Keep gardens manageable

Now this is a truly beautiful Sunday night. Peaceful, soft breeze, bird song and a garden that will bloom sooner rather than later.

Garden parties are in full swing. When I say “party,” don’t panic. There doesn’t need to be anything beyond your entertaining capabilities. If a glass of ice water meets your criteria, so be it. But do gather your friends and neighbors together to share your garden.

This is Judy Flora’s first summer in retirement. She has been a friend forever and I have observed her dip in and out of her garden for so very many years. Always satisfied with what she has going on out there, but never quite finding the time to become fully engaged. This is her year. Her greenhouse is stuffed and, this is important — there is only one chair. Peace. The cucumbers are outdoing themselves, so many herbs, and flowers — let’s not forget the flowers, because this is where Judy shines. She wants and has flowers. A vegetable garden is not a priority for her.

There are at least seven pocket gardens that have been carved out of the boreal forest that surrounds all of us here in Homer. Take a little walk around her property and you will come upon these little fairy gardens, a complete and delightful surprise. Nothing contrived.

This is a prime example of a very personal garden, as all of ours should be. It satisfies all of Judy’s needs and wants. Combine that with dessert, tea and five longtime friends and there you have a garden party.

There have been at least three such gatherings in this garden, impromptu for the most part. I am learning to keep my mouth shut and let guests just enjoy their surroundings. They don’t need a dissertation on each and every plant. They don’t care if such and such performed so much more intensely last year. They just want to wander around. I’m the only one who is critical of this garden and that’s enough.

Another thought along these lines: This garden is relatively small. With John running the lawn mower, thus eliminating a tedious chore from my roster, I can handle the rest quite comfortably. This streak of rain made keeping up with the weeds a bit of a challenge, but with these past few nice days I caught up in short order.

I tackled cutting out the dead branches from the red twigged dogwoods. This happens every year. Methinks they are on the edge of where they really want to be, i.e. a very lower latitude. But here they are nevertheless, offering sanctuary for the birds and those glorious red branches all winter long. The task of trimming out the branches is no problem.

This year I’m using them to stake the columbine. I have yet to figure out how to keep them from flopping all over, at least not the tall ones. I don’t like the looks of a tomato cage which I have used, unsuccessfully in the past. I’m taking a shrubby branch and sticking it into the columbine so the stems can nestle into it. We’ll see how this goes. I’ll let you know. It might just look like a bunch of dead sticks in the garden.

I’ve been thinking about those of you who have huge gardens and just can’t seem to downsize. About the effort that you expend not only on the garden but on the angst of getting it all “done.” If you insist on not cutting it down to a reasonable size, how about organizing your friends to go to each other’s gardens for an hour or two once a week and get the nettlesome work out of the way? Thin the carrots, deadhead the annuals, weed. Get the idea?

But, really, if you had a manageable sized garden you wouldn’t need any help. You would get immeasurable satisfaction from what you have. You could come home from work or the kids’ soccer practice and spend 15 minutes puttering around out there.

Think about this.

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