Gardening with dog

Something bad-ish happened this week.

This iron trellis-thing weighs about forty pounds. It’s anchored to the fence, but apparently not securely enough. The other day, our young dog was messing around back there, chasing a squirrel running on the fence, and knocked it loose. The heavy trellis fell on top of my plants—and smushed the wild garden. 

I’ll spare you the sight of the broken stems and flattened foliage. (Here is a picture of the dog instead, looking unperturbed.)

I mourned for a minute, then hoisted the trellis back up, tied it more securely, and tidied up the debris. What else could I do? I’m disappointed, but the plants are all perennials. They’ll survive. Although some are a total loss for the year, it’s still early. Others might catch up and still bloom, just with fewer flowers. I didn’t expect many flowers anyway. These are the plugs I planted last month, so the plants are still miniature. I expect they’ll take a two-to-three years to get established.  Perennials “sleep, creep, then leap,” according to my knowledgeable friend. This year the big work will be going on beneath the ground.

Meanwhile, I’m watching the area I planted last year for signs of creep. Some of the plants are definitely taking off, like the coreopsis I worried was dead, and this monarda which, true to its reputation, is spreading. It did not bloom at all last year. Is it time to do some division?

How do you feel about allium? Me, I love all blue and purple flowers. I do recall planting some allium bulbs last year, but not this many. Star-studded globes have popped up all over the yard—in front, back, on the sides—making a visual argument against planting groups of one.  The rabbits like biting the scapes—not eating, biting. They snap them in two and leave the flower on the ground while they hop off to nibble something else, like the asters which, if I don’t protect them, they gnaw down to stems.  If I’d planted all the allium bulbs in one area, I could encircle it with a little fence.

I don’t know what I was thinking, planting that allium so randomly, but this reminds me of a story. Many years ago, I had a wonderful experience living and working in France at La Varenne, Anne Willan’s cooking school in northern Burgundy. In the fall, Anne had given her gardener, Monsieur Milbert, some daffodil bulbs to plant, and in the spring they popped up in long, single rows, like corn or something. 

“It never occurred to me to tell him to put them in a clump,” Anne said.

Château du Feÿ, former home of La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine

This year, spring is trundling along, despite the cool temperatures, and now more things than I know the names of are in bloom. Each day brings us one day closer to summer. I realize I think of summer as normal, and all other times as aberrations. Maybe this is a result of growing up in Texas, which has a lot more summer than most other places. All winter long I wait to get back to normal. I’m also aware that I’ve always thought of gardening as planting, but my definition is expanding to include tasks like transplanting digging, clipping, pruning, watering, and even a few more.

Speaking of summer, watching the grape leaf out on south fence makes me wonder if taking elaborate precautions to ward off Japanese beetles, birds, and chipmunks is worthwhile. I’ve tried many things—traps, dish soap, neem, and enveloping the entire trellis in black tulle, but I can’t say that any of it worked. I’ve never tasted a grape from this vine, although it produces plenty of them. I just won’t surrender. I read a garden blog this week that recommended tying all the fruit bunches in paper lunch bags, which I’ve also done. Some enterprising creature slashed through each one and gobbled up the fruit inside.

Maybe I should make little net bags? Like I said, I’ve never tasted a grape, but this could be the year.

Having a strong interest in anything can be a boon to your family members when the time comes for them to give you a gift. Since starting this blog, I’ve received an excellent set of hand tools, two pairs of gardening gloves, some swamp milkweed plants (watch out!), and a beautiful planter. This year for my birthday, my teenage daughter, knowing about my interest in native grasses, gave me two pots of pampas grass.

They look harmless now…

This creates a dilemma for me, as pampas is not one of the grasses I like. Pampas grass is not native to this area, has razor-sharp foliage, and grows to be ten feet tall.  Where will I put it? The Writers Place had some growing in front when I worked there, and every spring I had to go out and hack at it with a machete. 

On the other hand, this was so thoughtful of my daughter.  She keeps asking if I like it.

What should I do? (After thanking her, of course, which I did immediately.)  Google “how to react when your kid gives you a gift you don’t care for?” How about “grow pampas grass in containers?

Apparently, this is possible, so I will try it.

I wonder what happened to that machete.

To finish, here are some things we have to look forward to in the coming weeks. Some blueberries survived last month’s freeze, and what a year it’s going to be for the peonies. I can’t wait!

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