Friday, June 15, 2007

Sod it

Meet my magnificent bleeding heart:

Beauty, eh? At its peak it measured more than five feet across. Since then the blooms have fallen, and I'm waiting to see what happens once it goes dormant (i.e., bleeding hearts, like astilbe and other plants, wholly retire once they've bloomed). What will I do with that five-foot-square plot?

It’s odd, playing adoptive parent to someone else’s garden. That garden is mine now, of course, but I didn’t plant what is now finally emerging with confidence (from a soil less alkaline than my last patch of clay, though still far from acidic; which is to say, big blue hydrangeas? don’t count on it). Plants — and insects — are cropping up that I don’t recognize, and I’m having a hard time telling friend from foe at this point. Are those hardy geraniums I’m seeing in patches? Lovely; I hope so. Those fire engine-red beetles? The kids like them, but they don’t look too friendly, at least not to those asiatic lilies. And lo: asparagus! (That’s how it grows!? You don’t say.) And so forth. I’m resolved to play wait and see for some time, which is exciting, though I’m impatient: I’m ready to get busy and mix it up, make it mine.

I do find myself missing my old garden, wondering how it’s getting on, and what the new owners are doing with it. Did they cut back the butterfly bush? Are they training the clematis? Yes, I have even thought of driving past to see, were I to return (though that Chicago trip has now been deferred to December, as my MLA panel has been accepted).

For those who have been here for a while, you’ll remember that my old Garden Spot ran in a column in the sidebar, and featured photos from the Chicago garden. Much like moving from the US to Canada, the translation from Old Blogger to New initially did not go well: the move altered (irrevocably) much that I liked about my old template; I've had ongoing formatting problems; and, ironically, the new sidebar options (meant to simplify formatting for users) made doing the G-Spot column (which I used to work in, old-fashioned-like, inserting HTML into the template) more difficult. Somewhere in there there's a metaphor for emigrating.

I started scouting out new turf for Jardiniere, but since the bee and other recent developments, I've decided it's probably best to stay put and work through all of the transplant shock (a term for when plants experience a "growth check" upon being transplanted, but I trust you're with me here on the symbolism). This means that my garden posts will now be incorporated into the main frame: if you don't care about gardening, hopefully you'll find some digital respite resting your eye on the photos.

If you were reading last autumn, you know that I moved everything (which wasn’t much) from the two front east-facing beds to the side of the house — to clear that palette, as it were. I had intended to bury a blast of bulbs, but . . . well, if you were reading at all last autumn (there wasn’t much to read), you know not much happened other than emigrating, parenting, teaching, and dissertating, and I was fortunate to have accomplished any of that. (I just discovered the bulbs in a box in the garage.)

But this past spring, amid grading, road trips to Toronto and Montreal, remaining talks to give at Queen’s and some dreadful illness it took weeks to kick, I managed to make the rounds of a couple area nurseries and get started in the front beds. Measuring roughly 5′ x 20,' they border the front of our limestone house, so I’ve decided to work the grays and blues, accented with muted pinks and whites: delphinium (let’s hope they come back for me here!); foxglove; globe thistle; Russian sage; artimisia; campanula; phlox; salvia; iris; stonecrop (I love the variegated variety); perennial baby’s breath and miniature mums; and other assorted plants to make for a cool-themed herbaceous border. The plants are young (i.e., immature, aka relatively inexpensive), but they should fill in nicely in the years to come.

What is wood on our house is gray with white trim, so I potted all white annuals for the front porch: big chunky pansies (I find the small ones too mincing, and too unforgiving if you get behind on the deadheading); african daisies (the vanilla ones with the deep eggplant centres); creamy snapdragons; verbena; etc. As you can see, the annuals are fairly prosaic (again, aka affordable) — but all white and grouped together, they make a lovely soft statement against the gray.

Indeed it’s the first time that I’ve gardened white (and I’m pleased with it). My last house, in Illinois, was mustard brick, one of those midwest split-levels designed to look like the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. While there were a dozen such houses in our neighborhood (i.e., hardly one of a kind!), I worked the faux-prairie style as much as possible, and white didn’t work. I suppose it's only apt that it works so well here in the Great White North.

Here's my handiwork so far:

Beauty, eh?

By the way, they say that "summers in Kingston are the best." And they're right.

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