Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sheaves of Miscanthus

♫Bringing in the Sheaves, ♪Bringing in the Sheaves, ♪ProfessorRoush Rejoicing Bringing in the Sheaves.♫

This was a glorious golden day here in northeastern Kansas.  Gentle sun, mild wind,  A mid-day high of 66ºF.  Perfect for a work-starved gardener who was aching to get his hands into the dirt again.  It was one of the spectacular dozen days we get here every year, the majority in early Spring, with two or three left for September.  That's right, twelve perfect days a year is all I can count on here and one is already gone.  Actually, at least three are gone because there were two great days this week that I missed entirely while I perfected my indoor fluorescent tan at work.

I was almost sidetracked today by an early morning veterinary emergency, but I was home by 11:30 a.m. and in the garden by noon.   My first move was to uncover my formerly beautiful strawberry patch, praying that green budding strawberry plants would lay beneath the straw and deer droppings.  And there they were, rumpled and a bit put out from missing several good days of sunshine, but seemingly game to get going.  Since the ground was dry clay powder to the depth of 2-3 inches, I watered them, and surrounded the unsheathed shade house by a stretch of snow fence in an effort to keep the deer from sampling the new foliage.   My strawberry dream is still intact, still safe despite the very real potential of late snows, marauding creatures, drowning rains, drought, and perhaps a plague of locusts.

You can see from the picture above that I also cut back the majority of my ornamental grasses, shortening the average height of my garden by half in a single afternoon.  Tying each bunch into a sheave before cutting it off  is a little trick I learned several years ago to help me keep the garden tidy (or, more truthfully, to keep Mrs. ProfessorRoush from complaining about my habit of strewing grass stems all over the garden).  As an added bonus, seeing all those sheaves of grass standing and waiting to be cut touches an ancient spot buried deep in my psyche, connecting me to those first agriculturists who decided that grain might be a little tough to chew, but it was surely better than being trampled by a Mastodon.  Indeed, Mastodons may be gone from Kansas, but the grasses and strawberries and I struggle on, rejoicing in each perfect golden day that we can..

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Begging On My Knees

Even the strongest relationships have to dig through rocky ground from time to time, and the bond between my garden and I has been similarly strained to the breaking point.  I admit that I have neglected her over the winter, lavishing my attentions on other interests, and, in turn, she has given me only cold and brief bitter love for the past few months.  She, too, has turned to others, allowing deer to roam over her surface at will, letting pack rats and rabbits nibble her most delicate stems, while showing me only unmade beds and unkept tresses.  Here, in early March, I've experienced weeks of cold beds and stony silence and we are, understandably, no longer on good speaking terms.

Yesterday, I sensed a slight thaw to the distance between us, and I took advantage of the first warm Saturday in eons to shower my darling with attention and patch up our difficulties.  Although my enthusiasm was low, I put on a brave face and began cleaning up the front landscape, removing the blemishes of winter, kneeling at the feet of the Goddess Gaia and freshening her couture.  Out went the flattened peonies, the rattling Babtista seed pods, and the hollow stalks of long deceased lilies.  I wrestled with dead thorns and desiccated clematis, shaped willow and arborvitae, and trimmed iris to flattering fans.

Yet still, beneath the warm mulch, her ground is frozen and hard.  There is little life there, little stirring in her heart.  Oh, a few infant sedums are hiding deep in the mulch and the snow crocus pictured here are trying to lure me back, but Spring is far away and the daffodils have just broken ground and the peonies are absent and tardy.  Other years, I would have been planting seed by now, planning for the ripeness of early June.   This year my garden is making me earn back her love, making me beg for forgiveness, demanding penance for my neglect.

I had a quiet conversation yesterday with  my young, 'Emperor 1' Japanese Maple.  I scratched his bark to its green core and assured myself of his survival, and we agreed between us that the love of a Garden is often fickle and fraught with communication issues and wandering attentions.  Consoled with the companionship of another lucky winter survivor, I put my tools back away, biding my time while her affections thaw, another patient suitor who hopes that time and attention will heal the bonds of love.



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