Blood, Devastation, Death, War, and Horror

Blood Devastation Death War and Horror

“Hello, good evening and welcome to another edition of ‘Blood, Devastation, Death, War and Horror’, and later on we’ll be talking to a man who does gardening.” [Monty Python’s Flying Circus, episode 30]

Sadly, there are very few gardening references in Monty Python episodes and movies, but I treasure each one. The bits about shrubbery and recognizing different types of trees from quite a long way away come to mind fairly frequently, but I don’t often have the opportunity to use this one – until this week.

See, I’d really been looking forward to joining in on Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day this month, for the first time since November. In other winters, I could at least get some shots of grasses and perennial seedheads, but I cut everything down last fall. I did miss the winter interest; I didn’t miss having to do all my outdoor cleanup in March and April. (I was also delighted to have practically no vole damage, for a change.) No wonder I never really appreciated the fun of spring gardening: I was always too busy chopping and raking and hauling the debris away to enjoy the emerging blooms.

Hayefield in mid-April 2009

Now, I get it. This spring, I’ve had time to do fine cleanup, divide and move stuff around, and generally do detailed puttering instead of heavy cleanup. I’ve also been having a great time watching the early bulbs coming up. I planted over 3000 bulbs last fall – my main October project – so there’s a lot coming along to enjoy. It looks like the main show won’t start for another week or so, but a few of the earliest bulbs are out, the hellebores are in full bloom, a bunch of pansies that I overwintered in the greenhouse are in flower, and things were shaping up nicely for a moderately respectable Bloom Day showing.

Then came the “devastation, death, etc.” part. For a while now, Hayefield House has been in serious need of a makeover. With a log house, if the stain isn’t holding up right, you can’t just stain over it again; you have to remove all of the stain and start over. The process is like sandblasting, except that they use ground-up corncobs instead of sand. It involves lots of heavy tarps, and ladders, and hoses being dragged around, and lots of footsteps on soft soil.

Hayefield House restoration mid-April 2011

If you’ve ever had work done on the outside of your house, you know what that means. The workmen, bless their hearts, made a tremendous effort to be careful, and the damage wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d feared. But well, stuff happens, and I’m trying to be brave about it.

The results will be worth the small losses, and now that the job will be done right, I’m hoping that the house (and the garden) may not ever need to go through this again. But for now, good photo opportunities are hard to find. From a distance, the garden still looks pretty much like a blank slate.

Front garden mid-April 2011

Diagonal path mid-April 2011

Side garden mid-April 2011

The Shrubbery mid-April 2011

Long border with narcissus mid-April 2011

And it’s tough to get nice portrait shots, because pretty much everything around the house is covered with corncob dust.

Hellebore and Arum corner mid-April 2011

So I have to get really close up, which would be fine except that the soil is still quite soggy, making ground-level shots kind of unpleasant. Oh well.

Hyacinthus 'Festival White' and Muscari mid-April 2011

Helleborus x hybridus mid-April 2011

Fritillaria michailovskyi mid-April 2011

This drama should all be over soon, and I have a lot to look forward to this year. I’ve already tackled a few of the big jobs on my to-do list for this growing season, including thinning out some of the crowded Eastern red cedars in the meadow and using them to build a brush pile for wildlife habitat.

Brush pile in upper meadow early April 2011

I also started cutting tunnels through some of the remaining cedar patches. They don’t look like much now, but I think they’ll be pretty cool in a few years.

Tunnel through Eastern red cedars early April 2011

And, I dug up a dozen baby cedars and transplanted them to create a new allee leading from the barn into the meadow.

Eastern red cedar allee in progress mid-April 2011

I wish I’d been able to keep more of the existing cedars there, but they hadn’t had the sense to put themselves in straight lines, so I had to do some rearranging. Another 10 years or so, and it’ll look great.

In the process of traipsing around in the meadow, I found the dinosaur skull again.

"Dinosaur skull" in meadow

No idea where it originally came from, but it amuses me, so I just mow over it and enjoying seeing where it turns up the each year.

