Tuesday, April 8, 2008

On Oak Leaves and Heather

No problem coming up with a really poetic title for today! Beth arranged for delivery of 20 yards of mulch for our landscaping and two pallets of edging stone for the small patio that is to be constructed between the end of the deck and the driveway. The sun finally made an appearance and my work is relatively up to date. So, I finally decided to tackle some of the prodigious yard work that has been beckoning ever since the daffodils and crocuses began to appear.

The whole art of landscaping hinges on finding the right plant for the right spot at the right time in the right light. I have never had the good fortune of moving into a place where the person before me made any good choices. In the case of my first house, the greenery was so hardy and overgrown that I did not discover until I had lived there several months that I had a stairs and walkway to my front door from my driveway and a gate in the fence in the back yard. Once Saul and I could afford to stop the hard labor and hire a landscaper, I chose a poor one. I knew more about the subject than he did and only (through much cajoling) was able to prevent him from making some really bad choices. The delicate creeping junipers I was expecting for my slopes were supplanted by some gigantic steely-branched variety that were in the ground before I had a chance to protest.

This house, which I have lived in for 15 years now, was practically a blank slate. We managed to preserve a number of large trees at great cost which died within the first five years. While I would not consider spending $300 on dinner for myself, I spent it on feeding those trees. Having had the 20-year experience of dealing with gardens and landscaping at the old house, I thought I would be able to avoid a lot of pitfalls. I was wrong!

I have made some really good choices. Investing in a berm filled with a variety of evergreen and deciduous trees has given us not only privacy from the house behind, but has prevented the basement from flooding by redirecting rain water.

When we built the deck and gazebo, I wanted something to plant along it that would show some color between the benches and the surface of the deck. I chose heather. I thought I was making a great choice because it is the right height, stays green in winter, tolerates the shade from the benches, has pretty lavender flowers even in January sometimes, and does not grow to great heights with steely branches that need to be kept under control. The problem is leaves. I suppose that where heather grows naturally on the moors of Scotland, there are no oak trees. Here, however, the leaves jam in great masses  between the heather and the deck and lodge their curly fingers between the fine-needled fronds of the plants.

Today, the plants that have survived the onslaught of smothering leaves by sending out stray branches here and there are covered in delicate flowers on those branches. The challenge to me is to get the leaves out of there without destroying the plants. I poke gingerly with the rake. The leaf vacuum is too strong. I remove the large masses of leaves from behind and finally resort to picking leaves, one-by-one, from the heather. This is my first foray into the garden this spring and my back gives out within a half hour. I don't have the heart to rip out these valiantly struggling specimens to try some other more efficient and labor-saving variety of plant. And if I did, I'm sure the deer, bunnies, and voles would find them delicious.


Ari said...

I'm going to have to teach you how to use the digital camera on your own now so you can illustrate some of this stuff a little better with photos interspersed between the paragraphs... ;0)

Also--the basement has flooded as recently as one year ago, and if one tree=one person, you've spent a heck of a lot more than that on dinner several times that I've been around for!

Marilyn said...

Hey, you hate to garden. Did you really want to see a close up of my cute little lavender heather?

The basement flooded because the sump pump stopped working while dad was in the hospital.

Trees don't equal people. I have spent a lot on dinner, but not that much on one person. I do hope to some time in the future at El Bulli. ;0)

Ari said...

I may hate TO garden (verb) but I do love your garden (noun).