Under the Brown, Lots and Lots of Green

March 17, 2011

A beautiful, warm, spring-like day! A cacophony of birds chirping, soaring and diving. What a gorgeous day this will be!

When I opened the front door to get the newspaper this morning, I discovered a parcel. It was addressed to me from “AlwysCoffee.” Hmm… I don’t know an Alwys Coffee and I haven’t ordered anything recently. I call Tony and nope, he hasn’t ordered anything either.

While we muse, I open the box and find a trowel. Curiouser and curiouser! There is no card, no note of any kind. Tony googles (should that be Googles?) the address and the name, coming up with absolutely nothing. This is very strange. He suggests this has something to do with Master Gardening – do they send a trowel upon completion? I hadn’t heard any such thing, but maybe they do – or maybe this company, Ames, pulls a list and sends to new MGer’s.

It is a fancy trowel, seven features in one. The edges are sharp, it feels good in my hand. I am planning on getting outside at some point today – those cyclamen and liatris are itching to be planted. This mystery trowel will come in handy. Who could have sent this?

I call my mom – she will love to ponder this with me. When I start to explain, she says, “Oh, did you get it already? We only ordered it last week!”

Mystery solved.

My wonderful parents ordered this quality trowel, an outstanding tool (“seven tools in one!” my mom exclaims) as a graduation gift for me. It makes me smile – and then smile again whenever I think of it.

I am able to knock off at 3 and so head outside. I grab the milorganite to spill where Damn Rabbits dare to chew, my gloves, my new trowel and the corms. I’m wearing my new shoes and it doesn’t take me long to realize that I’m not going to be out here for “just a minute”; it is just too pleasant and warm. Back inside to change. I do not want to ruin my new kicks. I tap my gardening shoes on the garage floor; a close encounter with a big wolf spider is not on my list of favorite things. Now with proper, old dirty shoes, I can dig in (both literally and figuratively).

The bucket for clippings comes with me too.

Where to put that cyclamen? Do we put a clump here and a clump there, or do we group them all together for a really powerful pop in the fall? I stroll around, looking at the bed under the pin oak and finally decide that a grouping, next to the bridge, is the right thing to do. The soil is still like coffee grounds, the yards of dirt in fall 09 were a good investment.

When planting bulbs and corms, the recommendation is to dig a hole just twice the depth of that bulb or corm, so it’s covered by just the amount of dirt that it is high. Well, these corms are only about an inch or so thick, so I am a little confused as to depth. I try not to go too deep, as the salesman told me I could put them right on the dirt and they’d be okay. I plant all three in a triangle pattern, with the rough side up.

I see a dandelion by the foxglove. This nifty trowel has a divot in the end, (“weed puller” is the name of this feature) so I sink it into the earth next to the leaves and lever up. The divot catches the root and lifts it out, all in one piece.

I’m liking this trowel.

Handfuls of brown leaves go into the bucket, I use my new bypass pruners to clip the old foxgloves stems to the ground. The hosta leaves get picked up like a mat, easy peasy, and go into the bucket. There is a white fungus on the ground underneath them, a mold. The tiles are lifted, brushed off and replaced, forming the end of the walkway through that bed. I uncover foxglove sprouting and daffodils. I cut away the dried catmint and find new leaves already, fresh and clean in the air.

I realize I could clean these beds for a few more hours and that liatris really needs planting, so I suppress the urge to keep cleaning and head to the front. The grasses bed is where the first packet of eight will go, but this again needs to be cleaned. I razor the spirea down to the ground (this is called rejuvenation if you’re keeping notes), pick up cellophane wrappers, dead leaves and small white plastic caps. As I take away all the brown detrits, there is green, green and green. The mums are emerging, the daffodils sprouting, the coneflowers starting to rosette on the surface. The green now stands out against the black dirt; I really need to mulch this year.

The pampas grass needs to be cut down. With the big pruners, I cut the two smaller clumps down to the ground. I stuff the stalks into the yard waste bin, breaking them into pieces, one side then the other, back and forth. For the big clump, I go into the garage for the electric hedge clippers.

A problem. The clippers are not on the top shelf; they are not on the floor. They are not on any of the shelves as a matter of fact. Perhaps in the attic? It’s looking more and more like rain, so I turn my attention back to the liatris. That big clump will just have to wait.

I plan the liatris behind the coneflower cluster, just the other side of where I’ll plant sunflowers again this year. The corms are starting to sprout, green leaves like small talons emerging from that rough side. I am glad it is so pleasant today.

I lay out the eight corms in a rough circle, fuss with it a little, and then start digging. These again are smaller and flatter than a regular bulb, so I am careful not to go too deep. I get a straight shovel and edge this bed, cutting into the soil, creating a clean line.

Now for the tricky part. I want the two new clumps to complement the butterfly bed, to carry that fuzzy purple flower across the front yard. The perfect place is amidst the iris and gallardia planted last fall, but that certainly will not work; talk about digging stuff up! I clean up a goodly portion of this bed, cutting down the peonies, removing all the stalks from the grow-through ring and resetting the ring. I cut down some of the coneflowers, I trim all the dead leaves from those clumps of transplanted irises. Oh, joy of joys, I see green as I remove that brown – at least three iris plants have made this through successfully. More new coneflower rosettes here too.

The liatris goes in an oval between the coral bells and the iris, and then again between coneflower and peonies. It is still warm and breezy, with no hint of rain in the air, belying that grey and overcast sky. I can get more accomplished. I pick up two, three, four and five Christmas light hooks laying in the peony bed. I pick up errant compost and throw it into the big pot. (I’ve found a combination for containers that I think will rock my world in the summer, so I’m thinking about that – and the railing boxes – already) I scoop up leaves, cut down the peony stalks here, trim all the coeropsis stems poking everywhere. More green under this brown too. Mums again, those crazy tulips, coneflower rosettes. I see red and pink peony eyes starting to peek out of the soil.

There is a big cluster of donkey tail spurge already green and lush, with stems about 18″ long. I trim it all back, watching the noxious fluid bubble out at the cut. Now this bed is clean too, again the green stands out against the soil.

A noticeable omission here Рthe hyacinth is nowhere to be seen. There are no sprouts in that area, no green at all. I believe they were up already last year, as I started this project. I check and yes, there are photos of them up, budded out, almost ready to bloom, just two days from now. I see too that the daffodils were further along by this time too. One year of weather highs and lows, of the sunshine, the rains and the snow, have made such a difference.

The trowel has passed muster – with flying colors. The liatris and the cyclamen are planted, now safe in the ground to sprout, to grow, to bloom. All that magic, happening right now underground – just like all the green leaves and sprouts waiting for those brown leaves to whisk away, to make their own magic right where we can see it.


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