Thursday, September 25, 2014

Garden Detente - Simplify

"All the great things are simple...  " ~Winston Churchill.
The garden simplifies. Ever notice how certain plants, shrubs or trees do well in your garden while others do not? As one species withers, is pruned back by animals, or fries in the sun others fill in to take its place. Our friendships can be like that, our careers, our interests. We often try to force the issue in the garden as in our daily lives. In an effort to keep that water loving ligularia from wilting under the long branching arms of your flowering crab you water and water until for a few days something keeps you from getting to it and inevitably it dies. But in its place you find the epimedium has filled in and is thriving.  It's sad but its a relief not to have to force nature.
Gardens have a way of taking care of themselves
that way. This is not to say our gardens and lives wouldn't benefit from some pruning and weeding now and again. Gardens are tamed or else they're fields or forests. We've taken away natural predators and introduced non-native species just as we've done in our communities and homes when we form friendships that are not based on honesty or when we look the other way when we see something that should be stopped. There doesn't seem to be anything to stop us from doing exactly what we please these days.  Many plants and shrubs thrive and grow stronger with pruning.

Green is beautiful! There are so many shades and textures of green.  A pop of color amidst all that green really stands out. It's also nice when we can coordinate some colors or get a nice contrast going but when you look out at the garden and have every color in the rainbow and all their hues going at once it's like that kid in school who wore striped shirts with plaid pants or the old guy in the office who wears those wide, bold ties on even louder shirts, too much! The garden is supposed to be a peaceful place, not like a friend who just can't stop talking. I've been guilty of this, the overly colorful garden, not the too much talking, I mean.  Ok, maybe both! In a polite garden as in polite conversation one plant talks or blooms and then is quiet while another plants gets it's chance. In a larger garden two, maybe three conversations can be going on at once but above that it becomes a complete din and no one can hear even their own thoughts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Garden Detente - Divide and Conquer

Julius Caesar is credited with having said, "Divide and Conquer" in reference to Rome's approach to breaking up larger armies into smaller units and defeating them individually rather than taking them on in total and risking defeat against an army of equal strength. I guess that doesn't apply here at all but it sounds good because it is dividing time! We've passed the worst of summer heat and in many parts of the country there is enough rain now to reinvigorate the garden for a couple months. Many perennials have overstepped their bounds and creeped, crawled, pushed and shoved their ways into areas we don't want them. They've invaded other territories, another war analogy. They've gotten too big for their britches and our borders. In midsummer we risk losing newly transplanted dividings to the heat but the nights are getting cooler and the plants are coming back to life!

Sure it's true that we may want to divide plants before they get out of hand, as well. It's a great way to repeat color in our landscape. It's also smart to fill in dead spots with something you know grows well in your garden. Some people I know just don't learn. They keep replacing that plant that died with the same thing in the same place. Sometimes we just can't have that plant there no matter how much we'd love it. Maybe it can't tolerate those conditions or the foot traffic or your pets or other pesky animals that are definitely not pets. Why not divide a plant whose habits and needs you know very well.

Plants that spread readily by sending out new roots are the best candidates for dividing. There are many ways to divide plants and many plants whose root structure lends itself to dividing much more than others. Dividing a plant means that you will be doing a combination of cutting into roots and separating or untangling the roots. This can be done while the plant remains in the soil or once the entire plant is removed from the soil. Each method has it's advantages. Cutting through the roots with a spade can be done while the plant is still in the ground. The rest of the plant remains undisturbed. Digging the entire plant out of the ground is done when you don't want to cause undue damage to the roots and you want to be more precise with the separating of crowns and roots. This is often done with hostas because once you can get a good look at the roots it is usually clear where you'll want to cut. Cutting can be done with a kitchen knife for precision. I like to use a serrated knife.
 I keep one handy on my potting bench.

There are plants that do not multiply but instead come back strong every year. They may have a main tap root that goes deep into the soil cannot be divided but often leaf or root cuttings can be taken to multiply these gems in your garden. These are often the plants that multiply by seed as well. Leave the soil around them loose and clear of too much mulch that would prevent the seeds from contact with the soil they need. But that's a whole different kind of math than what were concerned with here.

Once you've divided your plants get them in the ground right away or at least keep them moist. Don't wait too long to get them in the garden. Give them the best chance to establish new roots before the first frost hits.

I can't wait to get right at this but tonight I'll have to be satisfied with listing the plants that need dividing and listening to the owls in the woods. Huhuhuhuh hoo hoo hoo

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Find Peace in the Garden

Escape, find peace.

Had a bad day? a bad week? Got bad news? Did someone let you down? Did you do something stupid? Feeling disappointed? Find peace in the garden. Weed meticulously or weed like mad! Take on a major task you've put off or barely do a thing when your eyes are too blurred with tears to see.

It's quiet even when it's noisy outside. The earth and foliage absorb sound. They absorb your thoughts, as well.

You see miraculous things in the garden. Butterflies float as if suspended on wires. Spiders spin webs more intricate than the finest French lace, have it torn to shreds and rework it before your eyes. Hummingbirds defy gravity. It can rain when the sun is shining bright, resulting in an array of colors promising new tomorrows. And if that isn't enough the garden can renew your soul.

Yes, the garden is filled to the brim with grace. You know it is. You've seen it renew itself after damage, natural or man made. It can heal YOU, too. Time spent in the garden is a soothing balm. It's Jesus Christ himself, cleaning your wounds, hand on your shoulder, telling you it will be all right. When he was here, physically, he spent time in a garden.

So, sit in the garden. Take what you need of its inexhaustible peace, its unfathomable beauty,  intoxicating aromas. Watch its intricate workings, become a part of the cyclical ebb and flow, become one with God's creation. Feel your problems melt away like the spring thaw. Be at peace in the garden.