On Mondays John and I go on a “dump date.” We load the pickup (and for the two of us there certainly isn’t very much going out of here), each get a coffee, split a cookie and head to the dump. Now here comes the best part: We take the long way home. Up Diamond Ridge, over Skyline, down East Hill or some configuration of that. We often head out East to ski at McNeil. Once we even made it to Hope for breakfast. It keeps me in touch with what’s going on at different elevations. I am really comfortable here at 396 feet and need a reminder of what you are experiencing.
Let’s revisit spruce aphids. I’m hearing lots of talk about how lucky we are to have cold temperatures after too many warm winters and how detrimental to the aphids this will be.
Where to start? The last two weeks have been so full, so interesting, so busy. And all of this in the garden. I can’t imagine life without it. So this column will be a bit disjointed, stick with it and I’m sure you’ll find something interesting and, hopefully, useful.
Warm temperatures and just enough rain. What gardener could ask for more? The garden has resoundingly responded. Lush. Productive. Gorgeous. In the 44 years I’ve lived in Alaska I’ve never had a garden like this. I will hold the memory of this growing season close to my heart because who knows what surprise we’ll get next year.
Each and every growing season there is one something that astonishes, that amazes, that speaks to our hearts. And this year it’s lilacs. Their season is short and this time around about three weeks early. I can usually count on them to be blooming for the Fourth of July barbecue. Not this year, they will be way done. But for now let’s all revel in their magnificence.
There are basic truths that bear repeating:
• Keep your garden small;
• Weed, if you can;
• Water, if you have it; and
• People, just shake your tomato plants. That’s all it takes to fertilize the bloom and you will have more tomatoes than you know what to do with. Keep your electric toothbrush in the bathroom.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get started.
I talk too much. Three times this past week I have invited interested gardeners over to look at this creation. Now, I said “interested” and they are but when I start going into way too much detail and their eyes glaze over I should take the hint. Live and learn. Plus, I don’t have time to go into all this detail. There is work to be done.
here is more than meets the eye in a garden. Liz Johnson and I shared many a pot of tea on dark winter days as we poured over seed catalogs. We shared responsibility for the Garden Clubs’ “Car Wash Garden” for eons. That was an effort that sucked up more of our time and effort than a hanging basket that needs daily watering.
Please, don’t let Al Gore know how much I’m loving this March and April. I feel like I should be wearing a hair shirt and walking on my knees to atone for my delight.
I’ve often said that if you don’t want nine months of winter/almost winter than you shouldn’t live here. You want fruit trees? Go to Washington. You want watermelons? Go to Texas. You want everything else? Stay right here.
Never in the 44 years of living in Alaska have I had a garden party the first weekend of April, and there we were, with margaritas no less. Amazing.
There has been a lot to think about the past two weeks. For instance: A friend pointed out that never ever in all her years in the Far North has she had to consider an outdoor seating arrangement in the shade. Now there is food for thought.
It isn’t all that unusual to have five inches of new snow on the first day of spring. There are two ways to cope: either pragmatically or emotionally. I chose to make waffles which I think falls somewhere in-between. John, sensing an indoor tempest, stoked the fire, made me tea, said almost all the right things and then left. Hmmm.
There is nothing that irritates me more than the month of March. Well, national politics but that’s only this year. March springs eternal.
So here it is Sunday evening at elevation 396 feet. I spent the afternoon shaking almost two feet of wet, heavy snow off shrubs. I know, I should have been wearing a hair shirt. This activity felt like penance for loving challenging kinds of ornamental plants.
But love them I do, and shake off the snow I will. The snow has turned to rain and the branches will probably break without my attention. Not on my watch.
This column is being written on Super Bowl Sunday. Taking into consideration that it would be impossible for me to care less about football I decided to address the mock orange that has graced the west corner of the house for about 15 years. I have yet to prune it. The other two have been pruned but this particular one of the trio is so magnificent that I have had pruning fear. Until last year. It did not bloom with gusto. This is a clear indication that something needed to be done. Also, the inside of the shrub was mostly dead wood.
Never ever have I had a garden take such a leisurely farewell. Well, maybe last year’s. Maybe I need to get used to leisurely.
Most of the annuals are still blooming, granted they are on their last hurrah. The foxgloves (Foxy) are blooming again after being deadheaded weeks ago. The James McFarland lilac’s second round of blooms are going to seed. Usually they don’t bloom all of the way out let alone go to seed. Interesting.
John and I took a lovely walk on the logging roads accessed off Knob Hill. Used now by hunters, they quickly diminish to four wheeler tracks.
We took advantage of a beautiful day and one just before hunting season opened. Hunters can make their way to the Caribou Hills through here and better hunting opportunities. The logged land has regrown with grass, not exactly moose browse, so the habitat has changed markedly.
But what did I see?
I’ve been doing a lot of looking around this week, looking to see what is still in bloom, lots actually. At first I was skeptical that anything much is still hanging in there. That the plants had such an early start and bloomed their hearts out and that would be that.
ho would have thought that I would have to spend a chunk of August in Detroit? That’s right, Detroit. Of all places. Detroit. May this never happen to me again.
My, but I have been having fun this week. I needed to contact Janice Chumley, the integrated pest management technician at the Cooperative Extension Service office in Soldotna, not once but twice.
And here’s why: I noticed a very white woolly substance on a branch of one of the tatarian honeysuckles. I took a picture and sent it to Janice who quickly responded with questions. So I slipped a Ziplok bag over it, cut it off and mailed it to her.
Jade the Dog hunts red-backed voles in the perennial beds. Mayhem. Destruction. Fewer red-backed voles.
What a trade-off.
The vegetable garden is interesting this season. I thought this wonderful weather would be the answer to my ambitions. But “things” are strange. The Romanesque cauliflower did not make a head, just a huge central stalk. I finally accepted the inevitable and composted the whole lot. What a disappointment.