Sunday, September 9, 2012


From Fran Waksler who gardens in Cambridge MA
This spring’s azaleas promised a wonderful gardening year
As did the hibiscus

The spring of 2012 started out very well in my garden and I was looking forward to a beautiful and lush year. For a variety of reasons, however, the summer turned my garden into a big disappointment. As the weather and other issues interfered, the garden suffered. At first I was disappointed and unhappy, but I finally decided that it was more productive to focus on what I could do now to make next year a great gardening year.

With this year’s warm spring, I got an early start on yard work. I was optimistic that this year I would be able to keep up and have the best garden ever. Alas, it was not to be. May and June were taken up with finishing a book I edited with a friend of mine—a fully enjoyable project, but the amount of intense work involved limited my time in the garden. And then, in June, I had cataract surgery, after which I was not supposed to bend over or lift anything heavy for two weeks, so all I could manage was the little light pruning that could be done standing up. When I finally had more free time to devote to gardening, the weather scuttled my plans, with alternations of heat in the 90s and days of torrential rain, both of which kept me inside.

The odd weather was responsible for a number of disappointments. The lilacs, which reliably bloom around Mothers’ Day, had a very short season and were gone by the holiday. Clematis came and went with equal dispatch, as did the roses. The red roses, fortunately, rallied and gave a second show (despite the fact that their trellis fell down and had to be nailed back to the house, a task that involved many painful scratches from thorns). The June white roses were also short lived, but for some reason just last week decided that they owed me a second blooming, offering me both encouragement and pleasure. Strawberries and raspberries, however, produced almost no berries. The purple Concord and green grapes look good but don’t yet seem to have gotten the kind of weather that will make them sweet.

I finally identified the hateful vine that has been invading my yard for the past few years—swallow wart—and I have been on a mission to exterminate it. Apparently I am not the only one, for in my city and adjoining ones there are actually “vigilante” groups bent on its destruction. People walk through neighborhoods, talk to neighbors, and collect what pods they can that are in public places. Interestingly, we are told not to compost the pods and not to put them in the trash. The only suggestion is to burn them, but to the best of my knowledge burning them outside is illegal. I’m not sure what one is supposed to do with them—all I have come up with is putting them in plastic bags in the trash and feeling guilty.

So, in preparation for the wonderful garden I will have next year, I have started madly weeding, pruning, taking stock, and making plans. I’m cleaning up the strawberry and raspberry beds. I’m encouraging a shaded area with sparse grass and a moderate amount of moss by pulling up the straggly grass and transplanting moss that is growing is less desirable locations such as the strawberry bed. I’ll let the grass and moss decide on the dividing line between them and support their decision. It’s been a wonderful year for ferns, with the consequence that they are overspreading a north side path so I am cutting back where I can. When they die back, I’ll go to work with my edger, define their limits, and dig up those that have spilled beyond their boundaries. There is a certain perversity in the fact that plants that don’t do well and those that do too well are both problems!

And I will relocate some of the lovely tall phlox that Karen gave me years ago. The pink ones have spread in just the right places. The few white ones, however, have spread willy-nilly. Since I have a particular weakness for the white ones, I am carefully marking them where they self-seeded and will gather them together in a single place to make a beautiful big white splash.

Tall white phlox from Karen

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