Sunday, December 28, 2003

in the garden

This morning, I started back out in the garden. I reminded myself several times that the main goal was to get all the bulbs in the ground. But of course, other projects put on hold in the past, leaped out in front of me, reminding that I had wanted to divide the lambs ear (stachys byzantium), for example.

So in between planting bulbs, I moved and divided my way through the garden.

Bulbs need six weeks of cold dormancy, so getting them into the ground is ok. However, I could tell that some of them were a little dried. Daffodils need a longer period to get their root systems established, so the dafs that I planted will bloom later than normal. They'll get back on track next year.

By good fortune, I had a number of tulips this year, Oratorio, a rose colored flower, and a few burgundy lily tulips.

The ground is cold and damp this time of year, and mostly soft enough to easily dig and move. I continued moving out catmint (nepeta), a hearty variety I got about three years ago. I tackled more daisy's, which are easy to divide. I have the new cultivar whose name escapes me, but it is an excellent improvement. A big problem with traditional shastas is that the stem is long and narrow, and the flowers become a mess after one good spring or summer rain storm. This one is thicker stemmed, and is a prolific bloomer.

The lambs ear is also a new variety, or at least new to me. I bought one pot of it a couple of years ago and have not divided it until now. So far, it does not bloom, which is a good thing. There is probably not more of a useless bloom than the ugly flower stalk of lambs ear. The plant's silver, hairy and floppy foliage is its glory. The flower stalk is a hairy green stalk with tiny almost unseeable rose or purple flowers. It's main purpose is to spread seed, creating spreading in places where you don't want lambs ear.

I've always cut it off as soon as it pops up. This makes the clump more compact, and while it will still need to be divided, and the decayed older leaves that have piled up will need to be removed, it grows in a thicker tighter clump.

The leaves on this cultivar are wider, a bit darker green, and a really good grower. Lambs ear, like daisy's, grows in stems that send out roots. Just break off a stem with root, and plant it. It will bush out into a sturdy new plant in spring.

I also came across seedlings (large and small) of rose champion which I moved to the same area. I dug up a few roots of Japanese anemones and moved them to a line of larger shrubs and plants that I've added along one side of my perennial beds.

I also dug up a large spirea and moved it. It was in the wrong place, in the middle of a bed. I've been thinking about that one for a while and was glad to get it moved to another spot.

I finished lining up stone along the other side of the perennial bed, tying into the small retaining wall I built yesterday. I added a couple of stone steps in the break in the middle that I left yesterday. I like the rough, aged and slightly messy look it gives, as well as the definition it provides for that section of the garden.

Franklin was on his tether, and except for barking at other dogs, bicycles and skateboards, was a fine garden companion. A couple of times he looked like he wanted to get into the digging. I try to stop that because it is so inherent in his nature. I am afraid that if I encourage him, it will be something he will do more. He digs quite fast.

Tonight I am tired but most relaxed. At some point, I threw the gloves off, and now the skin on my hands is roughly scarred, as if I had been rubbing them on sandpaper. A small price to pay for such a satisfying day.

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