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Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Gardener's Diary Archive: Grandiose plans yield to creaky knees, March 1, 2016

74F yesterday; almost as high today. This bums out the weathermen on Channel 9. They like their weather poor to catastrophic. Really bad weather becomes news and they are, for a time, on a par with the meat puppets who do the real news: always in the present tense, even when it happens in the past.

I got out for a four-mile walk last Friday. Forsythia are popping out flowers pretty uniformly in the neighborhood. A couple of houses over, I see a tulip tree showing off. Along the roadside, dandelions are flexing their muscles, promising millions more yellow blossoms to come. 

In my front bed, which I buried in six inches of leaf mulch for the winter, the bluebells and wood hyacinths are coming up. Last fall, when I turned over all compacted soil in the bed, I moved some of the bulbs around, and now have half a dozen little groups coming up. This year they all get marked with stakes so I can do it again once they have retreated back below. 

The irises- thirty of the thirty-two I transplanted last spring, came up a few inches and toughed out the winter. I am hopeful we will get flowers this year. 

In the backyard, the grape hyacinths are in bloom: four of them this year. They enliven the otherwise still dull scene. The rosemarys do well, though junior is showing some signs of the same browning of the leaves that Mother Rosemary did a year ago. That's gotta be cut out. The tulips have pushed up and I look forward to welcoming them back.

Last week I moved all the popper peppers and herbs outside. One pepper promptly gave up the ghost. The rest seem happy to get more sun and I have had to set up a new watering rota. When I was moving the around the house on their kitchen trolley to get whatever sun there was, it was easier to remember.

Two days of high winds have made at least a day's worth of limb-collecting and breaking work. I went out for a while this afternoon, full of grand intentions, and settled for stacking a big pile of scrap lumber where I can saw it up for next winter. We've had a mild one so far, the one January snowfall excepting; I've had maybe five fires in the fireplace, and those mostly for morale boosters on gloomy days when nothing is selling in the Day Job.

It's pruning time in my next-door neighbor's yard. I spent last year uncovering it like a suburban Hiram Bingham hacking his way to Machu Pichu. Now I know whats there, there is much to see to, getting long-neglected plants cut back and reshaped to look presentable. It's coming up on time to put blocs of yard work time back on the calendar.

Just before the bad weather came, I moved half a dozen peonies to my back bed from the yard across the street. I just stuck them in the ground, figuring it was root, hog, or die, and their previous owner never hit a lick with them. So far there are no signs of life among the dead leaves and stems, but I remain an optimist.

My copy of A Southern Garden is down from the shelf.

The birds are coming back, too. I hear a lot more chatter in the trees. Today there were three Carolina wrens feasting on worms and bugs brought up when I got the scrap out of the leaves and restacked it; there was a pair that overwintered around the woodpile. I hope we'll see some more. Three Saturdays ago, after a heavy rain, there were four pairs of cardinals holding a conclave in the side yard- that's a record. Standing at the kitchen door February 15, waiting for my tea to cool, I was astonished to see a red-shouldered hawk- a big red-shouldered hawk- perched on a limb in the woods, not fifty feet away. It sat, stock-still, for six minutes, swiveling its head only twice, then somehow navigated through the undergrowth and scrub and up into the sky overhead.

The days grow longer, and on the nicer ones I can get a window or two open for some air. I have made it through another winter.

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