I was really on a roll this spring making progress on garden bed cleanup. I was feeling quite giddy and pleased with how the gardens were shaping up. I felt that my retirement life was exactly what I wanted it to be and was starting to feel the stirrings of true contentment.
Then my mother fell again and my new and happy daily routine shifted dramatically. She has had various health crises over the last ten years that are scary and require a lot of medical attention and rehabilitation. She has miraculously survived even the worst case scenarios, but the best her general state of health has been is limited mobility and very little muscle strength. It seems like I'm always holding my breath, waiting for the next crisis to happen, but praying desperately that it doesn't. Then about seven weeks ago, I got a panic phone call from my father that mom had fallen again. She was in extreme pain and he couldn't get her up. I went flying up the hill, with Mike and Bonnie in tow, and even our slightest attempt to move her had her screaming in pain. We made the quick decision to call 911. The paramedics arrived and they had the same issues trying to move her. They called in the medics who are authorized to give high level dosages of pain medication via IV and when it took effect, they were able to transport her to the ER. She had broken the femur in her left leg and a bone in her left hand. Surgery was scheduled for the following day. That week was a blur of long days spent at the hospital. The care once she was transferred to the rehab and the coordination of numerous appts with drs and case workers has filled a big part of my days ever since. The added concern about my father with the realization that he is moving so much slower, seems so much weaker, and seems to be having some comprehension issues, especially with regards to medical treatment for my mom, is also weighing heavy on my mind. I have siblings, but since I'm the one who is retired, most of the day to day stuff has fallen on my shoulders. Stressful to say the least.
The state of the gardens is inevitable. All progress has stopped. They look horrible after nearly two months of neglect. The weeds in the areas that I hadn't gotten to have run rampant. The deer have eaten the few, well not so few, plants that I was trying to keep despite the fact that they are deer candy and the remaining chomped off stems look pathetic. The plants that I purchased early in the season are still sitting in pots in the staging area and I'm estimating about 1/3 of them have gone belly up due to too much rain for the first five weeks and now the absurd heat wave of the last week or two. July is a lull time for having anything blooming in my gardens so there isn't even the anticipation of pretty flowers emerging among the chaos.
I finally feel that my mom is settled and situated for now, with the next big effort coming down the line when it is time to be released from the rehab and brought back home. I need to look into the care over and above the limited duration medicare covered nursing, PT, and OT, specifically for daily personal care. I know with the condition she is in that neither my dad nor I can manage that. Also on the list to research are a hoyer lift for home use and the purchase of a new wheelchair transport minivan or conversion of their existing minivan to have a wheelchair ramp.
I'm not sure when I'll be able to get back to my gardening. Even though I now have some hours when I can squeeze it in, the oppressive heat is just too miserable to do it. Heavy sigh.
Every year I hang four boston ferns in white pots on the porch, fill the white window boxes at the garage windows with streptocarpella, and fill the black urns that are on the porch landing, the basement patio, and at the base of the conservatory steps with whatever catches my fancy each year. Oh, and I also fill a cluster of ceramic green pots that sit on the stump in the hillside shade garden and big pots on either side at the head of the flagstone walkway that runs parallel with the front of the house. Containers are fun and add a nice decorative element to the garden, although if you happen to miss a watering or two in the heat of the summer they can shrivel up and perish pretty quickly. To help with that, I've started to get the containers that have large reservoirs in the bottom that wick up into the soil which helps out a lot with watering frequency.
This year I've added to the container gardens with several new ideas. Two favorites are the three tall rectangular purple containers and a pair of wooden slat hangers with purple pots that add to my goal of establishing pops of purple accents. Another favorite is the three tiered plant stand from an Aldis sale for an herb container garden on the small deck outside the kitchen door. I also added a trellis for an akebia vine and a pair of hanging fuchsias underneath the living room balcony that will eventually screen the hvac runs. Couldn't pass up a big beautiful yellow begonia for the lemon garden and then after thinking it looked a bit lonely in there, potted up two pale yellow and white themed baskets that I hung on a shepherds hook.
Photos of containers that have been potted up so far:
Boston ferns on the porch
Black urns on the porch landing, when tulips are done they will be replaced with summer annuals
Tall purple planters
Pair of wooden slat planters
Aldi plant stand with herb containers
Akebia trellis and hanging fuchshias
Lemon garden containers
Good gosh it has been weeks since I've written out the to do list. Not exactly what I aspired to when I set this weekly goal for myself. I've been plugging away at the garden chores, slow and steady. Looking back at the last to do list for the week of Apr 16th, I'm glad to say that I have finished most of it.
I finished the spring cleanup of the front yard foundation bed, the front steps garden, the lower turret foundation bed, and the coach light bed. I also finished the annual lifting, dividing, and replanting snowdrops to make more drifts, and started on planting the Black Creek Nursery acquisitions. Not too shabby. The only thing on the list that I haven't done is to apply turf builder and over seed the front lawn.
