Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pocket gardens

Last year, after 14 seasons of gardening and heavy yard projects, I stopped dead and let it all fall apart.

This year, I’m coming back at it sideways, returning to a vegetable garden and flower planters, doing more work outside . . . but still limited, doing only what I have to. It’s a by-product of age and fatigue, having less time and inclination.

What’s come of this is a delightful mix of cultivated and wild. The yard is now a potpourri of intention and surprise. When mowing, for instance, I’m concentrating on just the areas of lawn and field we need to use, veering around clusters of wildflowers attractive to bees—especially clover—and unexpected clumps of anything blooming, such as daisies, black-eyed Susans, yarrow, violets, heal-all, dandelions, hawkweed, vervain, wild strawberry, etc., etc.

While this has resulted in areas impassably overgrown with grasses, it has also allowed a low red grass to form a big patch that’s as lovely as an on-purpose planting, especially in the morning when covered with dew in slanted light.

I’m preserving bigger stands of milkweed for the monarch butterflies. And letting things grow up between each other, like daylilies through the middle of a hydrangea, ferns through the strawberries; and weeding with less vigor, so that johnny-jump-ups and cinquefoil and various things I don’t know the name of are flowering between the vegetables.

I’m also taking down a large perennial bed that got choked out with pernicious spreaders—phlox, bee-balm, an unknown sunflower-like thing (coryopsis variant?), evening primrose—plus grass-grass-grass, some nonflowering rampant weed, and horseradish. This brought opportunity to work with friends and neighbors, who came by to augment their own gardens with my cast-offs. While at it, I transplanted some favorites elsewhere in the yard, making them easier to manage (or ignore).

The front steps and terrace, which last year were taken over by daisies and black-eyed Susans, this year have the daisies again but also campanula (bellflower) and a single pink columbine right in the middle of the stoop. Not a black-eyed Susan to be seen. Where did they go?

Oh, over there. And there. Next year, they’ll be somewhere else, and I’ll have to mow a different pattern in the lawn.

The net effect is everywhere I go, everywhere I look, something interesting and pretty is happening in little pockets. I really like the effect and will do it with more focus next year, as the perfect balance between doing too much and too little.