Ramblings of a "New American" Gardener

Garden Diary: Late, better than never

March 24, 2014

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Driving along Federal Twist Road last weekend, I stopped my car for a quiet look at the forest. With sunlight beaming down in silent stillness, I could almost hear it, spring in the air.

Of course, I knew that, as the calendar goes, spring had arrived. I was about to go home and continue burning the garden … much later than ever before because of the record-setting snow and ice this winter (the photo below is cheating because I took it before leaving for a month’s vacation in the southern hemisphere, but you get the idea).

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Spring maintenance has changed. I’ve planted more shrubs in recent years, recognizing they offer a visual interest different from the herbaceous perennials that are the mainstay of my garden. Of course, shrubs make burning impossible in parts of the garden, so I am doing much more cutting than in years past. The bank is now mulched with grass clippings.

Some of it is really ugly. Like this wet, black blot…

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… but the long shadows of the setting sun do wonders, creating parallel channels of light redolent with emotion, even on the newly flattened garden.

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Another week of cleanup and then I hope a little structural work can begin. Some new paving and small paths for individual roaming, then planting. Here the blacks, ochers and burnt umbers draw together the stressed colors of box, possibly dead, on the left, and the quickening willows at right.

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I was intrigued by the sight of thousands of Crocosmia in long grass along the roadsides in New Zealand, and I’ve gotten a quantity of corms I want to plant in masses among the grasses in the space below. It’s a risk, but what’s gardening without risk? They should blossom then disappear among the other plants, none yet visible.

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I also got a shipment of Liatris corms, many of which will go in the open space below, to add to the mix of Filipendula rubra and other large perennials. Last fall, I seeded in Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica). It’s already all over the garden, but I wanted more for the late blue.

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It’s taken a few years, but I now look forward to this time of transition, and I find these colors emotionally compelling, if not downright beautiful.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbee March 24, 2014 at 2:08 pm

The older I get, the more I love and appreciate browns. I think your garden is beautiful at the stage and in this state. And the light… oh, the light is everything. I consider it one of the elements of design.

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James Golden March 24, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Thank you, Barbee. I really appreciate your taking time to notice and comment.

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Pat Webster March 25, 2014 at 7:42 am

It’s hard to ‘get to know’ a garden on line, but with each season’s photos, I became better acquainted with yours. Seeing the paths meandering through the open spaces helps. As does your shadow in many of them — even an elongated human outline gives an idea of scale. I particularly like the log circle with the touch of red above.

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James Golden March 27, 2014 at 8:31 am

Thanks, Pat. I find the garden almost impossible to photograph. It’s very hard to capture the different experiences of looking out at the garden from above (it seems much smaller) and walking in it below, which is a very immersive experience (when the plants haven’t been burned or cut away, as they have been now).

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Extravagantgardens.com March 26, 2014 at 10:01 am

I was at the Philly Flower show and they had a display of ‘dead’ plants. I thought of your gardens instantly. It was beautiful but some people didn’t understand it. The beauty of a winter landscape should never be discounted!

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James Golden March 27, 2014 at 8:34 am

I saw that garden in photographs, and I think it would have been my favorite. I do believe many gardeners are becoming more appreciative of the beauty of deal plants. My garden is at its best when dying.

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Diana Studer March 27, 2014 at 5:38 pm

We never have that quiet down time. The garden does rest in the summer, but not so peacefully. We’ve had our first good rain, and everything is greening and growing.

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James Golden March 27, 2014 at 8:47 pm

I always have told myself I like living where we have a dramatic change of season. Not I’m not so sure. Is your climate similar to Australia, I mean southeast Australia?

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