February 27, 2020

The Never-ending Cycle of Garden Planning

The sun shines on a drift of daffodils and a lone species tulip.

Janine Pineo Photo | The sun shines on a drift of daffodils and a lone species tulip.

• By Janine Pineo •

I must admit that autumn is one of my favorite times of year. So are winter, spring and summer.

I know I can’t have it all four ways at once, but that’s one of the rewards of living in Maine — just wait a while and another season is upon us. We are teetering on the edge of nature’s most colorful one, and I am feeling a little sad at the passing of another summer and of all the little things left unfinished because it seemed too hot to start them in the depths of July.

But the cool of September has brought another sweet burst of life from some of the annuals. My pansies have perked up after a rather worrisome interval, and the Marsha Washington and ivy geraniums are putting on a final show of color. I, too, am hoping to find a new shot of life this month so I can dig up part of an older flower bed and start tucking in a few dozen spring bulbs here and there.

If this year is like any other, though, I’ll use all my extra time keeping up with tomatoes and before I know it the chill winds of October will be chapping my hands and face while I try to dig in the wet gook.

I’ll suffer through it gladly, for I recall the joyous results as the world emerges from its white cocoon.

I’ve already made headway on next year’s spring and summer blooms. Some orders are in for tulips, lilies and dwarf iris, with a Christmas treat of paperwhites thrown in. OK, I admit I’ve splurged on daffodils — one can never have TOO many — a bunch of crocus, some muscari, fritillaria, alliums and scilla along with a few hyacinths. Then there are the ones whose names escape me.

Since there is life after spring, I’ve also gone a bit bush crazy. I just set out a weigela, and a beauty bush and tamarix are waiting for their date with the spading fork. The spectacular blooms of hydrangeas throughout the area are calling me, so it won’t be a big surprise if there’s one in the yard before the snow flies.

I even suffered the humidity of early August to dig myself a new flower bed. Three-quarters of it is dedicated to a much-beloved (by me) plant — lupine. My vacation in early July found me in Prince Edward Island, where the lupine was still in full bloom, at least on the east end of the island. We made a quick trip to Vesey’s Seeds in York, P.E.I., and found some giant packages of lupine seed at bargain Canadian prices.

With a little effort and a daily reminder to water, water, water, the lupine seeds are now babies happily growing near my gardening shed. I have envisioned great things for them as they spread across the yard, taking root where no flower has gone before.

That’s the problem with gardening: Planning for the next season somehow leaves you wondering where the present one went.

Every year I try to find some time just to enjoy the yard and the gardens without thinking of something I need to pick or weed. Some of my favorite moments this summer involved animals, domestic and wild. The dogs provided comic relief on the hottest days of summer — when it was too hot to move, let alone garden — as the two of them battled for the wading pool and its pesky pile of rocks (which they like to pick up and deposit outside of their pool), splashing themselves, each other and me in the process. The hummingbirds were ever graceful, lighter than air as they flirted with the pink and purple fuchsia hanging by the back door and who sounded like monster bees as they scouted out the vegetable garden while I picked beans.

And then there is my rosemary tale, a sorry sprig of a plant that looks as if it is on its last leg. It somehow survived the summer and just started to look a little perkier when my father decided to waterseal the deck, moving my herb pots to one side for the day. That fateful evening, I went out at dusk to move everything back.

The rosemary was the last plant I moved. When I picked it up, I noticed the dirt was lumped off to one side, a sure sign someone — and we needn’t mention any names — had tipped it over and hurriedly shoved the dirt back in.

Slightly fuming over the treatment my poor rosemary had received, I set the pot down and started to pat the dirt down.

Suddenly, the dirt moved under my fingers and out popped a toad.

There it sat, unmoving, the sprig of rosemary draped over its little amphibious head.

I lurched back and started laughing, a bit hysterically (well, it was almost dark and it could have been worse than a toad).

Ah, yes, the sweet memories of summer.

By the way, the rosemary is doing well. I still jump at the slightest frog.

First published in the Bangor Daily News in September 1994.