The peonies are nearly done and the roses are blooming like they mean it.
We’ve been experiencing some very autumny weather the past couple days in mid-Michigan, which makes it the perfect time to start ripping out spent vegetable plants and replacing them with some perennial transplants. Since we plan to put the house on the market in the spring, there’s no reason to plant a labor-intensive vegetable garden next year, so I’m going to be filling those empty spaces with some perennials from the front yard that are crowding each other out and need some more breathing room.
The first immigrants to the back yard are four squat little hostas with chartreuse leaves that were in too sunny a spot in the front yard since the ice storm took the crabapple tree a couple years ago; a couple lady’s mantle that were crowding an evergreen shrub (and, as it turns out, hiding the cell phone my husband lost a month ago); and three lavender plants that had been subsumed by overzealous golden marguerites this summer. I also took two more lady’s mantle and put them in my front door urns to replace the annuals that burnt when we were away at camp. Once the tomato plants are done in a month or so I will fill up those spaces with other varieties of hosta and perhaps some cornflowers or black-eyed susans.
Strangely, I’m not that upset about not having a vegetable garden next year, despite the fun the boy and I have while planting it. This is largely because I must harvest my tomatoes before they are ripe in order to keep any of them from the ravenous red squirrels, who will take a few bites out of them once they start getting red and then leave them to rot on the ground or on fence posts. If I’m picking them before they are ripe, I may as well get them unripe at the store! So next year we will depend exclusively on the farmers market for our produce and make the backyard into an even more beautiful retreat to entice buyers.
Between last night and today, I’ve spent seven hours of intensive labor weeding, trimming, deadheading, and tidying up in the yard in the August heat. Good gracious. I had to take a nap this evening just to function enough to write this piddly little post. But when July is lost to swarms of mosquitoes and a week out of town, there sure is a lot to do when you finally get out there.
One of the things I have enjoyed over the past ten years as I have planted and transplanted my gardens is the challenge of getting blooms all season long and getting those blooms to “go” with one another. I haven’t always succeeded, but this year I’m seeing some lovely results from a decade of digging and trimming and watering.
In May, the gardens have a decisively purple tone.
In June, purple gives way to mostly pink.
In July, many blooms fade and foliage takes center stage.
And in August, things warm up with reds, oranges, and yellows.
There’s always something beautiful around me. It’s taken (and continues to take) a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it.
Spring has truly sprung over the past week in mid-Michigan, and the shade garden I expanded in the back yard last year is beginning to bloom…
I’ve been busy outside destroying and covering up my neighbor’s sidelot (with his permission) because I’m tired of looking at the mess of English ivy, poison ivy, weeds, dead leaves, weed trees, and trash out my dining room window.
Now it has been mowed, poisoned, shrouded in black plastic, and covered over with mulch.
Over the next year or so it should suffocate.
Then the mulch can be raked back, the plastic can be removed, and the remaining mulch and dead matter underneath can be worked into the soil.
At that point, it should be ready to sustain something beautiful and/or useful.
In the meantime, I’m on the lookout for some cheap or free pots and will try to stage a nice array of containers full of flowers on top of the mulch.
Two days after that big project I am still sore from moving edgers, swinging an ax, and shoveling and dumping and spreading mulch.
But the view is much improved.
Somewhere about July 14th I was trying to finish spreading my crazy enormous pile of mulch (like we’re talking 12-15 cubic yards). I had covered every square inch of the gardens and there was some leftover, so I decided to tackle the south side of my neighbor’s garage, which they ignore completely but which I must look at through the largest window in my house. Weed trees and belladonna and plantain (the weed, not the banana) and other weeds had run rampant. There was an elm that was already two stories high, which I decided to keep as a replacement for the giant sugar maple we had to cut down last year. There was a black walnut sapling that had to go. And the English Ivy was stretching and reaching across our driveway, intent on eating it on the way to our house.
If they won’t care for it, I will. So I starting to trim and pull and dig and lop and edge and mulch. And all was looking very nice. I got about halfway done when the manuscript I was listening to came to the end and I needed to get back to work inside.
The next day, I saw them. Angry red bumps that swiftly bloated to taut, bulbous blisters. I puzzled over this. There was no juniper in there (I’m allergic to juniper). There was the elm that I trimmed. Perhaps I was allergic to that? I’d seen elm on the list of things my son had recently been tested for allergies. Since we were off to camp later that week, I went to the urgent care.
“Were you in contact with poison ivy?”
“No. I haven’t been in the woods and my yard is all cultivated and I know exactly what’s in there and I don’t have poison ivy. There was my neighbor’s weedy area, but there’s no poison ivy in there.”
Steroids. Calamine lotion. And home to look up poison ivy.
Yep. I was in contact with poison ivy. I’d never, in 34 years of romping through forests, encountered it. I thought the leaves were much smaller. But there it was.
So…three weeks later, I’m still itching and pretty miserable.
Do yourself a favor and avoid this:
Also, it feels like maybe there’s a lesson in here about minding my own business and not meddling and not needing everything outside to be perfect…
But there’s also a lesson for neglectful property owners in here about taking care of your yard and not exasperating and infecting your neighbor with poisonous weeds.
My roses are mostly pink…
…but why miss an opportunity to share some lovely Robert Burns with you?