You Can Dig It!

It’s the clever title of the gardening column that one of my Master Gardening Instructors writes for the local newspaper, The Mountaineer. It’s also what my husband and I have been saying to each other as we fill the meadow with plants.

Planting in the mountains mainly revolves around rocks and roots. Some you can move, and others not so much. My husband takes these challenges personally and is committed to positioning each plant in its perfect location. My ideal location is willing to move an inch or two to the left or right.

We considered the no-dig method of planting briefly. The first step in this process is to layer cardboard across the area to smother the weeds and then put compost on top for planting. It’s considered a superior planting method since it doesn’t disrupt the earth, not to minimize how much easier it is on old gardeners’ backs.

July 28, 2021: the day we had all the dead trees removed
from a vacant portion of our property.
August 22, 2022

Although smothering weeds was tantalizing, we couldn’t wrap our heads around the considerable effort of creating a no-dig planting bed across the entirety of the meadow. “Start out small, and you’ll make small mistakes,” is a quote I recently read by Charles Dowding, the so-called king of no-dig. It’s excellent advice, but patience is required to start out small, and patience doesn’t grow in my garden.

July 15, 2022:
almost a year after removing the dead trees we decided to create a garden.
This was the day the area was cleared (sort of)
and mulch spread all around.

So we’ve finally survived planting the large plants: six trees, twelve shrubs, ornamental grasses, four hydrangeas, and two holly bushes. My husband brings home whatever is on the garden center’s sale rack, as we’ve done for years, and then we plant these bargains into the meadow. Despite the heat, I couldn’t help but also relocate several smaller plants from the back garden to the meadow. No question, there will be more plant relocations to come.

After that first week of planting, we had poison ivy all over our arms. I also had it on the corners of both eyes, behind my ear, and under my chin. That was the day we realized just how often I touched my face. I’ve had a new poison ivy outbreak every few days, and it got me thinking. It’s been raining ivy leaves since Pablo cut the vines from the base of all the trees, and I wonder if some of those dead leaves could be toxic. Why yes, of course, those dead ivy leaves could kick our butts for up to five more years. We’ve been forewarned, at least.

August 23, 2022

White seems to have been the unannounced gardening color of the year. Our sale-rack finds have included white Crape Myrtle, Luna white Hibiscus, ivory Hydrangea, white Peony, and white Bridal Wreath Spirea. There’s also a Yellow Submarine rose whose flowers undergo a surprise color change from yellow to bright white, a two-for-one of sorts. So, when I snipped back the Montauk daisies from the front garden a few weeks ago, I rooted all the tips in one of the meadow’s raised garden beds and just potted them out along the slope at the far end. Next fall, they’ll wrap up the meadow’s flowering season with a showy row of white.

June 21, 2022: the back garden

There was a sense of urgency when we planted the garden surrounding the cottage three years ago. I wanted the earth covered in the most expeditious way possible. Unfortunately, some of my choices have shown their somewhat unruly side, and I’m intent on not making these same mistakes in the meadow. Monty Don, writer, gardener, and lead presenter of Gardeners’ World, says it’s not about failure; it’s about evolution. I like that thought.

Creating a garden makes me crazy excited, thinking about the mix of plants we’ll use and what the meadow could become. But maybe if I take my garden-making somewhat slower and dig up some patience, I might hear this garden speak to me – to guide my design. Then again, it could be screaming, “Serenity Now!” 😊