Getting my garden groove back

Usually by the time spring appears after months of cold and snow, I can’t wait to get outside and start digging. This year, though, spring came so early. It was wonderful, but the garden exploded. Daffodils were here and gone in March, hyacinths barely made it to Easter and are now kaput, the few tulips we have are almost gone, spring-blooming groundcover is on the way out…heck the azaleas are blooming! It’s been so strange, and it got hot so fast I wasn’t sure what to do. Too early to start digging? Or full steam ahead?

The spring chores seemed insurmountable. Weeds everywhere, wild onions especially (how DO they spread so much?), and the yard is a mess. The sweet woodruff, which is a really nice groundcover, has become a bit of a nemesis. It’s great filling in under the trees and shrubs where nothing else will grow, but it is also aggressively swarming over the hosta and other perennials and needs to be cut away every year (sometimes twice a year) before it chokes them out. Imagine pulling up 2-3″ thick carpet that’s been glued down — that’s what it’s like to pull up sweet woodruff. Amazingly matted.

I felt pretty defeated after a long day of that a couple weekends ago.

After this past Sunday, though, things are looking up. Mike has already edged a lot of the back yard (the first of at least 3 times we’ll do that), so that always makes things look great.

See that dark swath in the yard to the right of the light? I’m trying to ignore that — it’s weeds that have taken over — ground ivy, I think. Now blooming purple at least. I am so not a lawn person…

More stuff is up and getting greener — including buds on the peonies before I even thought about getting the ring supports out for them. Had to try to retrofit…just a ring this time; no neat little weaving a grid for the stems to grow through.

The hosta now have breathing room. I can feel them sighing in relief not to have the sweet woodruff choking them.

I planted 8 new little things here and there, including these Siberian Wallflower, which are supposed to grow to 30″ but are now only about 10″. Pretty silvery foliage.

And this adorable Saxifrage…I’m a sucker for the tiny pink flowers perched on their dainty stems. We’ll see how they do — I’m asking a lot of them — expecting them to grow and spread in the small border next to the driveway.

And 3 more autumn ferns. Last year was my first year planting these and they are fantastic — actually lived throughout the winter (which, I don’t know if that’s typical or only because winter was mild). My neighbor even commented on them, “Are those ferns hardy?”

I hope they’ll do OK in the shade garden — it doesn’t look so good this year. Maybe got hot too soon? Even my favorite Bugloss are much smaller. Or is it just too early yet? This weather is very confusing for me, so no doubt for the plants, too.

My biggest fear is the scraggly trees (neighbor’s side) that make it a shade garden will die and so will my shade garden.  It’s a favorite little spot of mine.

I don’t think I lost anything over the mild winter, though. But it’s strange — because things are still small, it looks like I have more room to fill in. I know full-well that’s not the case. In a month or so, I won’t have much room to dig at all, let alone add all the plants I’m itching to buy.

Some of last year’s purchases look good; others are still iffy. This Kolkwitzia (which, what a great name) is a good-looker — such a pretty chartreuse.

The jury’s still out on this hypericum (a form of St. John’s Wort grown for its berries — the orange-ish ones you see in bouquets). It looks mostly dead, but has signs of new life. Not sure if I should chop it back or not, so I’m waiting to see what happens.

I’m partial to this lungwort — a hunk my neighbor gave me a few years ago that has never taken off, but continues to bloom every spring before dying back when it gets too hot. Hers is gigantic and beautiful…not sure what mine is lacking to make it spread.

This cheerful one looks vaguely like a dandelion, but is actually a perennial I planted last year that’s doing well so far. I can’t remember the name, although I just saw it again at Lowe’s the other day. Oh well, goodoldwhatsitsname is quite a pretty little springtime treat. (UPDATE A FEW DAYS LATER: Not that anyone cares, but the name came to me in a flash — it’s called Leopard’s Bane, so named, I learned, because it was once thought to be poisonous to animals. And it’s also been used medicinally — but don’t ingest too much, because it’s toxic. I think I will just confine myself to looking at it.)

Even prettier close up.

I’m also trying to breathe new life into this poor weigela by giving it a new home.

It used to be fantastic and huge — 5 ft tall and wide (a “dwarf” that didn’t know it). But it grew too big for its original spot and I moved it, much to Mike’s chagrin.  Here’s how it looked right after the move (October 2009 — the one on the left).

An exhausting move of two giant “dwarf” weigela who outgrew their old home and will now anchor a new bed-to-be in the front yard (assuming they live, which Mike will kill me if they don’t)

It’s struggled ever since, poor thing. I hope it recovers now (and yes, Mike is not happy with me).

Its partner is doing slightly better, so it’s allowed to stay put out front for now. I wanted to move it, but the roots were thick, and I was afraid of killing it for sure this time. I had already dug the hole in the back yard for it, so now I have to find something else to put in that spot.

I can’t think of a nicer problem to have.

April prepares her green traffic light and the world thinks Go.
~ Christopher Morley