Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Summer bossoming

I remember being very young and admiring houses, imagining what my “dream house” might have in it. A porch, a globe on a stand, a willow tree and a spiral staircase were some particulars I remember. I don’t particularly want a globe on a stand anymore, or a staircase of any kind. I still like porches: they give a house a friendly look I think. I also really like stone and brick work. Willow trees are pretty, but some neighbours have them and they completely cover the ground in leaves in the fall. That’s a lot of raking.

At some point in my 20s or 30s, the “dream house” ceased to be a thing. Perhaps it was when my husband and I bought our house. Then we had a reality, not a dream. Or rather, once that goal was achieved we had other dreams. The truth is, I want a house with heat, clean running water, a toilet that flushes the first time, and safety and privacy. I have learned I don’t care that much about anything else. I wouldn’t want to live in a shack but I don’t envy anyone their mansion.

My other criteria when we bought our house was a yard. I wanted to be able to dig holes if I felt like it. I don’t exactly know why I had that thought  as it’s not like I dug a lot of holes in my youth. But I had a notion that a yard connects you with nature, I guess.

The nature in our yard is interesting.  I have a hypothesis that our neighbourhood wants to be a forest. Things just grow madly, trees included and I believe that without constant intervention, there would be little evidence left of people in a few years. Many of the plants in our yard preceded our presumed ownership and they will be there after we are gone I am sure.

The interior of our house is pleasant and as organized as it ever will be with children. But I have never been able to find a happy balance with…..whatever is going on in our backyard. The main reason is that we have invasive plants that evolved in some dark circle of hell. The ultimate invasive has to be creeping bellflower. If allowed to flower, each stalk can produce up to 15 000 seeds. The roots are thick and deep, often the size of carrots. Herbicides may briefly kill it but it returns from the root. Nothing likes to eat it. And if pulled or dug up, which I did week after exhausting week for 10 years, it will regrow from even the tiniest fragment of stem or leaf left in the soil.

I never was able to think of what would make our yard pleasant or attractive because of the constant battle with this many tentacled beast. Finally, last year I read online about something I hadn’t tried: kill it from the top by covering the ground. I put down old yoga mats and a tarpaulin in the areas that were worst invaded and weighed them down with bricks. It looked ghastly and sad, and fetid pools of water formed on the tarp when it rained.

It worked.

Slowly I replaced the old tarps and yoga mats with landscape paper (not even burying it, just putting it on top. My in laws gifted us with a few pretty perennials last year. I added a few herbs as Dani will pick and eat everything in the yard and I thought I could at least provide something that is actually edible. Perhaps she would learn to prefer it. The bricks and paper still looked nasty though.  But a trip or two to the dollar store gave me ideas, and soon the girls and I had collected a bunch of inexpensive decorations that we could add to our space.

All through this process I was still weeding regularly, BUT, I actually was making some progress now.

This week, we finished our initial creative spurt and I find myself feeling something unusual when I look at the yard: pride and happiness! It actually looks….pretty. I don’t feel immediate despair and existential defeat when I look out the window or step out the door.



The wide view of one corner



Close up



Out of control strawberry patch, that never makes strawberries. (Whatever. It has fertility issues I guess.) Also rhubarb.



Herbs: mint, chocolate mint, lavender, parsley. Also some leftover garlic and lettuce from my refrigerator, which I planted instead of composting.



A shady corner. I would like to get a small bench for under the tree.



Along the fence. This edge is where the creeping bellflower is still trying aggressively to push through. I’m holding it back, but it’s hard to eliminate along the edge of the paper as it invades the grass. But a stalemate is better than a rout.

We still need to do some major work on the yard. These improvements are quite superficial. We have the budget too; it’s finding the mental energy and time that has been a roadblock. But even though my efforts are relatively minor, they have made such a difference in my mental state. I actually believe we can have a pleasant space in our yard now! I feel motivated to do more. I have a sense of accomplishment. 

If there is a moral to this story, it is that total victory is not necessary to move in a positive direction. What is needed is just a little bit of encouragement. Progress is anything that is slightly better than complete and utter defeat. At least, that’s how I feel about it. I made something pretty and I even have some time to stop and smell the mint now. Next year, maybe roses.

5 comments:

  1. Dear Irena, your work has paid off, and your garden is good to look upon. Gardens are extensions of our souls, I believe.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! What a lovely thought. I better not let the garden become a neglected mess again then. Hehehehe.

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  2. ARGH I am having commenting issues!
    Love the gardens! Love your garden art! Love this and commiserate: "The main reason is that we have invasive plants that evolved in some dark circle of hell." and THIS: "total victory is not necessary to move in a positive direction. What is needed is just a little bit of encouragement. Progress is anything that is slightly better than complete and utter defeat." LOVE it.
    Loved what you said about dream houses, too -- my house now is a real life dream house, but I would have NEVER imagined it earlier. It's not at all what I thought I wanted, but it's damn near perfect. I love porches too, and while spiral staircases are romantic in concept, in reality they are DEATH TRAPS.
    Shade gardens are so lovely! Things that work well and are eaten by very little and are super hardy:
    Brunnera (Siberian Bugloss, my fave is Alexander's Great)
    Autumn Brilliance fern (new growth is a gorgeous copper)
    any variety of Japanese Painted Fern
    Astilbe (sooo many varieties, shapes, colors, sizes)

    Enjoy your new garden! Sometimes you have to resort to cover-and-kill to get the paradise you want. (We're doing it now with an area and it's all sad black garbage bag tarp but it will be something beautiful later!)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the encouragement and advice! Yes, sometimes the first steps toward something beautiful and worthwhile are awkward and ugly. I guess it’s faith that keeps us going, or stubbornness, or desperation. 🤣

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