Another spring project was dethatching the sand mound meadow. Six hours of hard raking. By hand. Setting it on fire would be so much easier, but that’s not an option.

Sand mound meadow after dethatching mid-April 2011

And the project I’m most excited about: tackling the last unorganized area inside the fence, in the area I call The Orchard. Last fall, I got a new shed for the space. Mom and I have tried several different colors so far, and though this green isn’t quite what we had in mind, we’re sticking with it for now. (As much as she loves painting, I wouldn’t dare ask her to paint it a fourth time.)

Mom and the very green shed mid-April 2011

In the remaining space, I needed to figure out what to plant around the Chinese quince (Pseudocydonia chinensis), variegated Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas ‘Variegata’), Asian pear, and pawpaws (Asimina triloba). Inspired by Michael King’s blog and new e-books, I’m attempting to create a low perennial meadow. I made good progress this week in stripping off the sod and clearing the weeds before the rain started again.

Perennial meadow in progress mid-April 2011

For the theme plants, I’ve decided on aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), ‘Cassian’ fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides), ‘Raspberry Wine’ bee balm (Monarda), orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida), and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), all of which I’m sure I can gather a fair number of through division or digging up seedlings. Things are sprouting quickly here, so I’m planning to get this area all planted up next week, and I hope I have enough plants to fill it. It’d be terrible to have to go plant shopping again.

One more partly-done project:

Daniel in progress mid-April 2011

The boys were so miserable in the heat earlier this week that I couldn’t resist starting to shear them; now, of course, it’s cool and rainy. Well, their necks may get a little chilly, but they still have plenty of fleece to keep the important parts warm enough, so I guess they’ll be all right for a bit longer. Shearing’s kind of like pruning, you know; once you take it off, you can’t very well put it back!

12 responses to this post.

  1. I always enjoy reading your gardening adventures. Best regards to you.

    And to you, Dorothy. It’s been quite the spring around here, hasn’t it? And we still have at least three weeks until our last frost date….
    -Nan

  2. Posted by John Drexel on April 12, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Nancy,

    So nice of you to share; your Mom, your cabin, your early spring and your tonsorial skills. After starting our own spring clean up; ‘fall’ seems like a better time to prepare for ‘spring.’

    Thank you

    Rest assured that I won’t quit my day job to become a professional alpaca shearer, John. I know the boys look goofy now, but they’ll look goofy when I’m all done with them too. They’re just silly looking animals.
    -Nan

  3. I hate to work in the garden in the autumn, so you can imagine how my garden looks now! Terrible!!
    But yesterday my husband helped me and we cleaned up the “long garden bed” (50 m) and the “raised beds” (12 m) in the front of the garden. But I have so much more to do, but the weather must be warmer. I refuse to work outside in this abnormal cold weather – it´s not fun!

    Congratulations on making some progress in your spring gardening anyway, Susie. At least you’re not still completely blanketed in snow!
    -Nan

  4. I really enjoyed getting a better feel for your garden and how all the bits fit together. Love the selective shearing… And thank you for getting muddy knees, the shots were worth it!

    Each year, I’m determined to do the boys legs and tummies first, but really, it’s so hard to get the shears into their thick fleece, and they’re so peeved about being fussed with, that it’s just easier to work from the top back instead of from the feet up. Pruning plants is so much easier: at least they don’t rutch around like the boys do.
    -Nan

  5. Posted by brenda on April 13, 2011 at 5:32 am

    Spring is unbelievably busy, isn’t it? Hardly enough time to stop and appreciate the early bloomers.

    Regarding making another new garden bed, I once read a quote “making a garden is more fun than having a garden” and I thought there was some truth to that. Making a new bed is full of so many possibilities. Having a garden is full of chores and bugs and things that need changing.

    The dino skull gave me a chuckle, my kids would love it.