Not on the list but what I've been doing during the several weeks gap in actually writing it out:
I finished the spring cleanup of the left side of the stepping stone garden and parts of the hillside shade garden (area 1). I'm working on the upper turret foundation bed and should finish that up this morning. Mike is setting flagstone to make a small path from the sidewalk to the bench arbor in the hillside shade garden (area 1), so I'll finish the cleanup of that garden when he is done. I've been digging and potting up a lot of plants to pass along at our upcoming mid atlantic plant swap. I had another pleasant visit with David and Pat on Sunday morning to dig up the Virginia bluebells that they wanted to rehome and got them replanted in the woodland walk. The woodland walk is a new garden area tentatively started last spring after being inspired by seeing the woodland walk at Mount Cuba. The only plants in it so far are the Virginia bluebells that came from David and Pat last year and now the ones from this year.
I spent quite a bit of time searching for a trellis for the stepping stone garden to put under the living room balcony. It needed to be less than 66" tall and I wanted it to be about 45" wide. I was looking for a simple black powder coated rectangular arbor and just couldn't find any. I went to Lowes, Home Depot, Meadows Farms, Hobby Lobby, and last but not least, two local independent nurseries where I finally found something that would work. It had a decorative top, not the squared off top that I was looking for, and I purchased two of them that I placed side by side to get the desired width. Anyway, it works and I'm happy with the result. I had planted an akebia vine in that spot last year and it was starting to need support and something to climb on. I don't know why it is so hard to find something specific. That is the main reason that my method is usually to spot something that I like while I'm out and about and then find the place for it afterwards, rather than have a design plan to start with. Works with both hardscaping and plants.
Last week was all about containers. I cleaned up my four white hanging planters with the water reservoirs in the bottom and potted up boston ferns for hanging on the front porch. I like this look and have been doing it for years. Fuchsias went into the pair of urns on the basement patio and new hooks were installed under the living room balcony to hang two more. Streptocarpella went into the three window boxes and the two tiered black metal plant stand that Bonnie gave me for retirement. New this year are a set of three tall rectangular purple planters, a pair of hanging slat planters that hold three pots each, three hanging baskets in the lemon yellow garden, and a new plant stand from Aldi that now holds herb containers outside the kitchen door. I'll post photos later today.
The other thing that I've been working steadily on are my inventory records. I keep thinking of more information that I want to track and better ways of tracking some of the information that I've already set up to track. I've been tweaking the design of my Access database accordingly and am pretty pleased with what I've managed to come up with. I'm updating records for the plants in each garden area as I tackle the spring cleanup. It is taking a lot of time, but it is something that keeps me occupied in inclement weather and after the sun goes down.
Here is the list for this week
Carry-Over from Last List (April 16th)
- turret foundation bed; remove fall leaves; top dress with compost and mulch - just upper section left to do (worked on May 07, completed May 08)
Not Even Started from Last List (April 16th):
- early spring front lawn maintenance; apply turf builder and over seed (worked on May 12)
New Tasks for This Week (May 7th):
- stepping stone garden (right side); extensive weeding; rearrange plants and volunteer seedlings; top dress with mulch (worked on May 10, May 11)
- hillside shade garden (area 1); extensive weeding; rearrange plants and volunteer seedlings; top dress with mulch (worked on May 08, completed May 09)
- azaleas and other acid loving shrubs; top dress with compost and fertilize with holly tone (worked on May 13 - mountain laurel patch near coach light)
- epimediums in epimedium walk; top dress with compost and fertilize with holly tone
- climbing Japanese hydrangea vines; tie in to mesh support with velcro strips (completed May 12)
- trellis arbor; plant morning glory seeds at the four pillar bases (completed May 12)
- peonies; prune to one bud per stem (completed May 07)
- mid atlantic plant swap; finish digging and potting up plants for pass along (worked on May 08, May 10, completed May 13)
There is something wonderful going on in my gardens. Plants that haven't made an appearance in years, and which I assumed hadn't survived, are back!!! Now I am imagining them sleeping snugly under the ground just waiting for the time to be right to show themselves again. Brings to mind the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale.
The first I noticed was the foliage of two martagon lilies popping up in the Coach Light Bed. I purchased the bulbs in 2015, they emerged and flowered in 2016, but then nothing at all last year. Then I started noticing the foliage of toad lilies 'Amethystina', 'Blue Wonder', and 'Mayazaki' that I purchased in 2013 and 2014 which didn't re-emerge the year following initial planting. I love toad lilies and have acquired quite a collection of cultivars. The majority have been thriving, but I figured that losing a few was just the normal percentages of what survives and what doesn't. Surprise!!! Then I noticed the foliage of muscari which completely skipped waking up last year. It doesn't look like they will bloom this year, but they are back! The best surprise ever though is that yesterday I discovered the little wood anemone 'Vestal' alive and blooming. It is a precious double that I purchased mail order from Lazy S'S Farm in 2012, planted, and never saw again. That little beauty has been sleeping for six years!!! The mayapples in the woods along the creek are making a comeback too. When we first purchased the property in 1988, they were naturalized en masse and something I looked forward to seeing year after year. Then about six or seven years ago, they started disappearing until not a one seemed to be left. The timing corresponded to the deer population explosion and I figured that it was the deer that had decimated them. As I was enjoying a spring stroll through the woods a few days ago, I saw mayapples popping up again. Not in the volume of years ago, but there are enough that it gives me hope that it might eventually get back to what it once was.
