Coming home after a tour of gardens in the UK is always a shock. English gardens are so lush, so flowery, so impressive in predictable and unpredictable ways. In comparison, my garden in mid-September is a let-down. In fact, it makes me think of a gangly 13-year old. The teen may have good bones and a sense of fashion but for the moment the best features are hidden behind braces and a spotty face.
Like that gangly teen, my garden is full of promise. It has good bones even if they do seem hidden today, as the season stretches out between summer and glorious fall. What it needs is time — time to mature, time for pimples to disappear, for newly straightened teeth to emerge and smile enticingly. Or perhaps a new wardrobe, more appropriate for its age.
This summer’s major wardrobe change was the transformation of the Big Lawn to the Big Meadow. (Perhaps it is more appropriately called the Big Prairie but that name conjures up too large a space. So the Big Meadow it remains.)
Coming home, I found the Big Meadow had been cut. The shorn look was a shock after a summer of long, waving grasses, but the path we’d mown from June through August continued to offer a curving contrast in colour and texture.
In early July I planted one specimen of Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ and now I wish I had bought more. Mixed in with the tall grass, the plant looked good all summer and bloomed non-stop. I am hoping it will self-seed but if it doesn’t, I plan to take cuttings and spread them around.
In August I staked out sections where I wanted to encourage wild-like flowers to grow. Yesterday we tilled the ground and scattered a variety of seeds on the bare earth, a combination of umbellifers and spiky plants that I hope will look as comfortable in the setting as the Agastache did. This was definitely a lazy approach — the whole job took only an hour or two, so if it doesn’t work, little is lost.
The amazing thing was the amount of grass, aka hay, that came off the lawn. Four enormous bales and one smaller one were cut by a neighbour and left on the bank above the lake. Our grandchildren slide down this part of the Big Meadow in winter, so the bales will remain in place until spring, a not-so-soft fence that will protect them from the rocks and the lake below.
A second spruce-up-the-wardrobe project completed this week involved moving about 50 shrubs of various sizes from the upper to the lower field. Three years ago we completed two borders in the upper field, protecting the shrubs inside against the deer with fences I designed. Plants in one of the borders thrived, going from strength to strength.
Plants in the other border did not thrive. This area received a little less sun and was considerably damper which may explain the different growth rates. But the bigger problem was the border’s proximity to the ten maple trees I planted to mark the birth of ten of our eleven grandchildren. (The eleventh tree is a crabapple, soon to be relocated and possibly replaced by a different fruit-bearing tree.)
This summer, after much looking and head-scratching, I decided that the grandchildren trees needed to be given more prominence. To set them off from the field and the long grass around them, we mowed the area in late July. The results were quite pleasing, particularly after a sprayed-painted white line defined the edges.
Defining the area made it clear that the shrub border and the grandchildren trees were competing for attention. The two features were simply too close together. And since the shrubs weren’t doing well where they were, moving them seemed a good solution.
Finding a new location didn’t take long. In the lower field beside the driveway leading to my daughter’s house was an interesting rock. While it barely showed itself, the shape of the ground suggested that more of it was hiding below.
A little digging proved this to be true.
Before heading to England, I laid out the rough outline of the new bed. I wanted to give the 50 or 60 shrubs that were crowded together enough room to grow without leaving too much space to fill in next year.
Yesterday, after a rainfall that lasted long enough to soak the roots, we dug the shrubs and loaded them onto the back of the trailer.
The fence needs to go up and some fine tuning will almost certainly be needed in the spring. But for now, this crooked toothed, pimply faced teen has a chance of becoming a beauty.
Do you have teen-age areas in your garden? How are you helping them grow up?