Unearthing the Garden

It hasn’t snowed for a whole day, so I hereby declare the gardening season begun. Spent the day raking leaves off my flowerbeds. Every fall, I pile leaves on, in part to give some extra winter protection and partially in hope that they’ll miraculously rot over the winter and enrich the sandy, acidic, and starved soil. A vain hope. They’re mostly Norway Maple, and those do not break down at any great rate. What they mostly do is keep the sheep-sorrel and slugs and evil scarlet lily beetles cosy. (Note that these are not my Norway Maples, except one. There’s what I shall call a copse of the plague-tree south of Next Door and me, and thus our adjoining backyards are mostly within what he calls the Moss Line. We foregather in the gardens — our boundaries blur a bit, though we know where they are — to contemplate things that are supposed to grow in shade, and then we conclude that most ‘shade garden’ books mean elegant, daintily-dappled shade. Not the northern edge of a g.d. greedy-rooted Norway Maple forest. Technically, I think about a quarter of my garden is what is called a blanket-bog — a skin of sphagnum over sand.)

Winter Aconite

Winter Aconite – Eranthis hyemalis

But that’s a rant for another day. (I don’t object to shade gardens, or blanket-bogs. I would just like more room for my roses and peonies and fruit.)

Snowdrops in snow


I have just written on my calendar for October, “Do not pile so many leaves on the flowerbeds.” The crocuses, obeying some inner clock, always come up beneath them and end up rather squiggly and unhappy, which is a waste of a good crocus. The only thing I have that really needs covered is a Bassimo rose, which is borderline hardy here in Zone 5a. Any part of it above the snow dies — which means it would have died this year, if I hadn’t covered it. But really, that’s all that needs the leaf-heaping.

Crocus siebarii 'Tricolour'

Crocus siebarii ‘Tricolour’

Removing leaves, removing the anti-girdling-by-mice white wraps from the apples and pears, is also a time to take inventory. Alas, my new Goldbusch rose seems to have perished, but it was very sickly all summer, too. It’s hardy to 4b, so it wasn’t the winter that got it. I bought it at Cornhill and they’re generally good about replacing things that die for no good reason, so if it doesn’t send up a shoot — it’s on its own roots — I’ll have to mention it to them. On the positive side, it looks to my inexpert eye as though all five apples look as though they have fruiting buds this year. (Five or more if you count the fact that the two I grafted myself have branches of the rootstock left intact.) It will be really interesting to see what Pippin’s Pippin, a seedling named in honour of my late dog, the real Pippin of “Pippin and Mabel” fame, turns out like.


About K.V. Johansen

The author of Blackdog, The Leopard, The Lady, and Gods of Nabban, epic fantasies from Pyr, I also write for teens and children, including the "Torrie", "Warlocks of Talverdin", and "Cassandra Virus" series, and the "Pippin and Mabel" picture books, as well as a couple of short story collections and two works of adult literary criticism on the history of children's fantasy literature. I have a Master's degree in Mediaeval Studies, and read a lot of fantasy, science fiction, and history. Blog at thewildforest.wordpress.com
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