The long haul is a better approach

Published 11:49 pm Friday, May 31, 2019


Coffee with Mimi

My garden is a project of legendary proportions. Over the years, I have had aspirations of a lovely and horticulturally rich yard with color and greenery year around.  An abundant herb garden would be available for my culinary use. Multiple cutting flowers would provide bouquets for my dining room and kitchen tables. My water feature will be home to little frogs and fish and the gurgle of a waterfall will fill the summer evenings. The grass will be green and relatively weed free.

Email newsletter signup

Each spring begins with good thoughts and intentions. Over the winter I will have read, observed, conversed and gathered books and magazines with photos and step-by-step plans for achieving said garden.  Notable local gardeners will generously offer suggestions and even plant material they need to cull from their own abundant spaces.

Then it is time — Garden time —Garden time is not always in the same time zone as my time.

The official start of summer is still a month away, giving me a few more weeks of spring to make progress on the dream.  Practically speaking, you must have a handle on most garden projects before sweltering heat takes over. Resetting rock borders, heavy digging and planting, and so forth, become more challenging when the mercury hovers around 90.

Last year, I actually accomplished a couple tasks which, while not as aesthetically rewarding, have made this spring somewhat more productive.  I was advised to cover the area designated for herbs with a thick layer of newspaper and then dump leaves and grass clippings on top. In the spring, this spring, the area would be essentially weed free under all that stuff and I would be ready to plant all those lovely herbs.

I am the yard mower in our house.  Mowing is made much easier by eliminating obstacles around which a mower must be manipulated.  While I do not mind mowing, it is a great way to get a few thousand steps on the wrist counter — I do not enjoy maneuvering around obstacles.  In the end, the grass is cut, but less time is available for those flowers and herbs. Last year, I set out to take care of the problem areas — job done.

So, these dull maintenance tasks resulted in some free time for the big plans this spring.   

To inspire me, I attended a Garden Tour of local gardens.  This was a wise move as my cell phone is covered over in the news feed with reports and analysis of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show.  Yet, I am completely in awe of the gardeners on the local tour. They are real people who have dedicated years of their personal time to create spaces they enjoy.   They experiment and share their knowledge freely.

    The Chelsea folks aren’t real people.  They are professionals, with the notable exception of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, who had a hand, likely a well-gloved one, in the design of a woodland garden.  The garden was not judged, but was reportedly quite the topic of conversation. It was designed to be as spectacular at night as during the day. Good grief! I’m happy to have the back garage light on so I don’t trip when taking the puppy out at 1:00 a.m.

    I am grateful to my local garden friends. They toil in their spaces for the long haul.  The evolution of their projects is just that — growth and planning over time. Most would cheerfully say their designs are fluid, influenced and determined by factors guided by nature.  Last year was really rainy, a blight is heading this way from someplace else, a freaky storm froze early bloomers, blue herons and raccoons set up camp on the lookout for free and easy meals.

    Should you wish to know, the Chelsea gardens are dismantled and the elements disbursed to a variety of locations, some commercial and some charitable.  A source touting all things Chelsea, informs the curious that it can take a whole year to produce an exhibited garden. The author made it sound like aspiring  gardeners should be comforted to know it takes so long to create those amazing and award winning displays.

    Yes, Chelsea is the heart and soul of garden and garden design.  However, the reality of gardening is much more inspiring. Last year I cleared obstacles and managed the weeds in the herb bed.  This year I will kill off the weeds in another area for a short new border and nurture the perennial bed along.

    It’s just me.  Kate’s woodland surely had a battalion of assistants seeding, trimming and watering for a year.  Others hauled rocks, welded metal infrastructure and laid electrical line for water features and lights.   

    I’m curious about those dismantled and donated gardens.  Who takes care of them in their new homes? The new locations haven’t had the time to get used to the bits and pieces one at a time.  Overnight they are the proud owners of a complete, designed and amazing garden. They really should follow my advice; the long haul is a better approach.