden beds with red volcanic rocks rather than plants, you know, those living things most sensibly found in a garden. I have spent years removing these rocks, which have burrowed 2-3" into the soil thanks to about 20 years of residence time. The efforts are just now beginning to pay off. Often it has felt like I've been spending time in a labor camp.

Here you see a convalescing bed on the north side of our yard. It gets decent sun for being on the north side. Now the rocks are gone and topsoil, compost, and not enough mulch have taken their place. A purple daylily and alchemilla seedlings so small you can't even see them are here, thanks to the very generous Mr. McGregor's Daughter who let me raid her garden recently. They will be joined by soon-to-arrive spring bulbs and other perennials.

Along the back fence I've replaced the rocks with wild ginger (Asarum canadense, not pictured) and woodland phlox (P. divaricata), also thanks to MMG. I moved an unknown hosta cultivar here from a forgotten spot that received absolutely no sun. My native alumroots (Heuchera richardsonii) and pink coral bells (Heuchera don't-know-the-species) are also here. Unfortunately, the electric, gas, and cable lines for the entire neighborhood run directly along this fence (hence that red spray paint), so my digging and planting options remain limited. In response I'm focusing on groundcovers and tough foliage plants.

Now that the plants are in I must wait for the groundcovers to spread, the transplants to acclimate, and the bulbs to simply arrive. The perennials will mostly abide by the three-year choreographed dance of "sleep, creep, leap." Time is a challenge to be overcome.

So at times like this, when I'm happy but impatient with progress, I must remind myself how precious time really is in the garden. I have to look around now, not keep focusing on the future, to appreciate the current beauty here, however small or fleeting it may be. Time is a friend to be embraced.

(A bumblebee enjoying Joe-Pye weed in full bloom only happens a few weeks of the year.)

(Catching a dragonfly, even a blurry one, is a rare, momentary garden treat.)

I must also remember that time moves so quickly that soon it will be past me. Just 6 months ago my rain garden was a barren, muddy patch of ground near my daylilies. Now it's flush with sedges (Carex spp.), obedient plants (Physostegia virginiana), and other healthy natives just waiting for their turn to leap.

(Rain garden before...)

(Rain garden after)

It's just an exercise in patience.

For more thoughts on time in the garden, check out the Garden Bloggers Design Workshop at Gardening Gone Wild.


Gail said...

It really is a lesson in patience! Sometimes we wait and wait and wait! But it is almost always worth it~~I love the rain garden, sedges are wonderful plants. Before you know it you'll be dividing all those plants and doubling and tripling the gardens. gail

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Might I suggest annuals as a means of biding the time for those baby plants to take hold and get going? There's nothing like a big, nursery grown annual something for instant gratification. Go ahead, buy a Mum (even though I dislike them) and some Pansies to stuff in a pot and place in the border.
I just love your Joe Pye Weed. It's a grand plant.

Rose said...

I've learned through gardening I'm not as patient a person as I thought I was:) I keep adding more and more plants to an area, forgetting how big they will eventually be; as a result, my first flowerbed is overflowing and needs some serious renovation. MMD's suggestion about planting annuals is a good one; that's what I usually do until I decide what perennials I'd like and until the budget can afford them.

I can so commiserate with you about removing all those rocks, Rose. We moved to my husband's family's home 5 years ago, and my father-in-law had filled in so many areas with rock to keep the weeds at bay. In order to plant my first flowerbed I had to remove all the decorative rock, only to discover about 6 inches of pea gravel beneath! I felt like an archeaologist at times sifting through so much dirt and gravel:)

rambleonrose said...

Gail--Thank you! I have been pleasantly surprised at how well the Carex stipata and Carex stricta have done in the rain garden. They will need dividing sooner than expected! The Carex pensylvanica is another matter, but I think that was a planting mistake on my part. We'll see if they bounce back next year, and if not, they're getting moved.

MMG--Annuals would definitely be the way to go; unfortunately I finished removing the rocks about 48 hours before I got the plants from you! Now that the beds are finally cleared and amended (as best as they can at this point), I may splurge on some fall annuals or just call it a day and wait until next spring for the perennials to start. I'm just so glad to have those rocks out!

Rose--I always underestimate sizes of plants too! My foresight is pretty bad, but it gives me an excuse to keep making the garden bigger because, whoops, I crammed too many plants in too small of a space!

And we can be fellow archaeologists! The lava rocks are still very much a part of the soil here, and I know I'll be digging them out and cursing them for years to come as I finally get plants in those beds!

Sue said...

I need to do a better job of embracing the moment. It seems like just the other day, I was feeling impatient for spring to get here, and now, I'm wondering where it went.

I am so excited to have some more dirt to garden in, as the city is replacing our curbs, and since they had to dig in our yard, my husband "let" me have a larger area tilled. I am having trouble waiting for the curb to go in so I can plant. I have this need to fill it up, and like you, will have to wait for the plants to grow.

Last year I found some seed heads from places in my yard to scatter in places I hoped they would grow, but didn't remember what I put where. If I remember, I'd like to take some from other gardens around town. I hope yours continue to grow well.

Sue said...

I forgot to say I think it's cool you have a rain garden. I should look into that for my area by the curb if it's not too late. I don't know if one would work there, but the lot slopes that way.

I like what you said about enjoying native plants, but not exclusively.

Nan Ondra said...

Thanks for joining us at the GGW Design Workshop this month, Rose! It looks like your new border is off to a great start, and your rain garden is well on its way to filling in. I must ask: whatever did you do with all the rock that you carted out of there?

rambleonrose said...

Sue--I definitely recommend trying to put a rain garden near your curb! So much rain water is lost to storm drains along the street; if you can capture some you would be doing a great service!

Nan--I solved one problem by creating another. I dumped all the rocks along the side of my garage where there's no sun (northern exposure, lots of mature trees) so nothing is growing. You can't see it from the street or even when you walk up to the house, so the eyesore isn't exposed to the world. But I'm still looking for somewhere to dispose of them permanently. Besides, I want ferns in that super-shady area one day, not mountains of lava rocks!

Cindy, My Corner of Katy said...

Rose, I think the gardens are coming along splendidly! I wish I lived close enough to share some of my extra plants with you. I have a few things down here in Texas that would make it through a Chicago winter, I think!

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