Seven months ago I took and early retirement from my job. After spending a long, cold winter indoors getting acclimated to my new life, I’m ready to tackle some new projects outdoors. Working full time for the last 12 years have left the gardens around our house more neglected than I care to admit. With time now on my side, this is my chance to get things in shape once again.
I am getting older and am less willing to spend hours and days digging and dividing garden plants. I still want to have beautiful gardens. But they need to be less demanding.
For the past week I have been tackling the mundane chores. I’ve pulled weeds and cleaned the bird feeders. Mostly I have been digging out and composting clumps of purple garden phlox. The phlox paniculata was given to me about 15 years ago. I loved the tall bright purple flowers that bloomed every August in my friend’s garden. The problem is that once planted in my own garden, I discovered that the old fashioned variety spit seeds everywhere. The phlox spread like wildfire and wherever it planted itself it squeezed out other perennials, killing them off and leaving me with garden beds filled with only phlox and the toughest survivors.
When I tried to pull the phlox out the stems snapped off leaving the plant in the ground to grow back again. Instead, I’ve had to dig the plants out roots and all. It’s a hard, heavy and tedious job. One that makes me more determined than ever to never again plant anything that reseeds itself so readily. I know that I won’t get it all out this year. But I’m getting a good start.
My main flower gardens are outside the back door. A small courtyard of sorts is bordered with a redwood picket fence. Outside the fence is a walkway and more garden beds. In an effort to make my gardens as maintenance free as possible, last fall I replanted the beds outside of the fence with more permanent plantings. I replaced demanding perennials with easy-care selections like hosta, ferns, lilies, rhododendrons and hydrangeas. A thick layer of mulch should keep the outer beds looking neat and tidy without demanding so much effort.
Inside the fence I have replanted some of my new phlox-free spaces with Floribunda Roses and Dahlias. I started annuals from seeds a few weeks ago and intend to use them throughout the garden beds this year. Unlike perennials which only bloom for a limited number of days, annuals will bloom the entire season. They will fill the garden with color but because they’re not permanent I will have another whole year to plan and decide what I really want to do with the various garden spaces.
My husband is also busy in the garden this month. Years ago he built a huge patio and garden walkways using stones from an old tavern foundation found elsewhere on our property. The stones were originally set in sand. Over the years the sand has washed away and stones have shifted. This year, he is reworking the stones and setting them in mortar. The completed patio and walkways still retain their old, vintage appearance which suits our nineteenth century house, but now things are much more permanent.
I’ve also been working on art for the garden. I plan to paint a series of bird houses and feeders, posts and all, and set them in the driveway border garden next to the road where I thought I might be able to sell a few. I completed the first one today and John helped me to set it under the oak tree. Another is already in the works atop my craft table.