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Mar 26, 2012

The Truth is... My Garden Scares Me.

Last May, Big Daddy, MiniMe and I moved into the very, very old house of my dreams. With it came the beautiful yard and garden of Big Daddy's dreams - sans greenhouse, but I understand that's in the plans. Then we got the puppy of MiniMe's dreams.

We went to contract just around mid March. There was snow on the ground - about seven feet of it - and the fish pond was frozen over. After the thaw, the pond turned out to be a fabulous pool, surrounded by its own beautiful and ever changing gardens.

During the process of buying the home, several people who knew the home had said to me, "Wait until you see the yard, you have no idea what you have there. You just don't know!".

I smiled and said things like "Looking forward to it!", "So excited!", "Can't wait!". Meanwhile, I started thinking..."Well, I went to the yard, I walked around the yard, I know where the septic is. I realize that the pool is not a fish pond... what the heck don't I know?... is there something I should know?" I started to get a little nervous.

We hadn't closed on the house yet, so my access was limited but, I was still able to see the yard burst into life after it's winter slumber.

I grew up in New England but, this Spring renewal was new to me as a homeowner. I'd spent most of my adult life in South Florida where the yard is a year round project. Except for the ability to raise orchids effortlessly, I really had no interest in what went on in the yard. I had had enough of the mowing, hedge trimming, frond gathering. bleah. I've mentioned it before - I'm glad to be home!

The Spring sun eventually came out, the ten feet of snow melted, the birds began to sing and the Forsythia burst into bloom. Great yellow clouds of color blasting out of sticks growing in the back yard, the front yard, the side yard...all of a sudden, there was a whole lot of yellow!

A couple of weeks later, I was surprised that clouds of pink had joined the yellow in the back yard. Two gnarled and overgrown trees in the back yard turned out to be cherry trees that just seemed to burst into bloom, while the many daffodil and tulip bulbs that had been hidden by the soil began to poke their heads out of the newly thawed ground.

The grass began to turn green, and some pointy, dark pink tips grew up from the ground in a thirty foot long oval depression. I realized that the entire area was a bed of peonies - my favorite flower. Yay!

Things were poking up all over the yard and I began to realize that, when people had said "You have no idea....", they were referring to the gardens, which were coming up in wave after wave of color.

I toured the yard with the seller, who pointed at various areas of dirt and greenery and told me what was there and when it would bloom. The problem is, I didn't know the difference between a New England plant that was growing on purpose, and a weed. So I did nothing. Oh, sure, I pulled up some grass that grew in the wrong place. But,  when that turned out to be some Japanese Iris....I became afraid to cut anything back.

So I stopped weeding and trimming and cutting until I could stand it no more. Late in the summer, when the Peonies stopped blooming I decided to trim some tall weeds that had started to take over, and I started pulling and cutting.  These weeds were just about ready to bloom and I did NOT want them to go to seed and spread over my Peonies!

My plumber was working in the house at the time and saw me out the window. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" He yelled out the window.

I looked up at him. "Cutting weeds back? I don't want them to choke out the Peonies. I really love Peonies."

He looked at me like I had 3 heads "Stop cutting! Stay there. DO NOT cut anything else til I get down there!"

Uh oh. I hoped it wasn't endangered. With my luck though, it probably was some kind of crazy subtropical protected plant species. I dropped the clippers and my gloves and backed away. I started to bite my nails. I squeezed my legs together and hopped on one foot like I had to go to the bathroom.

My plumber burst through the back door with a purposeful stride, stomped across the yard and up to where I had been working. He looked at the trug full of weeds I'd cut. He slapped a hand to his forehead like one of the three stooges.

"What. are. you. doing? What?!" he said

I looked at him. "Weeding? Just ... cleaning up ... " I laughed nervously, still hopping and biting my nails.

He looked at the sky in a fit of frustration.  "Phlox. Those are Phlox. You have Phlox throughout your entire yard. I have tried to grow Phlox in my yard for years. Decades! TRIED! And I can't get it to grow more than 6" tall and die. And here YOU are (he points at me with one index finger, the other hand gesticulating wildly) cut-ting-it-down! It's Phlox. It will bloom for the whole summer."

"Oh. huh" I said, stopped jumping... put the other foot down.. looked around and tried to block his view of the 14" stalks I'd just cut. "So, do you think I killed it?"

By this time, Mr. Plumber was much calmer, realizing that I was not actually killing my Phlox, but ignorantly trying to make things better. He told me that if I left it alone, he thought I'd still be able to enjoy some of it.  I had Phlox blooming until October, so I'm willing to bet that it was ok to cut down the stalks that I did!

The plumber still works for us when we need him. He's a great guy but slow to forgive. He always greets me by asking what I've killed lately.

Now this winter, being the polar opposite of last winter, we had very little snow in New England (less than a foot) and temperatures were extremely mild.  As Winter turned to Spring, the bulbs that we planted last Fall blasted out of the ground, practically in full bloom. I've never seen a Tulip with a 2 inch stem! I'd really been looking forward to bouquets of Spring flowers... maybe next Spring!

The other day, I decided that I did know a few weeds from "the good stuff" by  now, so I spent 3 hours with the  Peonies.  I'm hoping that the Moss and the Ground Cabbage will recover quickly. I hope I didn't kneel on too many stalks that hadn't had a chance to grow above the ground yet....

Next week, I might go for the Roses. I'm going to need new gloves. And maybe a face mask.

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