To tell the truth

21 February 2017

I cannot tell a lie – I am not dead. Sorry to swipe our first President’s mythical utterance on the eve of his birthday; can’t help myself. (How many of you are old enough to remember when there was no ‘Presidents’ Day’ but the two separate holidays of Lincoln’s birthday on the 12th and Washington’s on the 22nd ? In kindergarten, we got to make little construction paper tall hats and hatchets/bunches of cherries for those two days respectively).

Actually I had been trying to choose a topic for this entry when the above line came to me during an informal lunch gathering at the office today when a co-worker said, “By the way, I met so-and-so last week and had to tell her that you were not dead. She said she was told by someone who said they knew someone who knew someone who was into gardening and that a certain event had had to be cancelled because you had died.” I said, “Well, that’s a surprise to me!” In the words of Mark Twain, “rumors concerning my demise have been greatly exagerated.” Really! It would be easy to wander off into a variety of related topics (I will make one brief comment, but only at the end of this entry, so you can skip it if you wish) but I’m not going to go there. Still basking in the glow of four hours trimming trees in the garden last Saturday (taking out many branches the size of small trees) and then another six hours yesterday in the rock garden and soon-to-be conifer beds, so I’ll just stick to gardening. It’s best for my blood pressure and overall mental health (and I’m quite sure I’m not alone in that!). I kept having to tell myself – it’s the third week of February, do you believe this? Truth be told (there we go again), a lot of what was getting done should have been done late last summer and during the fall but my non-fantasy-world work schedule prevented that. So here we are – and you as well I presume – with minds running at least two months ahead and most of the plants doing likewise. You can easily tell which ones respond most to temperature and which ones to longer days as the latter are mostly still sleeping. The perennial weeds respond to temperature! Let this be a warning, folks – the winter was simply not cold enough to do any damage to them or to any of the pestiferous insects either, so be prepared to do early battle and pay the consequences for years to come if you lose. There’s an old saying which may or may not be totally accurate but is true enough to stick around – one year’s weed seeds make for the next seven years’ weeds! Oops. The only plus-side to this phenomenon is the moist ground which makes removal relatively easy.

But speaking of dead – there are now innumerable blank spots where there had previously been a selection of daphne starts; I am convinced that wet soil is the culprit. The rock garden area has been the subject of several years’ attempts to lighten the soil and improve drainage; it’s tilth had been deceivingly fine but it still stayed wet during the winter. So many bit the dust (bit the mud is more like it), but there are at least two survivors in addition to three gentians (which bloomed last year – the blue of these flowers is so incredible that they are capable of supplying gardener’s optimism for months)

Gentiana acaulis Hybrid 'Undulatafolia'
Gentiana acaulis Hybrid ‘Undulatafolia’

and two kniphofias which have heretofore been expensive annuals. Great handfuls of chicken grit in addition to fine gravel were used in the amending the holes (and I always dig plenty BIG holes) and it’s now clear to me that it was not too much. These MAY require some supplemental watering during droughty stretches, but darned little and darned seldom. A purposeful removal and reduction in size of some really enthusiastic thymes, etc., will now allow space for the dozens of new goodies that are destined to call this area home. I have only a slightly improved confidence that I’ll be able to keep them alive! But improved it is and since I remain vertical and taking nourishment (a line I owe to the late Dr. Ted Hobbs, one of the founders of Doctors Hospital in Columbus – he was saying that at 85!), then there is hope that all  will prosper this coming year!

(Comment – noted above. Recommended reading” “The Quartet” by Joseph J. Ellis, the story of the writing and adoption of the U.S. Constitution: how it came to be and the four key men responsible, one of whom was Washington. His title ‘Father of His Country’ appears to be deserved.)