Kachemak Gardener

You noticed. I know you did. I have faith in you. May 17th the leaves unfurled, the air smelled like spring, the ground said “go ahead, plant peas”. Here we go. Really, it seems like a late spring but it isn’t, its somewhat usual if there is a usual, a normal. Whatever we want to call it, spring is here.

There has been much moving and dividing of perennials in this garden. Friends have been the recipients of delphinium, bleeding hearts, astilbe and early light yellow trollius. Methinks this is enough of this kind of activity for a couple of years. The goal is to make this little garden even more manageable than it already is. The goal is to spend time in the perfect Adirondack chairs that Derek made us. To smell the roses so to speak. Not only are these chairs beyond comfortable they fit under the eaves so we can enjoy the outdoors even in the rain. Excellent.

The three dwarf red twig dogwoods, “Arctic Fire,” are planted in the outer perennial bed. Gone are the delphiniums that I started from seed that lied. Yes, lied. And there is no time for lies. These beauties were supposed to be 3 feet tall and the reality was over 5 feet. Too tall. The hope here is that these dogwoods will behave, they will live a truth, and we will look out the front windows and see red twigs for eight months of the year instead of grey. There.

But I need to underplant them with something and I haven’t come up with a definitive answer yet. For instance, the Miss Kim lilac has alchemilla mollis thriving under it. The mock orange is graced with pink and white lamium. The bleeding hearts across the street side of the house (north) have white violets filling in. The Theresa Bugnet roses have Johnson’s blue geranium. Excellent. Now these three shrubs need something.

I’m leaving the asiatic lilies that are all over the place in that same bed. They can come up through the branches and add color in the summer when, really, these shrubs are rather uninteresting. I’m hedging my bets here.

I am determined to simplify this garden. Which includes NOT adding chickens. My heart was set on two Barred Rock hens. We had chickens (and ducks, geese, turkeys, goats) for years when we lived at Mile 15 East End Road. I loved those chickens, loved watching them, loved the eggs, loved sending my son out to clean the coop — and therein is the reality, the reality that I have been denying. John brought it to my attention. “What is it about chickens that you have forgotten? Everything?” He fleshed out his argument. I’ll spare you. There will be no chickens.

Which brings me back to simplifying. I’m trying to eliminate containers. I know there are those of you who love them dearly, but I am not of your ilk. I don’t want to water/feed them. I don’t even want to think about them. Thus, I have put pot lilies into three of these. One of them has been successfully overwintered in the greenhouse for several years. Why not a couple more? Another has a tuber begonia. Add a few lobelia around the edges and call it good.

Two containers have housed lavender for the last three years. They too have overwintered in the greenhouse. Not any more. They have been planted in one of the perennial beds, and I doubt if they will make it through a Homer winter. Maybe. It would be nice. But I’m not counting on them. I’ve tried this before. I put peppers in the containers. That way, IF they should attract aphids (which peppers are wont to do) I can easily move them outdoors.

Hopefully you have purchased lovely annuals from one of our excellent nurseries. Pinch out the center of each one and you will be rewarded with bushy, flowery, stout plants. Especially godetia which, if left to its own devices will break under the weight of its blooms if you don’t pinch now. Get pinching.

This is the perfect time to edge your beds. You don’t need any commercial edging. This is so simple and can be done in a matter of minutes. Using your sharp spade, cut a nice little trench along the edge. There, done. If you need to be exact, lay a garden hose out where you think you want the edge to be and follow along. But do this now while the ground is soft.

Get your Pacific Giant delphiniums staked. It is so much easier to get this done now than when they are towering over you and the wind and rain has laid them to waste. When their magnificence is laying defiled on the ground and you are ranting at the cruelties of Mother Nature. Save yourself the rant and stake.

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