Gardening During Plague Time
Boccaccio wrote the Decameron, Daniel Defoe wrote A journal of the Plague Year, and Albert Camus wrote The Plague. So what do I write? – well, certainly nothing about Covid-19. The purpose of gardening is to immerse yourself in the wonderful world of nature and forget what is happening to cause us stress. This post will be very James Joyce-like – stream of consciousness - as I work around my garden in the darkening days of December.
First, I decided to cut down a large shrub. I usually get all Joyce Kilmer when someone suggests cutting something down, but this one had to go. It was a Bottle brush bush. A native of Australia rumours are that its classification name has been changed from Callistemon spp. to Melaleauca.. Plant DNA specialists are reworking plant genus and species just like a version of Ancestry. Hopefully none of the plants will be found to be part Neanderthal although I did have to tell a friend of mine that Neanderthals had larger brains than modern humans. She felt better.
Anyway, I digress. This shrub had to go. It was crowding out one of my David Austin roses and was not a good looking shrub – twisted and crossing branches and not really adding anything of a buffer between my garden and the golf course. Now I have a nice open space and better view to the back part of my garden and a spot to put in a few new plants.
I did get an order from Digging Dog nursery in California last week with a really nice ornamental grass – Calamagrostis acutifolia “Karl Foerster” and five of my very favorite perennials of all time – Phlomis fructicosa. Phlomis is grown all over the UK and I drool when I see it.. I have had a bit of a challenge with it here due to our humidity. The common name is Jerusalum Sage and it is native to the Mediterranean so I think the plant likes warm and dry. The flower stalks are so unusual that I cannot get enough of it in my garden and the leaves are a lovely gray/sage green color.
I have continued to be inspired by webinars presented by Garden Master Class (www.gardenmasterclass.org) Originally founded to provide avid gardeners with guided trips to unique gardens, with the pandemic they have turned to online experiences. I have visited gardens in Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Southern France, Uruguay, Russia, and Japan as well as the USA and UK without leaving my office. I have talked to some of the most famous garden designers and plant people in their field on a regular basis. Check out the website for their online services. You will have an entire world open up to you.
What to do in your garden during these winter days. It is always a good time to enrich your soil by adding organic matter. I use mushroom compost and just lay it down like a mulch. You can prune out dead branches and crossing branches in shrubs any time of the year and now when it is not in the 90’s is a good time. I am not cutting down my perennials or grasses so that they will provide winter shelter for insects such as bees. There is plenty of time to clean up in the early spring. I still have butterflies laying eggs on my Passionflower vine and baby caterpillars hatching and munching their way to maturity. Even in the winter, there is plenty of life in the garden.
I will take a little holiday break and be back in the new year with some gardening book ideas for your reading pleasure. There are some very good ones out there to keep you informed and entertained. Happy Holidays and don’t forget to save your Amaryllis to put out in the garden for more blooms later.