Kachemak Gardener: Share gardens through neighborhood stroll

What better way to share a whole street worth of gardens than to have a “Garden Stroll?” I got the idea from a friend who organized her street and I thought “Why not us?” I dropped the idea off with my neighbor Ruth and she ran with it, printing out a lovely invitation and passing them around house to house. We made it happen fast so no one felt any pressure to make their piece of Alaska perfect (if ever there is such a thing).

A sunny Sunday evening, we started at one end of our lovely little street and visited here and there. Very low key — if someone really didn’t want to participate or weren’t home, no problem, we just strolled on by. We got to see back yards that can’t be seen from the street, we took our time, identified plants for each other, shared ideas, patted each other on the back. A very pleasant two hours indeed.

My garden is particularly problematic — it is surrounded by a no-nonsense moose deterring fence, nor is it neighbor friendly — a trade off. Without that fence there wouldn’t be a garden. So a fence there is. But this neighborhood garden stroll was the perfect way to share. I’m hoping it will become an annual event. And, I’m hoping that you will pick up on the idea and do the same in your neighborhood.

This brings me to full-blown garden parties. There have been several here and I don’t go to any great lengths to make the garden “perfect.” There are weeds. There are plants that should be cut down to the ground to make room for the other lovelies but haven’t yet been cut. There are flaws that only I am aware of. But that isn’t the point. The point is to enjoy the garden as additional living space. Chairs are placed here and there, in the sun, in the shade, arranged for conversation; to enjoy the company of others in a lovely setting. You can do this.

This garden just had a transition, one I struggle with each and every year: it’s time to cut down the spring flowering plants that are now spent. Time to make way for the next wave of plants that want to bloom mid season. But how I loathe cutting down something that was so gorgeous, so life affirming in the spring, so robust. I feel so ungrateful. But let’s be practical: they are now rather ugly, no more blooms just seed heads and tatty foliage. Down they came and lo, there are the cranberry cosmos striving for their place in the sun, the California poppy “Bridal Bouque,” and oh the lilies. Oodles and oodles of asiatic lilies in pinks, white and a deep red. All on the cusp of bloom. And now they have room to shine because I cut down the veronica that started out so lovely and now — let’s just say — is no longer lovely.

Three years ago (I think) I started dwarf delphinium in a deep purple. The hope was they would bloom the same time as the peonies and stay dwarf. But we never really know what will bloom when. I have kept records for years and the dates are so wildly different every year that I no longer bother. I just go with it. So, there was my hope: peonies and delphiniums along with this and that, here and there and what a very good show they have put on. Hence the garden parties, strike while the iron is hot. The three (that’s right, three) mock orange are in full bloom which is so staggeringly lovely and smell so delightful I could weep. Actually, I do weep.

This unusual heat wave destroyed the roses. They bloomed and thought “wow, this is really hot, I think I’ll just pass on this scene” and left. The Theresa Bugnet usually blooms again later in the season and is already setting new buds for a second show. Thank you, Theresa.

Let’s take a look at the vegetable plot. My goodness, I’m already harvesting broccoli. Methinks this is three to four weeks early. The heads are not as big as they can get but they want to flower and then what good are they? None. So harvest I did. I’m hoping the weather cools off and I get an abundance of side shoots. My fingers are crossed.

The strawberries are magnificent. The “grands” are working their way through them and there are still enough for us to put in the freezer. The black currants are having an excellent year, although I need to find a way to hold them up. They don’t actually fall over so much as sprawl.

The porcupines are savaging the raspberries. Over and over. Leaving my neighbors’ unfenced bushes pristine, untouched, virginal. I’m sure you can intuit what I think of porcupines.

I don’t know how to stop them. Debi Poore managed to trap one (there must be hundreds, nay, thousands) with great patience and determination, of which I have neither.

When they run out of raspberries what will they want next? The strawberries? The entire vegetable plot? They have a taste for roses. We have so many strikes against us here in the Far North, now porcupines? Good grief.

That said, please, throw a garden party — you won’t regret it. Don’t worry about perfection; no one really notices whether or not you have weeded or dead headed, or if you have a design. I’ts the overall effect, the companionship of like minded souls.

No one hates a garden.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener and has been writing Kachemak Gardener since 1990.