In addition to long dormant plants making a comeback, there are other plants that are finally taking off. My favorite is a shredded umbrella plant that I purchased at a Master Gardener sale in 2014. Since then it has survived, but never growing beyond the single leaf stalk that I purchased. This spring though, there are at least five more stalks! Lily of the Valley pips are starting to take off too. So many people have problems with their invasiveness, but for at least ten years or more, for me they haven't grown beyond the few pips that I planted or have actually diminished in quantity. Since they grow so prolifically for others, they are easy pass along plants and I get some given to me each year at our Mid Atlantic plant swaps. I am beyond ecstatic that this spring there is noticeable spreading in multiple areas where I've planted them. Another nice surprise is that I saw the azalea 'Conversation Piece' that I bought years ago blooming for the first time.
My gardens are looking better than ever this spring. It is a combination of the spring clean up of the beds, switching to pine bark mini nugget mulch, and the explosion of plant growth and bloom that is all coming together this year more than it has in any previous year. I feel an overwhelming happiness about it that is hard to describe. Even my non gardening husband has noticed the difference and keeps commenting enthusiastically about it. He is actually going out with a flashlight on evenings when he gets home after dark to see the progress I've been making
Well, it is the middle of the week, not exactly the Sunday night sit down for making plans that I want to make a routine. Last week was a whirlwind of activity for me, both in the gardens and with socializing with gardening friends. The novelty of being retired still hasn't worn off and I can't believe that I now have the time to do these things. What a difference it makes in my quality of life.
Last week was definitely a record on the socializing aspect of gardening. It started off on Monday with a meet and greet with a new neighbor who enjoys gardening. Even though it was cold and blustery, we walked about my gardens looking at the hellebores in bloom and getting to know each other a bit. On Wednesday, Jill and I made our annual spring trip up to Lancaster County to Black Creek Greenhouse in East Earl, PA. We decided to take my smaller SUV because we had every intention of showing restraint with our purchases this year. Who were we kidding. We both filled up THREE carts vs the maximum two each that we've filled up in previous years. It was quite the challenge to fit everything in my car, but by golly where there is a will there is a way LOL. We stopped at an Amish diner for dinner before hitting the road home. Great day. On Friday, Susan came over to pick up her portion from a wholesale order of flats of plant plugs that had arrived. David and Pat joined us. We did a garden walk about before going to Roots for lunch. On Sunday, I picked up Jill and we went to a gardening friend's house in DC and another gardening friend met us there. Jill, Lisa, and Frenchy had gone in together on an order of tropicals from Dr. Dawg to save on shipping. For once I actually abstained from purchases, but went along for the company. Lisa's home and gardens are over the top beautiful. Then this past Monday, I went back to Black Creek Greenhouse with David and Pat. After seeing my plant haul while they were over on Friday, they were as taken in as I have been with the plant selection and the prices. When they said that they wanted to go, I decided to ride along. I got the herbs that I was too tired to look at when Jill and I were there the Wednesday before. I also got a few native perennials that David pointed out that I didn't even notice when I was there before. This is my spring acquisition plant haul from not one, not two, but THREE trips to Black Creek Nursery plus the two flats of plant plugs from the wholesaler. This is just the perennials. The annuals and the herbs are in the garage to keep them protected from the temps that have dipped down into the low 30s off an on for weeks. Lots of planting to do...
In between the socializing and the crazy yoyo weather we've been having, I actually managed to get quite a bit done from last week's to do list. I finished the spring cleanup of the front island bed and the cottage garden, the consolidation into one location of the deck boxes, plant tables, and plant pots that I call the pot ghetto, and other miscellaneous tasks. Never even started the spring cleanup of the next set of garden areas that I wanted to tackle though, and that will be my priority to try to do in what remains of this week.
Carry-Over from Last Week (April 9th)
- front yard foundation bed; remove fall leaves; top dress with compost and mulch
Not Even Started from Last Week (April 9th):
- snowdrops; annual lifting, dividing, and replanting to make more drifts
- front steps garden; mulch
- turret foundation beds; remove fall leaves; top dress with compost and mulch
- coach light bed; remove fall leaves; top dress with compost and mulch
New Tasks for This Week (April 16th):
- early spring front lawn maintenance; apply turf builder and over seed
- start planting Black Creek Greenhouse acquisitions