Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Ghost of an Idea






            Looking at the photos I took last week over the course of a few days whenever it looked like the light was right, I am tempted to say, OK, fine, it's a wrap, can't do much better with the materials at hand. Let's stop the universe right here.
            The sun comes out one day in the mid to late afternoon. The light falls strongly on the light-blue flowers of the mid-sized phlox I put in the ground at the start of the season this spring in a place that looks made for a plant of this size and shape. The sharp light divides sun and shade, heightening the contrast.
            In every garden there are a thousand gardens because points of view, light, season and the status of the plants themselves are constantly changing. They are like people.
            I think these thoughts after returning from the visiting family friends in Boston and walking through the city's Public Gardens. They do great floral displays there each summer. But it just hit me that all the plants in the flower beds are annuals. (No doubt I realize this every year and promptly forget about it.) Hardly any perennials make up their summer flower gardens.
            And the reason? They want steady color. They don't want to be changing their plants every week or two as the growing season unfolds.
            That's what perennial gardens do. They change the display. They show you something, then take it away.
            The upside is that your perennial garden is constantly changing, showing you something new all the time.
            The downside is that most of your perennials -- including many you wait for: irises, peonies, the weeping cherry tree -- are without blooms fifty to fifty-one weeks a year.
            Areas glow, light up for their moment in the spring, and then go green. Most retain the interest of foliage and shape (some wither away quickly). So you have to keep looking for ways to provide color interest in places where the plants have already finished their bloom.
            Last week was first time we could access the patio since the re-shingling of the house, which chewed up three weeks last month and ended on a hot Sunday, was finally over.
            First we clear the patio and gain an approach to the shed. The tools come out and Anne uses the hedge clipper to trim the weeping branches of the Japanese cherry to keep them off the ground and and out the circular path. We re-tie and re-tighten the over-enthusiastic spirea shrub, with some vigorous tugging to keep it off the brick path.
            Anne digs up the plants that have planted themselves between bricks in our spoke-paths, and I transplant some of them to a place where they belong. You get very little root when you are removing plants from between bricks, but a few of these blacked-eyed susans appear to survive the transplant.
            Meanwhile I struggle with the project of transplanting a perfectly happy pachysandra patch from a mature, sunny colony in the far back, re-planting the fragments as I dig them apart into the  troublespots in the dark front yard under trees in poor root-robbed soil. If nothing else does well in a spot, I try pachysandra.
            But the other reason -- the vain, human reason -- is I want their partly sunny, apparently favorable home turf for other plants that will give me more summer color.
            This is how we try to keep the wheel of the perennial-garden season turning. To keep the interest up, you tinker, tweak, add more, try something new. Space is finite, but time (in the local sense) may not be.
            The gardener may choose to rest content with an established pattern. It's probably the wiser course. But the human heart is restless. You want to try something new, a new combination. You keep playing around. Even with only the vaguest idea of what you hope to accomplish. Even with just the ghost of an idea.  
            You give to airy nothing a local habitation and a name.