We pay homage to The Propagator, who has created this space for the sharing of
all six things garden each Saturday. Though I have merely dipped my toes and frequently pose “late” due to time zone differences, I have found that the practice of sixing provides an opportunity for reflection on one’s gardening practice, for noticing what is taking place in the garden (especially in the winter, when we tend to avoid the damp and chill and regard our gardens as being about as dynamic as Sleeping Beauty), and to exchange knowledge, curiosity, and wonderment with others who find joy in their gardens. So here it goes:
- Bare root fruit. ‘Tis the season for bare root fruit plants, and for once I managed – sheer luck – to buy early rather than late. I typically remember that I meant to buy bare root plants around the beginning of March, when the once ample stock has dwindled to a few unpromising, desiccated sticks passed over by more planful shoppers. And so I applied by uninformed standards to a wide selection, giving preference to stems with an (imagined?) blush of vitality, avoiding peeling bark, carefully evaluating root size. Beginning with the raspberries, like Noah, I selected two of each kind. Heritage, Canby, Jewel, Amity. Then, a spirit of moderation belatedly kicking in, I secured only 2 (two!) of my favorite Marion Blackberry. One Captivator gooseberry (I already have another planted), 2 York blue elderberries, 3 yellow Muscat grapes. Having reviewed literature and instructional videos proffered by university extension services and sundry gardening gurus, I took the plunge and planted all but the 2 elderberries on Sunday. I can’t pretend that the available instructions were followed faithfully. For one thing, the space available for my home orchard/vineyard/U-pick berry farm is far too limited to permit the recommended allowance of 8 ft. between rows. So 8 ft. became approximately 4 ft. Rather than full sun, part shade, with the possibility of thinning overhead branches to allow for more light. I admit that the result is far from the tidy sort of early American potager that I may once have aspired to. But planted they are and I do feel a probably unjustifiable pride and optimism with this step toward the realization of my vision for the garden.
- Riparian restoration. This is likely the first of a long series of photographs of the restoration efforts being undertaken on the banks of Gilbert Creek, which bisects our lot. So far, I have begun clearing dead bamboo, thinning overly thick clumps. Our neighbor, who specializes in habitat restoration, has planted close to 50 native plants on the banks. Closest to the water are Juncus and Carex, willow stakes and red twig dogwood. I was concerned that the rising water would sweep the newly planted specimens downstream, but thanks to my neighbor’s careful placement and (hopefully) the plants’ growing root systems, this has apparently been averted, to my great relief. Further back, blue elderberry, snowberry, and mock orange have been plated. There are about 5-10 more plants (mahonia, vine maple, red flowering currant) awaiting placement at the top of the bank overlooking the creek. My neighbor will be planting another 50 plants (among them, Douglas spirea, Pacific dogwood, sword and deer ferns) in the next 2 weeks or so. So far, the change is not dramatic. The plants are largely dormant and blend in with the dominant background of bamboo. However, every glimpse of our new additions fills me with delight. While I do not plan to eliminate the bamboo altogether, I hope to thin it dramatically, allowing the understory of native shrubs to come into its own. I hope that the Juncus, Carex, willow, and dogwoods will develop strong root systems that will help prevent erosion. I imagine a time when we will see more wildlife returning to this stretch of the stream to take advantage of food sources afforded by the natives we are planting.
- Changes in garden layout. The mad rush to fill the perennial beds is definitely at an end, and I am beginning to feel a bit pressed for space. I have identified more and more plants that must or might be moved. I have puzzled long over the placement of the raised beds, which has not satisfied me from the beginning for a number of reasons. To wit, the upper beds are under the shade of the large maples on the bank of the creek, they were placed on uneven ground and look cockeyed, and I generally don’t like the visual effect of the two tiers of raised beds. The problem was, then, how to move/eliminate the upper beds without sacrificing too much room for growing vegetables. In a moment of inspiration, it occurred to me that by changing the layout of the paths around the herb garden and lower raised beds, I might be able to secure enough space to move the upper beds down next to the lower ones. As these are constructed of blocks and boards, they can easily be disassembled and reassembled in different configurations.
- Ground covers. I love ground covers. I collect new ones whenever I encounter them and have plans of propagating them to provide elegant cover for all the margins of the perennial beds. Creeping Jenny, Ajuga (several varieties), Hens and Chicks (several varieties), stonecrops (several varieties), mondo grass, sea thrift, potentilla, New Zealand brass buttons, creeping thyme.
- Road verge. As previously discussed, J and I participated in a city tree planting program earlier this fall. Our house felt particularly exposed to the street when we moved in. The fence went some way to addressing this problem, but further measures were clearly required. I did not want large trees that might shade out our front garden, a consideration that, along with the narrowness of the verge, left us with 2 choices of trees: dogwood (out of stock) and Koelreuteria paniculata (Golden Rain Tree). For a fee of $50, the trees were purchased and planted by the urban forester and his crew. Meanwhile, I had weeded the verge and added loose soil left over from other projects around the garden. I sowed a number of wildflower seeds in fall. Now a mixture of (to me) unidentifiable sprouts has emerged. My hope is that at least some of them might be the wildflowers I scattered, though I am not deceiving myself. As I have no idea what the seedlings of these plants look like, I am assuming that the best plan is to wait until they grow a bit and declare their true identities. Under a thin veneer of newly added the soil, the verge is covered in compacted gravel. Any recommendations for drought tolerant verge plantings on very poor/compacted soil are welcome.
- Rhipsalis. These bizarre, Medusa-headed tropical cactus are among my favorite houseplants. I have a couple of varieties – rhipsalis cereuscala and hatiora salicornioides. Rhipsalis are epiphytic and look lovely in hanging pots. Their blooms are tiny and perfectly formed. They are pretty forgiving (particularly the cereuscala) and seem to grow well in a variety of light and moisture conditions. I find that a weekly watering – only after testing to make sure the soil is dry – is generally adequate. If stressed, they will begin dropping sections of their long, cylindrical leaves. They are also incredibly easy to propagate by cutting and many leaves grow adventitious roots.