Saturday, 29 June 2013


It seems that this time of year the major preoccupation is weeding. Every time I return here from the city, (what a mistake it was to come on the Friday of a long weekend - the drive took 5!!! hours) as soon as I've unloaded the car, I take a walkabout the garden. I'm always excited to see what has changed. And disappointed in equal parts to see how all the work I did the previous weekend seems for nought. The lawn is like a hayfield, the pool is green, the bottom covered with silt and the vegetable and ornamental beds alike are filled with weeds.
One bed of tomatoes I tied in and weeded this morning

A few years ago our tenant farmer at the time seconded the haying to a friend of his. Mike Smith was English, a sheep farmer and newly emigrated to Hastings County. I was out in the new bed I had made in the field, picking potato bugs. I had decided to try a no-till approach and in the spring I had mown the area to be planted, then covered it with layers of wet newspaper. I laid the seed potatoes right on top of the newspaper and "hilled up" by adding layers and layers of fall leaves.

As Mike swung by as he was cutting the hay in the field he stopped to introduce himself. I was thrilled when he said he knew I did everything organically. I don't ever seem to get enough compliments so I eagerly anticipated what he had to say. Was it the directness of my gaze, the clarity of my eyes?? Well neither actually. It was the proliferation of my weeds - only someone who didn't use herbicides could be as rich in weeds as I was. (But, nevertheless, he claimed, it was intended as a compliment...)

We had someone visit once who exclaimed, "Eileen, there's so much grass in this bed!" I could never understand that remark. Didn't he know that the weeds and quack grass kept me awake at night - when there was nothing else to?
A new bed of meadow rose that I transplanted last fall. It doesn't look like much now but
this is the original planting Alex gave us a few years ago. 

As per usual I have a list of about two dozen things to do this weekend. But since I've got a serious gardener and plant collector coming to visit on Monday I have shifted my focus from the vegetable beds to the ornamental beds. So after cutting the grass (no serious rain despite the prediction) and vacuuming the pool, disappointingly green after all my efforts, I have spent the day weeding. And that is literally, since I woke up at 5:30 and am just now making dinner at 8:30!

I have a theory that if you start by weeding the front of any mixed border it immediately looks better, despite the lushness of unwanted vegetative growth in the back. I think it is because without weeding, the border looks flat and two dimensional. Yet once the front is weeded the eye can see three dimensions, undulations and different textures and shapes.
The "white" bed - not yet weeded - impossible to discern any details
A little vignette with rose campion and campanula weeded this afternoon 
the purple and orange bed edged

Many people like to weed as the sun starts to set. The shadows are long, the birds have returned from their afternoon siesta, there is often a breeze and a certain stillness as the day settles in to become night. So, after picking potato bugs, I made my way to the vegetable garden in the field to pick the first snow peas and weed the sauteing greens. I know  the bed still doesn't look so great but I cling to the notion that the mulch of pulled weeds keeps the ground moist and the greens feel liberated from all the competition from the huge variety of competing weeds.
the sauteing greens feeling they can breathe just a little easier  

If one happens to have a friend who is willing to lend a garden-gloved hand to do some weeding they are worth their weight in gold. Last weekend my friend Diane turned her hand to weeding the succulents planted at the base and above the boulders by the pool. She has started the process of transformation - nothing less.
Diane with appropriately coloured gardening gloves 

And so, I know how the rest of my summer will go - weeding and more weeding. I always have a goal to have actually finished weeding all the mixed borders and perennial beds by the time frost comes. It has never yet happened. But they say "How can you know where you're going if you don't know where you want to be?" Maybe this year...
The "grass filled" yet still weeded  bed in the foreground, the long mixed border in the background

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