    Good one, Brenda. There’s definitely a charm to garden-making: all those fresh possibilities. But after a spell of hard work like that, ordinary garden-keeping has its good points too.
    -Nan

  6. You have a beautiful garden and have done quite a lot. Good luck on all your endeavors. It will be even nicer.

    Thanks so much for visiting, Sage. Good luck to you too!
    -Nan

  7. Posted by Rita Sillivan-Smith on April 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    I feel your pain with house painting –as my cottage is surrounded by gardens. The painters try very hard to not step on plants–i have great pictures of them doing the ‘tiptoe through the tulips’.
    Cheers, Rita

    Oh my, Rita – I can imagine what you had to go through; you have so much more around your house than I do! It seems like there’s just not a good time of year for house maintenance where gardens are concerned.
    -Nan

  8. Having moved into our house on Jan 2 and still having work done I can truly empathize with you.

    Lucky you, our builders ignored our instructions to leave as much of the natural vegetation as possible-and cleared the entire 1/3 acre, and left just two trees ( which only survived because they could not bulldoze them) and 3 shrubs which somehow missed the blade.

    Oh, no, Nicole – that’s terrible! A blank slate, indeed. I’m so sorry about that. I feel very petty for whining about a few crushed bulbs. Best of luck getting your new garden going.
    -Nan

  9. Posted by Lisa at Greenbow on April 14, 2011 at 7:59 am

    I can tell your garden is awakening. What fun to go around and find the blooms of all those bulbs you planted. Your new area looks mighty ambitious. I like the color of your cabin now. I think the allee of cedars is intersting. I have used them to screen a busy street. All were originally planted by birds. I moved them to make a screen. I like free plants. Your boy looks indignant at the partial sheering. What interesting creatures.

    I like free plants too, Lisa – or least, most of them. The birds are giving me many other great finds besides the cedars: flowering dogwoods, white pines, sassafras, and native viburnums. But then, they’ve also brought multiflora roses, Russian olives, and a whole lot of poison ivy.

    And yep, Daniel does usually look indignant when I try to take his picture, but even more so when he’s half-undressed.
    -Nan

  10. Ooh, I can completely relate to having contractors mushing plants. As you said, being brave about it is about all you can do! I can’t believe how different your gardens look from mine. Yours look like ours did in late February! But then, you get to enjoy much milder summer temps than I do. It’s all a trade-off I guess!

    Except for a few abnormally warm days, this spring has been pretty cool in general here. And yes, our summers are usually not as bad as yours (except for last summer, which I don’t even want to think about…). Not much we can do about it either way! I should be able to join in the May Bloom Day fun, anyway.
    -Nan

  11. 3000 bulbs? You must be the most persistent gardener I know (sort of know). I have ordered up to 700 and some have remained in the shed to finally hit the compost heap in spring. I now know that I have to do better. Great job and it all looks lovely except for the necessary tarps which will soon be gone. That last bloom is a good one.

    Yep, seriously, 3000. Actually, 3089. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it was amazing. It really wasn’t as daunting as it sounds. I think figuring out where to put everything took longer than the actual planting.
    -Nan

  12. Oh wow…that IS pretty scary! I’m so neurotic and fussy about my plants during times like that…even when putting up Christmas lights, my partner is pretty tired of me suddenly gasping whenever he steps too close to some especially prized plant (stay off the Rodgersia, please!!!). At least they tried their best and weren’t unduly rough…and with spring here finally, everything gets a chance to snap back. Can’t wait to see how your borders continue to evolve this year. BTW…I can’t fathom planting that many bulbs! I was so cross and muddy after planting 50…I think I would bear too close a resemblance to Gengis Khan if I were to plant 3,000!

    Oh yes, you clearly understand how it is to have others stepping around your plants, Scott!

    It’s funny: I’ve felt the same way after planting a few dozen bulbs, but for some reason, this massive planting project was actually fun. I started with the big alliums and worked my way down to the littlest bulbs, and by that time, I was admittedly getting kind of tired of the project. But it’s been worth all the effort so far, and there’s a lot more to come.
    -Nan

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