Story last updated at 1:19 p.m. Saturday, August 31, 2002

Watering crucial going into winter
Rosemary Fitzpatrick
Yes, the showers have been lovely, but: do not lull yourself into believing that they are a substitute for a good rain. They are not. You need to give your trees and shrubs a good watering.

I am stressing the trees because they will need a good soaking going into the fall and winter. I learned that the hard way this past spring. The Scotch pine that I bought at the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust tree sale came out of the winter looking quite dead. I consulted with Jordan Hess, a.k.a. "The Tree Guy," and he said that Scotch pines are notorious for not getting enough water going into the winter. The shape of the tree encourages rain to run off and not get to the new developing root system. Poor thing. But I have watered it diligently all summer and will continue to do so until everything is frozen solid. It looks excellent, thankfully.

With all of the harvesting going on around here, I fear the rest of my garden has become neglected. I took a good hard look at it this week and determined that a great deal of work was beckoning.

I started by removing the nepeta sibirica from under the lilacs. Good grief. What I thought was a dwarf variety is not, and the flopping stems that have engulfed the lilacs have been driving me crazy. There are others who declared them lovely, but to me they are a nuisance, so I dug them out. Carefully. I am worried about disturbing the roots of the lilacs and setting them back or even ruining them. But I worked carefully and watered deeply after all was said and done. Now my fingers are crossed.

Identify what it is that you no longer want and have a garden party. Let your friends know what it is you want to get rid of, and whoever it is that wants it can come and help you move it come spring. I truly do think that spring is the best time to transplant established plants. Even to divide plants. For instance, my iris bed is 4 years old and will need to be divided in the spring. This is going to be a huge job, and I will need help. Those who have expressed interest in getting some of my iris will be there to help me. I hope.

The point here is: if you see something in your garden that does not satisfy you, do not be a slave to it. Rip it out. The nepeta in question was ordered from Bluestone Perennials, the plants were cheap. I do not have a huge investment here, which made the decision to remove it not so very difficult. The root system is enormous, and I could not remove it all without doing damage to the lilacs. Which is why I did not wait until spring to pot them up and give them away or give them to the Homer Garden Club for their plant sale -- I destroyed the roots.

I will be pulling up nepeta for years to come, but pull it I will.

This leads me to all kinds of thoughts about what I (you) do and do not like, and why. Curved beds is really jumping out at me. I am not a curved bed kind of gal. Give me straight lines. But I am just now coming to this realization. Too late. Curved beds are here and here to stay. In my estimation they make lawn mowing even more bothersome than it already is. And my house is almost a square and I think, in retrospect, that angular beds would have been quite complimentary and satisfied my sense of order to boot. But all of the gardening journals say to curve your beds, so I did what I thought I "should" do. Wrong. Do what you want with your beds, they are yours. And if you like pink and orange, plant pink and orange.

Another thought on mowing: edges. Trimming is so very time-consuming and actually boring. My trimmer is gas-powered, loud and too big for me. I am trying to find ways to minimize its use. The late Rosemary Verey, a renowned British landscape designer, suggested laying flat rocks (pavers) or bricks along the edges of beds so you could get one wheel of the mower on the rocks and the other on the grass, thus effectively eliminating the need to trim. I am really going to think about this. And if you have any ideas, I would be more than happy to listen to them.

Now is the time of year for containerized plants to go on sale. The price is usually more than I can resist, and I usually add to the collection. I like to get them into the ground as soon as I can, I think they need a bit of time to establish before the freeze is here to stay. By all means, if you find a deal on a mock orange get one, or two or three. They are fabulous but come in all shapes and sizes, so read the label carefully.

Keep gardening.

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