When it was decided last February that we would make the move, I have to admit that the garden out front was a huge selling feature. At least for it was for me… Sloop John B on the other hand has spent the summer asking me to repeat the definition of an annual vs. a perennial and repeatedly reminding me to let him know when my “gladiolas” bloom [but this is because he likes to say gladiolas- not because they are a particular favourite of his], so I think it is safe to say that the garden was all my excitement. Bear in mind this was in the dead of winter and snow was piled high. Still, I told the landlord dutifully in my application cover letter that I would “look after the perennials as if they were my own.” So you can see I had high expectations.
And you can imagine my disappointment that now, in late August, I am forced to admit that my little garden is an overgrown, dried out jungle of non-flowering plants. ‘Tis true that gardens tend to reach the point of looking like “late summer” but we are talking about a particular case of August garden. I’ve isolated the problem to be rooted (pun INTENDED) in two things: A) A lack of commitment and hard work and B) Poor soil.
I would gather the garden is as old as the house (so about 120 years give or take a few). My favourite story shared with us when we were touring the place last February was that of the little Old Italian lady who owned the house from the 1960’s or 1970’s until mid 2000’s. Apparently she fenced the entire front plot off with chicken wire, and hung plastic bags from all of the posts in an effort to scare the birds away. Also in the process she ticked a lot of the neighbours off given the fact that the combo didn’t do much for curb side appeal. The story made me picture her working out there tirelessly, tending to the tomato plants. I was determined to return the land to its full glory... minus the bags!
Alas… the best laid plans of mice and men… I’ve justified my lack of attention and effort to the creed “the first year in the garden is to discover where things come up and to document what perennials are hiding.” And this can be justified as it is definitely a handed down garden; along with some beauty tall ornamental grasses I also have discovered: Sedum, Lilies, Peonies, Brown-Eyed Susan’s, Lavender and more unidentified trailing plants, probably more suited for a rock garden. In addition to all of these lovelies, the soil is laced with tulip and daffodil bulbs. Sound divine? I admit giving up about mid-July when I couldn’t seem to keep things either wet enough, or dry enough. I have never known such an oxymoron in life! I would water and it seemed to stay stuck in the dense soil, but when I tried to turn the land it appeared completely dried out. All the annuals I planted stayed in their original size (except for the morning glories which I will get to later) and stopped flowering after their original blooms were pinched off.
I accredit this problem to the fact that some previously well-meaning tenant laid down a weed mat in the area of about 3-4 years ago. The resulting effect has been terrible on the top soil. Every time it has rained I’m left with poor drainage, and soil which is full of clay and rocks.
But, I won’t let this summer discourage me! I’m using it as motivation for my “to do” list this fall. I see a future of dividing perennials, pulling out bulbs and hauling a lot of earth! .... And then I will sit back and dream about it this winter: when the winds and snow are blowing I will be envisioning my own tomato plants... fruitful and plenty....
- Dedicated to those that have gardened before us.