Monday, February 15, 2010

in the beginning

During and after college I lived in 5 different apartments. Apartment living is great, except when you love and collect plants. For years, I schlepped far too many pots from one apartment to the next, always hoping for more sunlight and porch space than I was afforded. It didn’t help that I minored in horticulture and was able to amass quite a collection of free plants through my friends and classes, as any former roommate of mine will tell you. So, when I started looking for a house, gardening space was high on my priority list; if for no other reason than to finally get some of these long-suffering plants into the ground!

When I moved into my house in August of ‘07, 2 ½ years ago, all of the planting beds were full of annuals and a few dying conifers. Each planting bed had a thin layer of black hardwood mulch on top of black ‘landscape’ fabric. These are two of my most hated landscape materials. [Hardwood mulch leaches nitrogen from the soil and is not the most aesthetically pleasing. ‘Landscape’ fabric is a weed barrier which in turn becomes a barrier for light, air, water, and nutrients.] So the first order of business was to remove the fabric and top dress with fine-textured pine mulch (a.k.a. soil conditioner).

In the process, I removed all manner of weeds and various trash I found under the ‘landscape’ fabric. At this point in my horticultural knowledge, peonies were unknown to me. As I came across these bizarre looking bulbs, I threw them away! (This was particularly painful once I realized how expensive peonies are) Luckily a small grouping of them evaded me, and the next spring I was blown away by their beauty and fragrance. They’re not in the most ideal location in my garden from an aesthetic perspective, but so far I’ve been too apprehensive to move them. The peonies, a dwarf nandina hedge, a few perennials, and a pair of dwarf Alberta spruce are all that remains of the landscape I inherited.

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