Thursday, August 30, 2007

miss havisham's garden

It always happens this way: come August, the perennial gardens become wild. This year we've spent so much time working on the new stone garden that the other parterre has gone a bit to seed. Every year it is the same, with some likely excuse, the summer slowly running out of our hands until we are chasing after it. By August, the weeds have made their home, strangling and twisting about the true plants, and the lily stalks are dried and brown and in need of cutting back. The roses have usually contracted black spot or powdery mildew and given up their effort to bloom, or if they are valiant, like our rugosa's, and bud for a second wave, the Japanese beetles collect themselves into an armored mass of hungry clicking insect. Unless we go about every day pinching them off the blossoms or leaves, or shaking them into a glass jar then crushing them with a flat ended stick, all perverse pleasures, they grow rampant. The mint bolts and crowds out everyone else.

It is the same time every year that I decide I no longer like the garden. The plants are all mishapen, the wrong height, the wrong color. The black-eyed susan that I long coveted and long reminded me of summer's in Vermont has become somehow angry in its deep yellow and doesn't play well here with the flox and bee balm and seedum. The foliage in the garden obscures and masks, and is threaded with grass. But what should we expect? The garden is after all in an old hay field.

All our efforts have been backwards which make it extremely difficult to manage. We planted the gardens first without amending the soil, or truly ridding it of weeds, then we decided to make raised beds, then we decided to add manure and compost and sand, then we decided to dig up, and really weed, sift and re-plant, and now we've decided to edge with box, and yank out the invasive veronica that looks so pretty in the spring with its dainty blue flower.

This is why I call it Miss Havisham's Garden. It becomes like a forgotten love who waits at the altar in wedding lace until the body rots and and the lace yellows and all becomes eccentric. The party has been laid upon the table and left as is until someone eventually returns. In a few weeks time, we'll return to the garden, furious with the energy of what needs to be done, and spend three days weeding and digging and clipping and mulching until everything looks a little more reasonable and not so undone. We'll make resolutions that we mean but know we can't keep. Autumn will come and bury the garden in fallen leaves and more brown stalks which we'll leave until springtime for "winter interest" and additional warmth. At least this is what we tell ourselves. The reality may be that we too begin to hibernate and loose our desire to work outside. We'll sidle up to the fire burning in the woodstove, and decide to re-paint the bathroom. Again. Our attention turns inward.

For now, it is still August. At least until tomorrow. Heat, sun, and crickets will make us think the summer will never end, and in the shifting light, the blowsy and ill-kempt garden will never looked so good.

No comments: