No yoga today.
Hey, it was a moon day.
Oh, wait…did I say that I was taking yesterday as a moon day and today practicing like it was Sunday? Whoops. Woke up, drove over to Home Depot and picked up a couple of dreaded Annuals (Marigolds, if you must know, and Dahlias) to put in containers on my front steps to replace the Rhodedendrons that I was planning on transplanting into my newly forming Woodland Garden area along the East side of my property (technically, the side of my property, although it faces the street; my house is situated on the property perpendicular to the road so that when you enter the driveway, you are facing the side of the house).
I’ve been feeling a bit desperate lately about this woodland area. Last year, I never thought twice about it. To me, it was just woods. But there’s been a blight on pine trees in Northern Westchester, and a good number of mine in the wooded area are dying from the bottom up. Add to that the prior owners’ general neglect of the property for, oh, I am guessing, the past three or four years, and what happens is you wake up in March and realize that your woods are filled with not trees but ghosts of trees.
It became clear that some of the ghosts would have to go. And some would be replaced with young spruce. But what I didn’t count on was how focusing some energy on this area of my property would lead me to realize how much of it needed to be “cleaned up”. Bags and bags of leaves and twigs and old mulch that hadn’t decomposed. When the day came that my gardener came all tra-la-la with his chain saw (he loves that thing, man) to take down what started as two and ended up being more like eight tree ghosts, I realized that I not only had a lot of work to do with a rake, but I also had a lot of work to do to re-invent this now comparatively barren area as something else. Perhaps, something that it always should have been.
It didn’t take more than a moment or two of walking around amid the dirt and the stumps to realize that this was not “the woods” at all, but rather, the site of a woodland garden, with looping and winding trails bordered with stones and surrounded by and surrounding woodland perennial gardens of Foxglove, Columbine, Bleeding Heart, Rhodedendrum (deer be damned), anchored by Boxwood and bordered by ground-crawling Caladium.
And so, I began raking it out, and picking up stones, and placing stones intuitively where I thought they should go, and over the course of a few days, I have mapped out about a third of the area and bulb-planted a border around the entire area. I doubt that there will be much in the way of flowers growing there this year. It takes time to condition soil. I spent all last summer conditioning my other garden beds – raking them up, addding compost, raking them up some more, growing random vegetables like pumpkins and cucumbers for the purpose of upping the organic content of the soil. I can’t say that I am going to go to that extreme with the Woodland Garden, and besides, it’s quite shady, and so growing vegetables from seed (a cheap and easy way of getting organic content into the soil) isn’t really an option. But I can spend time cleaning out the pine needles, the dead leaves, the twigs, forming my twisting, winding paths with stones the kids and I “harvest” from under the detritus. Brian has even sketched out a system of paths that he would like me to put into effect.
Ultimately, I’d like to make the Woodland Garden a “delightful” kind of place, where there are pleasant surprises at every turn. For example, we already have a large stone in place at the end of one trail that is going to be a “meditation” stone. We would like to name the trails, things like “Garden Path” and “(Not) The Primrose Path” and “Rock Ledge Ridge” (that one is Brian’s idea for a path that leads to a whole bunch of stones that are way too big to move). Maybe we’ll have a “High Road” but not a Low Road. Maybe the path that leads through the existing Forsythias should be called “Yellow Brick Road” or something like that. And the path that leads around the lilies of the valley that I just planted should be called “Lillies Valley”.
I’m going to take some photos of what I’ve done and put them up with a photo or two of what it looked like before we started. It’s quite astounding what a little rockscaping can do. Even without the flowers-to-be, even with just the existing trees and shrubs, few as they are, and the possibilities contained in the bulbs I planted today, it really is coming along.
But patience is needed. Must have patience, NOW! (ahem) Because the rockscaping (also known as hardscaping) is going to take, likely, all summer long. And the plantings (other than the Caladium border and a few Rhodedendrum and the couple of Yews, Norway Spruce and Alberta Spruce that we put in this year, all of which are teeny tiny babies, with the exception of two of the Norways, which are more like pre-teens) are going to have to wait until the rockscaping is done. The rockscaping is the frame for the flowers. You don’t want to walk on flowers. You want to walk AROUND flowers. So, the rockscaping has to be finalized design-wise and in-place before any planting can logically take place.
Husband not happy with this project, not surprisingly. He thought we had woods, and woods are so easy! You just HAVE them. You don’t have to DO anything to them. This is a huge time suck for me, if you choose to look at it that way. And in fact, I did blow off my theoretical heretical moon day YOGA practice today in order to do THIS practice: sweep and rake and rockscape and dig holes for and place bulbs. I spent over five hours outdoors today on this. And it was a pleasure, every minute of it. And when my kids came home midway through, they were thrilled to help me. That’s value, right there!
Tomorrow, I go to the city for practice. Any work I do on the Woodland Garden will have to be circumspect. An hour tops. Raking and placing stones and out of there. Oh, crap. I just remembered, I have to fertilize the Roses, Rhodedendruns and the Evergreens. I wanted to do THAT tomorrow. So, maybe I won’t do any work on the Woodland Garden. Maybe I’ll just feed my hungry plants.
How can anyone let their gardeners do this work for them? I cannot imagine it. If I don’t do it myself, then what joy is there in looking at the end result (if there ever IS an end….)?
Tune in tomorrow, when we go back to our regularly scheduled yoga programming.