Gardening Glory (and Some Gripes)

Given that the majority of my tulips were in full bloom by mid-April of this year – and just in time for a freak snowstorm, too! – I shouldn’t be too surprised that my garden as a whole is, here in the middle of September, really starting to languish. Still, I’m shocked at how pooped-out everything looks. Except for my tomatoes. They’re going to take over the world. (Yes, I know tomatoes should really not look like this, but they’re producing fruit and clearly thriving. So I, for one, welcome our new tomato overlords!)

This is just my second season as a homeowner with a proper garden, and I’m constantly surprised at what works and what doesn’t, what grows and what doesn’t, and how very differently plants respond to their environment from year to year. Nature’s quite the miracle, isn’t it? 🙂

Take this rose, for example, variety unknown, because that’s how I roll (if you’re looking for its proper Latin name and pronunciation, you’d best consult my mother, who has much gardening knowledge and skill. In the garden, I’m definitely more kill than skill.)

Again, let’s take this rose as an example. I moved this thing around the garden three or four times, and even left it out for a few days, roots exposed, while I contemplated where to move it next. No plant responds well to such treatment, let alone roses, which are susceptible to all manner of maladies, including shock. I was quite sure I had killed it, but a few weeks after moving it to its forever home, it once again began throwing off gorgeous clusters of those brilliant, hot pink blooms.

Or how about this peony, one of two plants I admiringly refer to as my zombie peonies. Zombies, because I am 100 percent sure I yanked them out of the ground last year and binned them after they seemingly up and died. I quite distinctly remember tossing them into a yard bag, roots and all. And yet, this spring two peonies grew strong and tall in the spots where their brethren once stood, so I can only assume I left just enough of the root structure intact for them to take hold this season.

Or how about the unlikely success story of our tiny back yard crabapple, a weirdly misshapen little thing that bore no fruit at all last season (thank you, ever-ravenous rodents) but gave off a whopping 12 cups of fruit this season, allowing me to make dee-licious crabapple jelly that Mr. Finger Candy has been hoovering back like it…grows on trees. Which, it turns out, is an expression that works in nearly all cases but this one!

The big oak tree in the back yard, Annie (Annie Oakley) produced only a handful of acorns last season. This year? They positively carpeted the back lawn. I raked and bagged up maybe 50 pounds worth of acorns. For a couple of weeks there, it was relentless. You could hardly venture beneath the tree for fear that a gust of wind or a particularly vengeful squirrel would send a shower of hard acorns down onto your head. At least the increased rodent presence provided our cats, Beans and Fluffy, with some much-appreciated entertainment.

In the complete reverse of Annie the back yard oak, Chester the front yard chestnut has produced maybe half the fruit he did in 2020. Last year, bright green, rock hard spheres of pain (or chestnuts, if you will) rained down onto our front lawn and driveway every day from the beginning of July to the middle of September. I’d typically pick up 3/4 of a medium-sized flower pot a day (and it should always be with gloved hands, because yee-ouch, those suckers bite!)

This year, though, the few chestnuts the tree has produced have remained resolutely – and quite dangerously – on the tree, hanging in massive, spiky clumps that, if they came down all at once, would absolutely knock you unconscious. I’ve actually been dodging some much-needed yard work in the front because I’m afraid of just such a scenario taking place. Mr. Finger Candy suggested I procure a hardhat, and you know, I don’t actually think that’s as crazy a suggestion as it might seem!

Other success stories include the gorgeous flowers and shrubs and flowering shrubs that overtook my garden this year – yellow potentilla, blue delphinium, periwinkle chinodoxa, pink hydrangea, purple lilacs, white trillium, and a rainbow’s worth of roses.

But this year’s undisputed king of the back yard was this patch of Black-Eyed Susans, five single plants that grew into a mighty, marigold-hued bush that put off tall, sunny blooms for the entirety of the summer. It was such a delight to look out the kitchen window every day and see this cheery fellow keepin’ on keepin’ on, rain or shine. I love it when plants unexpectedly thrive (see above, re: zombie peonies.)

Okay, so it would seem the gardening gripes were in relatively short supply this season, save the aggravating switcheroo the front and back yard trees pulled on us. My dad tells me increased fruit production means we’re in for a harsher-than-usual winter, so yay, there’s something to look forward to! When we’re arse-deep in snow and ice in two months’ time, Annie and Chester will be saying, “Told ya so,” because I think they’d be smug like that. 😉

Wow, what a load of work this garden has been. I often joke (?) that as a former apartment dweller, I may have slipped a cog by going from no garden to ALL THE GARDEN. But when I’m outside on a nice day puttering about, not worried that I’m going to get knocked unconscious by a shower of nuts, just watching the bees drone around and noting all the progress my plants have made, it’s bliss. So really, no gripes, just glory.

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