Sunday, May 04, 2008

Mud - A Beauty Pack For the Soul

I needed a chance to get in the dirt and work on my soul, so it was fortuitous that yesterday was sunny and warm. It also was the day that the Summerland Ornamental Gardens had their annual spring plant sale.

After walking the cat and feeding Tony breakfast I shot out the door as if my tail was on fire. Half way down the street my neighbour Del was working in her garden. I stopped, told her where I was going and invited her along. She dropped her spade, took off her gloves and ran for her purse, saying, "I don't have room for a single more plant, but I'll come along, just to look. And I'll bring my purse, in case something calls my name."

Something called her name, actually more than one something called her name.

As for me, I bought as much as I could carry. I've always wanted to grow lavender and rosemary, so bought some of each, and some lovely succulents. We always have called these "Hen and Chicks" because the little ones grow off the side of the larger ones. I got two varieties of those. Some "Elijah Blue" grass, which grows in clumps and is gorgeous.

I also got the last plant they had of wooly thyme, and I got a magnificent Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, 'Kinnikinnick' or 'Bear-berry'. It is covered with beautiful tiny pink balloon-shaped flowers. It should spread far and wide, as it is a magnificent ground cover for shady spots.

I also bought a toad lily, which is a little sad-looking after being frost-nipped a few nights ago at the greenhouse, but it should recover rapidly and grow about three feet high. These bloom in the fall and have spiky, delicate, orchid-like blossoms.

The site is not entirely flat. It lifts slightly as you go front to back, and the left hand side is slightly higher than the right. There are two large trees, one at the front and one about 4/5ths of the way toward the back. Both are to the left hand side. A few days ago I raked a lot of the gravel from the lower part of the site into a flat-topped mound surrounding the Buddha, under the tree to the back of the site.

This created a perfect profile for what I wanted to do. I planted the plants in a meandering bed almost up the middle of the site, beginning by planting the wooly thyme between the astilbes I planted almost a month ago. After I had the plants in I sowed perennial thyme over the entire area, to serve as ground cover under the taller plants. And behind the thyme some "bunny-tail" grass, which has a little puff of white at the top of each flowering stalk. I will put edging of some kind along the meandering line of the bed, to give it a finished look. I saw one which appears to be small stones. I think that would work perfectly, as long as it is flexible enough to bend to the curves.

An 18" square of moss got divided up into small strips and punched into the mounded gravel platform where our Buddha sits admiring the blue Hosta growing there. I'm hoping it takes off and spreads. It's a very shady spot, very well-drained (gravel) but moss only uses the soil beneath it as an anchor, as it draws its nutrients and moisture from the air. I would dearly love a carpet of moss on that mound.

To the left of the bed is hard-packed gravel. The neighbour needs access to the back of his trailer, so no point in planting things where they will be stomped into the ground, but surprisingly, the gravel ended up being a strong and very interesting part of the design. Its colour and texture ties the entire design together, giving almost a tiered effect.

I will buy some ferns, assuming I can find some, to plant along the boundary between planting bed and gravel and serve as a backdrop to the other plants. Except for the two astilbe plants at the beginning of the long row, this is predominantly a foliage garden, meant to showcase the forms, colours, fragrances and textures of leaves. Any blossoms are small and not the predominant feature.

To the right of the bed is the path we take to the back end of the trailer, where there is strong sun for six or eight hours a day. So at the back I will plant a tomato or two, and some squash plants. Also some kind of climbing something on a lattice, to hide the mess to the back. I'll put the containers and baskets of annual flowers in front, and we will be surrounded by a veritable Eden.

It's wonderful having a place to garden again. Pots are fine, if you don't have a "dirt" spot, but there's nothing to me like real honest-to-goodness digging in the mud.


Mandy said...

I read the first two paragraphs and got a bit choked up thinking about how much our lives have all changed in the last 3-4 years. I feel a bit silly for how much Zak and I worried about you guys moving to the OK. And I'm very excited that we'll be seeing you so soon. :)

Outhouse Capital of Canada said...

Hi Deb, it is great to hear you so happy to be planting, what is it about grubbing in the dirt that makes us feel so happy. I could spend hours every day just grubbing in my garden, but the enthusiasm wanes when it comes to dusting and window washing. It took me about fifty years to realize that dusting was not good for the soul and friends worth having didn't visit to rate you on cleanliness.

Spending all day planting and weeding is my favourite pastime, you come in at the end of the day, filthy and aching, but the sense of peace and 'oneness' with the earth, is so good for the soul.

Keep up the good work and make the most out of your beauty spot.

Dave and I are having a fantastic time in Scotland. We both love ancient buildings, especially churches and cathedrals, so many beautiful buildings make for so much pleasure. The amount of interesting gravestones make really interesting viewing.

Tomorrow we set off for five days in Edinburgh, we have rented a cottage and hope to get in lots of exploring. We have been here two weeks already and time is just flying past. Two more weeks and it is back to Oliver and the jungle that must be appearing in my back yard. That is the trouble with going on vacation in May, the grass and weeds are growing at their fastest then. If you feel the need to grub in dirt, just drop by and I will give you gloves and a trowel!!!!

Take care and enjoy this wonderful time of year. Pat