Monday, November 28, 2011

Now is the winter of our discontent... any time now, really...

(Apparently I am just going for as many Shakespeare-themed post titles in a row as possible.  Ignore me...)

It's been a strangely warm fall here in Maryland, aside from that one late-October blip with the snowstorm.  Because it did get cold for a while, and more recently we've been seeing springlike temps in the 60s with drops into the 30s at night, but no significant frosts, some plants are getting confused.  On a walk through a local neighborhood last week, I passed a cherry tree in bloom (you just want to yell at it, "No!  Pull them back in!  You'll be sorry!").

Long autumns are great for getting caught up on gardening chores, or so the theory goes.  This weekend I did get all the leaves (for values of "all" that mean "really it's good for the lawn if you leave a few") raked up in front, some of them pushed into adjacent beds to protect plants, those new perennials in particular, and others collected into a large heap near the veggie garden, to be used as bed cover and/or compost as needed.  I also moved the bags of manure into the back part of the garden to weigh down the large sheets of cardboard that are hopefully smothering weeds until I get around to forming beds and mulching around them.  And I built a little fence around the cryptomeria because some %^(&! deer had been rubbing his antlers on it and scraping off branches in the process.  Also built the fence around the pomegranate that I will later stuff with leaves (another use for them!).  When it actually gets cold.

That's not all I needed to do, but it's something, and I guess I need some unfinished tasks to worry about in the dead of winter, if we have one this year.

I think we have reached the point in the fall where planting anything else is getting seriously chancy, so I can legitimately plan for next year without considering running out to a garden center and buying stuff I can't afford anyway.  I have been looking, discontentedly, at the beds outside the kitchen window, and thinking it's time for a redesign, for values of "redesign" that mean "not much design going on there in the first place, and are you likely to change that, Ms. Improvisational Gardening?"

This is what it looks like in part, in the spring.  I took photos in order to ask my fellow Master Gardeners what the heck to do about

the solid mass of enormous bleeding hearts in the bed against the house, because really if you have this knowledge base at hand why not use it, and it amused them for a time.  I have now planted black cohosh and angelica to get tall among the b.h.'s next spring (I hope) and Japanese anemones and hardy begonias to take over for them in the fall (as did happen in part this year), so we'll see what happens.

The rest of it, though... the mixed shrubs to the right as I look out the window are okay, I guess, though putting a buddleia there was silly.  The larger bed on the other side of the path is a mess of waning tulips, decent lilies, columbines spreading into the driveway, and a bunch of other things all squeezed together, including a lot of echinacea that ignores its chance to be strong in the middle of the bed and instead prefers to grow right along the flagstone path or perhaps in it.  I'm always cutting it down or digging it out, and if I didn't enjoy watching the goldfinches eat the seeds in the fall while I wash dishes, I'd get rid of it altogether.  But I think I need to be strong and move it elsewhere.  This should probably be a slightly more formal bed and also one that screens us from the driveway we share with neighbors.  So perhaps evergreen shrubs; I could start with the (still tiny) Japanese plum yew that I seem to have acquired for a ridiculously low price, assuming it survives the brutal winter in a pot on the deck.

Things to dream about when the winds freeze and the snow falls... which will happen any time now, right?  Right? (Though no snow until after December 10, please; we have one son flying home and another playing Bob Cratchit and no one needs to get stuck anywhere.)

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