Story last updated at 2:07 p.m. Thursday, April 25, 2002

New puppy spurs thoughts about garden perfection
Never let it be said that I am a perfectionist. Because nothing I have ever done has been perfect. I am forever striving.

So our very dear dog, Sophie, a cocker spaniel that was unconditionally loved by all who knew her, has died. She was the fifth dog in a line that spans 30 years. That means that for the first time in 30 years, we are dogless. The house is cleaner than I could ever imagine. I cannot say that it is perfect because John, my nongardening spouse, insists on living with me. Not only is this house cleaner than any house I have ever lived in, sans dog, it is quieter. No, it is the very quietest house in existence.

Therefore, in a backhanded way, I achieved two goals: clean and quiet, only to discover that there is just so much clean and quite that I can tolerate. "Be careful what you ask for, you might get it." Here I am.

A great deal of discussion ensued about a puppy and just what kind of puppy that would be and just why ever would we do that to ourselves no matter what kind of puppy. So we shelved the puppy idea. Too much bother, can't take spontaneous trips, can't take long trips, don't want anymore dog hair in the house/car, or dog prints on the floor, or mud in the car, the list goes on and on. The kids are grown, we are on our own, we have freedom that a puppy will sharply curtail.

So here comes the puppy! Egad! And not just any puppy. Oh no. We managed to choose a breed that is nonstop energy, that loves to dig (can you imagine?) and jump and run!

What a relief! Noise! Action! Energy! She is a 6-week-old Jack Russell Terrier and her name is Paris. Her eyes sparkle. And I am on my knees praying that we can burn off her energy so she does not, ever, dig up the garden. May the force be with me.

Which brings me to perfection in the garden. As the snow melts off and I can see that the Black Knight delphiniums are coming back strong as is the Nepeta siberica, primulas, shooting stars, columbine, doronocum, trollius, oriental poppies clematis, arabis, strawberries, rhubarb and bulbs. All of the trees and shrubs are looking lively, their buds and stems are juicy.

But the digitalis, foxgloves, that were so spectacular last year are lost. These are biennials and I tried to keep them going by deadheading them in the fall. But gone they are. And, because I deadheaded with such diligence, I don't think they reseeded. You can tell if yours are alive because they come out of the snow a nice green rosette of leaves close to the ground. They will look a little limp, but if they are green they will make it. May I suggest that you cover them over with some old floating row cover in case we get a nasty freeze between now and when we think we will be planting out. The chance of that freeze happening is all too real.

If you mulched last fall, please, do not take it off yet. I do not trust Weather and we can be thrown some really cold temperatures any moment. As I write this we are experiencing our second day of a cold strong wind from the northwest. Nasty. Brutal. Please keep things covered.

Also, keep your hands off your plants just as long as you can. Here at elevation 396, the ground is still frozen and if I start poking around now I will do more damage than good. Don't start sticking you finger down to see if your peony is coming up, you may break off the little pink shoot and that will be that.

I have, every single year for as long as I can remember, destroyed Dianthus barbatus, Sweet William, buy pulling off what I thought was dead foliage. Lo, dead it is not, give it time and you will be rewarded with a lovely plant. I know that keeping your hands off your plants sounds harsh but give it a try. You will have plenty of time to clean up when the weather warms and the soil thaws out.

I skied at Bald Mountain this week, accessing from McNeil Canyon School, where a snow gauge is conveniently located. There is over 3 and a half feet left at that elevation, which I think is about 1,300 feet. For those of you who are living at the higher elevations, have no fear. I may be gloating about delphiniums but you are not far behind and I really and truly believe that all things catch up in the end. You will have a lovely garden, do not think that winter will never end. Keep skiing.

The absence of the digitalis will enable other plants to take center stage. Although I really loved them they were smothering the Henry Hudson rose. This will just allow me the opportunity to try something else. Maybe something more appropriate. What a concept.

I am really enjoying the three red twig dogwoods on the east side of the house. They are so very red and just gorgeous. If you don't have any of these pick up a few. They make a good size shrub that the moose will love, so provide some protection. The amur chokecherry's copper bark is just as coppery as a new penny and that, too, is a joy to behold.

Let's throw perfection to the wind and see what this new growing season brings us.

Note: the Homer Garden Club meets Sunday at 2 p.m., downstairs in the Council Chambers of Homer City Hall on Pioneer Avenue. Homer's own Jeanne Sims will give the presentation on how to make arbors, trellis and garden sculptures with copper pipe. Jeanne's garden is an all-time favorite and she has much to share.