Friday, June 27, 2008

Shear Delight

Ah, perennials...the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap, or so goes the adage. I have no idea how old the plants in our front garden bed are, but let me tell you, "leap" hardly describes the explosion I've witnessed over the past several weeks. It's so funny to think back to moving-in day, when the bed seemed to contain only a plum tree, a lilac and a somewhat pathetic-looking dusty miller relative. I thought I'd have lots of planting to do. Fast forward to mid-May, and all sorts of new things were popping up here and there, lovely perennials like euphorbia, lupine hybrids, hardy geraniums, forget-me-nots, a few tulips, centaurea, and what I think is soapwort (although not sure). Lots of room for the eye to rest in between each of these plants, and some room for me to plant more in the future.

Well, here it is the end of June, and that same perennial bed - in fact the entire front garden - is to the point of overwhelming me. Everything has exploded, that same bed is crammed full of all sorts of things (some I like, some I don't), and is a great big mess. Couple that with the arbor leading to the front door, which has four different plants growing on it, one in each corner of the arch: wisteria and grapes in the front, and hops and a climbing rose in the back, closest to the front door. There is also a humongous spirea behind a lattice fence in the breezeway separating the house from the garage, and that thing was so massive and overgrown all I could think about yesterday was I stopped at Ace Hardware in town on my way home and bought a pair of giant hedge pruners (you know, the scissors type).

Today I'm paying for it. I sheared and pruned for over an hour straight. I truly only intended to attack the spirea and the mystery shrub between our side fence and well pump house, and believe me, I went nuts on both. But I also got carried away, attacking the 7 foot tall forsythia, the 6+ foot tall rhododendron in front of the kitchen window (I want my views back), all three butterfly bushes (I don't even care if I don't get flowers this year; they should have been cut to the ground last fall), the expired stalks of lupine and kniphofia, and the upper reaches of the climbing rose and hops on the arbor.

I know I didn't do justice to any of those plants; I'll have to go back in later with hand pruners and do the job right. Now, though, there's space, breathing room if you will, in the front garden. There are also signs of massacre everywhere, the amputated plant parts laying where they fell. I'll clean up the mess later. When I can use my arms. I came out of my rampage with a huge broken blister on my writing hand and arms so sore and tired I can't even properly hold a pen! How sad...seems like I should maybe do this more often, huh?

(Further garden work will need to wait until another weekend, as tomorrow we're bringing Rustler's Bridgit and Sheila of Valhalla home!)

I keep meaning to post photos of the front garden's progression through the season but haven't gotten around to it. For now, enjoy the "before slaughter" photos I took a few evenings ago.

View down the front walk. Butterfly bushes on both sides, and check out that arbor! You can't really tell, but there were roses and hops on top of the roof.

The largest offenders in this view: butterfly bushes, rose campion, lupine and the monster rhodie (far right).

Oy. What a mess. The foxgloves just showed up this week. You can barely see the violets and lamb's ear in the foreground...both grow everywhere outside the broken-concrete-lined flower bed.

My winter project: trimming the massive Japanese maple. It's actually larger than my Subaru Forester, and has hack marks where past owners have cut it out of the driveway.


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