Many years ago, when we lived on “the Farm,” we had a wonderful Italian Prune tree that gave us loads of plums each September. That was one of the things we missed the most after we moved away! So it is very fitting that we planted a Dwarf Italian Prune tree in our yard this week. We planted it with lots of hopes and memories along with it. May it will do well in the spot we chose for it!
“If it is true that one of the greatest pleasures of gardening lies in looking forward, then the planning of next year’s beds and borders must be one of the most agreeable occupations in the gardener’s calendar. This should make October and November particularly pleasant months, for then we may begin to clear our borders, to cut down those sodden and untidy stalks, to dig up and increase our plants, and to move them to other positions where they will show up to greater effect. People who are not gardeners always say that the bare beds of winter are uninteresting; gardeners know better, and take even a certain pleasure in the neatness of the newly dug, bare, brown earth.”
– Vita Sackville-West
I love Pinterest for garden inspiration and collecting ideas, but another favorite source of inspiration for me are the gardens I visit — botanical gardens, demonstration gardens, neighbors’ gardens! Last Fall, the hubby and I spent time going through the Master Gardener’s Learning Garden at the Jenkins Estate in Beaverton, Oregon. It was our first autumn visit to that small but delightful garden, and I fell in love with one plant that was in full bloom on that sunny afternoon. It was a huge clump of Lemon Queen Sunflowers. The bees also loved that plant! It was covered with them! So I decided I had to have some Lemon Queens in my garden for this year, so I sent away for one live plant and when it arrived, I planted it in a tub that I could see from the kitchen window and waited throughout the winter to see if it would do anything. Indeed it did! That one plant has been a delight for all of the summer. It has bloomed and bloomed, and continues blooming today! A huge clump of them would be wonderful, so next spring I will plant more of them. The bees will be very happy.
We have plans for a “native plants garden” in the front corner of our yard. It’s a big project, so we won’t be getting to it until the fall, even though we’ve already cleared the space for it. I’m so excited to put it together…bring in a big load of dirt, add some good-sized rocks, and plant some lovely native trees, shrubs, and flowers. I’m going to put in Red Flowering Current, a Vine Maple, some Salal and Oxalis, then plant a variety of native ferns and flowers.
Last year, in anticipation of this garden, I bought some Salal, planted it in a pot and put it in the space on the north side of the front porch which I call my “plant hospital.” Whenever I put a plant there because it’s been struggling somewhere else in the yard, it recovers and flourishes! That’s what the Salal is doing! I checked on it the other morning after a rain, and it was flowering! I’m really looking forward to building that native plants garden and planting my dear sweet Salal in it’s new, permanent home!
I first read May Sarton’s journals, Plant Dreaming Deep, Journal of a Solitude, and The House by the Sea, 35 years ago, and I remember loving them. In these journals she describes her daily routines, her homes, her gardens, her neighbors and friends, and her inner life as a writer and poet. Both her inner and outer journeys were fascinating to me, and I was very influenced by her thoughts and ideas on solitude, creativity, and on being an artist.
Reading Plant Dreaming Deep the first time as a young stay-at-home mother, I was especially inspired by her stories of gardening at her new home in Nelson, New Hampshire. The winter I read this journal, I spent hours pouring over seed catalogs, planning my own little flower garden. When spring came, I cleared a small patch of slightly sloped ground next to the driveway, put in some good-sized rocks and created a little rock garden. My first flower garden! That was a lovely spring for me! I remember planting cosmos and marigolds, and some tall sunflowers, all from seeds I sent for during the winter. I was very proud of that first garden and called it my “May Sarton Garden.”
Now, 35 years later, I just reread this book and loved it all over again. Once again, May Sarton has inspired me to plan and plant… and experience the joy of gardening!
Is there a joy except gardening that asks so much and gives so much?
My daughter and I started a new gardening project this week. Gardening is completely new to her, but she’s got a wonderful design sense and is excited about creating some new and beautiful garden spaces while she is living with us temporarily. We picked a “simple” and “quick” project to start with — putting in a small flower bed on one side of the walkway to the front porch. We could do it on our own, probably in one afternoon…just clear off the sod, dig down a bit, mix in some compost to enrich the soil, plant our beautiful new plant choices…
Well…it hasn’t turned out to be the quick and easy project we had hoped for! We were successful at removing the sod, thanks to our sweet little roto-tiller the husband bought last spring.
But then, when we started digging, we ran into some problems. First, it’s been such a dry hot summer (following a very dry winter/spring in this area) the soil was baked and compacted, making it very difficult force a shovel into it and turn it over. Second, the soil was full of rocks. Mostly little rocks, but big enough to make it very difficult to dig. Then, to add to our misery, we discovered a buried electrical system for some old lighting fixtures that once lined that walkway. That required the husband-who-has-electrical-experience to get involved.
Husband thought it would be a quick and easy fix. But when he tried to remove the electrical system, he discovered it had been installed in concrete, too much work to remove. So we decided to save it and install some new walkway lights there. That would be nice. Daughter and I rearranged the plans for where to place the different plants we chose, and went back to digging. We are very slowly making progress.
Isn’t this a typical gardening story, though? Gardening is always an adventure! I just keep saying to myself, and to my daughter, that we are going to be very proud of that little flower bed when we finally get it planted, and very proud of ourselves for accomplishing this “quick and easy” project.
An update today on the progress of our Sunflower Garden…
Today, Hubby cleared the last of our “Crimson Clover Garden” and prepared the ground for planting the Dwarf Sunspot Sunflower seeds we bought from Silver Falls Seed Company. It will [hopefully] be our ‘mini field’ of sunflowers before too long. We’re planting it in that sunny patch of ground between our driveway/garage and the alleyway that runs behind our house. It used to be a wilderness of weeds. Now it has become our “whimsy garden.”
The second stop on our garden vacation was to visit Schreiner’s Iris Garden, just north of Salem, Oregon. It was an overcast morning with a bit of rain, but as we drove into the parking lot, the sun came out! We spent hours wandering slowly through the display garden, overwhelmed by the color and the variety of irises and other flowers! It was absolutely gorgeous!