I think about you.
Editor’s Note: This is the Kachemak Gardener’s last column of the season.
If fate led me to become an apple vendor I would make a slim living indeed. The “grands” have been ever so game eating these barely ripe apples, apparently anything with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on it immediately becomes palatable.
Those of you who grow apples have scoffed at my columnar apple tree. It has been said that it isn’t a “real” apple tree. But, in my defense, it has served a purpose: I have been able to say, yes, I have an apple tree.
The fact is that I don’t want an apple tree. The only thing I like about them are the blooms. I don’t like their growth habit, therefore, I don’t like to look at them.
A magnolia in bloom right here at latitude 59 degrees 39 minutes north. Now that’s something to write home about. Well-known Homer gardener Shirley Forquer can do just that. She acquired her plant 12 or 15 years ago in Port Townsend, Wash., gave it a home and then forgot about it, more or less. Three weeks ago she noticed something white on the ground near the base of the plant and, lo, a bloom.
I went to a friends garden this week because she is frustrated with what she has going on. I truly think being overwhelmed by your garden is one of the main reasons people give up.
But this friend is ready to dig in (literally) and get things under control. She has very specific needs from her perennial bed and really all I had to do was listen. Sometimes saying things out loud is all it takes. Once she heard herself telling me what she really wanted it all started falling into place.
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.
Just when I think the entire world is going to hell I make an excellent discovery: a neighbor with a vegetable garden that is exactly four feet square. Think about that for a moment, go ahead, take two.
Here is a semi-retired couple who have never gardened and buy the book on square foot gardening and actually do it. They are growing exactly what they want to eat. All will be consumed fresh. They have given this thought and are having excellent results.
We all think about how we can make the most of our time. So there I was, considering the seed pods rapidly developing on the multitudes of columbine (which are having an excellent season), knowing in my heart of hearts that I really really needed to go out there and deadhead. Want more blooms? Deadhead. But, I find deadheading columbine a tedious chore. Much as I love to garden, this is one task I would like to skip. So I asked myself: Deadhead columbine or eat a slice of buttered toast accompanied by a cup of tea while standing over the kitchen sink? Decisions, decisions.
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.