Tuesday, September 18, 2012

View from the Ground


I sit and groom the garden, like a horse. It’s meditative.I only truly appreciate the garden this time of year when I am down on the ground. 
            When I work on this level, pulling wispy leaves of intruder grasses out of the Scotch Moss, ubiquitous invading violets out of the Mazus patch, and multitudes of other weeds, volunteers, and wandering plant-nations out of the various groundcovers I have established as the privileged species for certain vaguely defined homelands, I am very close to the ground, thinking very small, and making what is likely to prove only the minutest difference to anyone looking at the place other than myself.
            Is that why I like it?
            This is fully-fledged amateurism, loving the little things. I know where the lime-green mosses, both Irish and Scottish, are fighing for centimeters of turf against the persistent encroachments of the nameless large-leaf, restless-runnered neighbor with about 100 times the expansive firepower of its vulnerable neighbors. The mosses grow very slowly, and die back very easily.
            Their tiny little filament-like leaves – if that’s the right word – are an exquisite color and texture. You’d like them to fill all the ground around the stepping stones where you’ve planted them, and even spill over the stone itself, but you’ve known them long enough now to know they’ll be shaking their tiny fists at the universe before they manage to do any such thing.
            But the view is somehow refreshing, enlivening, head-clearing, from down this low, this minute, this insubstantial. It’s liberating to know that no one will ever suffer much over their failures or establish holidays to celebrate their successes.
            When I look at the garden these days – late summer, through September – everything appears to have slowed down. Aside from a few late bloomers, the big perennials are all in a rut. They’ve done  their bloom and, for the most part, don’t have any repeat blooms left in their system. They’re drying out, dying, some noticeably, some by largely inconspicuous degrees. My decisions are all about when to cut the old growth back, and how much. Take the black seedheads off the cone flowers? Pull the plug on the fading cosmos? Clip the tall stems of the meadow rue, whose wavy pink blooms have come and gone in August?
            Down on the ground, thinking small, I can still farm my small-holdings. Pull the intruding creepers of the big-leaved groundcover that keeps trying to retake a gentle slope where I transplanted Stronecrop Sedum last fall. I put in some stones too, for the stonecrop to climb over, and it looked pretty nice this spring… even though, as I eventually conceded, the sedum didn’t flower. Hmm, what can I do to give it a better chance next year?