Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall Garden Chores

garden path end of September

Every year the garden seems to grow larger and larger. Plants that were growing a few inches a year somehow accelerate the bigger they get. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong here. This is how plants grow and eventually they slow down. The problem comes when someone with as much desire to fit every plant that he likes in a manner becoming a nice garden runs out of room and they all start growing normally into one another. The results are that you need to prune or eliminate some plants entirely.

In my California approach to life (live your life in private behind the biggest hedges you can grow) I created a walled world of plants. Most of it is deciduous so when winter comes you can readily look into my yard and I can look into others. This of course is not true either because in spite of the plants being deciduous (loose their leaves) the mass of branches and twigs form enough of a diaphanous drape between the yards to blur most of them. Back to what I was saying, so I walled in the garden with plants and surveyed the second floor windows of my neighbors to where additional plantings were needed to block their views into my garden. Eventually all kinds of deciduous and evergreen shrubs or trees were planted to take care of all suspect peep holes into my garden.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t do anything too out of the ordinary, but I like my garden private! I like to escape and read or feed the kois or not be bothered by anyone seeing me and wanting to start a conversation I may or not want to have. A dear old friend, Neil Dahlerup, from California days once told me the a story about his first house and the importance of privacy. He had purchased a little cottage in Laguna Beach. Here the houses were one next to the other and everyone lived behind their hedges in spite the fact that the hedges only hid you. Everyone could hear everything anyone was doing. Before he painted a wall or cleaned a carpet he went out and bought a series of hedge plants to make private an open terrace that faced the street. Of course, he did have all kinds of wild parties in the Jacuzzi he put in the terrace to which I was often privy to, but that is another story.

Pruned twice to bring to this height used to be higher that garage eve

I again digress from the point. So I put all these shrubs and trees that now need to be kept in shape. I had planted a Forsythia hedge between the garage and the garden. I let the hedge grow to about nine to ten feet. Each year, I had to climb a rickety ladder to trim the hedge a least twice during the season. Nothing to far up there, but I am not any younger and each time I would wobble more. So I have brought down the hedge to about 5 feet so I can prune standing on my own two feet. I started doing this in late summer and have just finished bringing it down as much as I can tolerate without opening the garden up too much. It took two major prunings and a period or recovery between them. If pruned all at once it would grow but less balanced. I intend the hedge to creep back up to six feet and hide all the woody cuts I have just created, then it will be perfect. I will be able to prune from the ground and Julia will not worry about finding me with a broken something one day!

Robinia grew out of my dwarf hostas

A second plant that has served me well is a volunteer Locust Tree (Robinia). A bird must have left the seen that has, in the last five years grown into a twenty plus foot three. It grew in an almost perfect spot. Well, almost, it grew in a beautiful patch of dwarf hostas but perfectly placed to block the afternoon sun and act as an umbrella to my outdoor table. Finally, it blocked the views of my neighbor’s second floor windows. I have since it started growing and nurturing another Styrax japonicum that is behind and is now almost 20 feet. It will soon spread its branches and create a wonderful tall wall that in spring will be covered with thousands of magical hanging white stars (meant to be seen from below). When the Styrax is finally the right size I will take out the Robinia and not worry about my constant pruning to keep it out of the gutters and growing too big.

About ten feet of robinia tops were removed

Robinia pruned back to umbrella size. Styrax is coming nicely just behind and to the left

All of this is just maintenance that needs to be done in order to keep the garden in shape and the private world, Private! I hope you don’t think it unfriendly. I really like my neighbors and get along with all of them. My neighbors on either side both have large yards filled with lawn and plantings and all their patio furniture, toys, bicycles, playground equipment, barbecues, sandboxes, abandoned plantings beds, ponds, composters, rain barrels, drainage pipes, tree swings and all their own adventures…do you get the reason why I may want a green wall?

1 comment:

  1. Good Green fences make good neighbors