When we told people we were leaving British Columbia to move to Prince Edward Island there were a variety of responses. Why would you do that? Won't you miss us? What happens if it doesn’t work out? What if you don’t like it? Some of these questions were based on people’s fears for us. And we also harboured some of those fears. What if I couldn’t find a job? What if the bank wouldn’t grant us a mortgage? What if we hated it? Despite these concerns I never once doubted that we needed to try because I had learned something in my former garden that gave me the confidence to move ahead.
When I first started gardening I was paralyzed by all the decisions that needed to be made. What plants would look good together? What if the plants got eaten by deer? What if they didn’t look as good in reality as they did in my head? What if they die? I felt like I couldn’t plant anything for all the fears of what might happen. Eventually something had to be planted though and yes, the deer ate it, plants died, and the combinations weren’t necessarily the height of fashion. But I learned so much. The conditions various plants favoured, what plants the deer loved to eat, what combinations I preferred. The single most important thing I learned was You Can Always Change Your Mind. Seriously. It’s allowed. Your first decision might not be the right one. In fact, it might be completely wrong. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make another decision and try something else. You should never feel like you’re allowed only one choice. That kind of thinking will render you completely inert and unable to make any decisions at all. Sometimes the best decision is to just make a decision.
I’ve had to remind myself of this advice many times in the last year when working in this new garden. Just make a decision, any decision and do something. That action will snowball and more ideas will pop up. I can always make changes later so don’t stress about the small details.
With this in mind I thought I would talk about my process working on the back garden. I haven't got a formal name for this area yet because, well, it keeps changing. It all started with a little plant called Plume Poppy.
If you've read this blog before you know I purchased a plume poppy last year at a spring garden sale. I had no idea what it was or what it would become. By the end of the summer the plume poppy had grown from 6 inches to 4 feet and it needed a new home. I decided to put it behind the garage and began work on creating a new bed just for this plant. Over the winter that plan festered in my brain. I thought about what other plants would look good in the poppy. I thought about how those large leaves looked so tropical. I looked at other plants that survive in temperate climates but have a tropical air to them. What if I created a tropical-esque hideaway behind the garage? We discussed all sorts of ideas for the garage. It could be a workshop, large garden shed, or summer cottage. We could have large trees and big leafed perennials to create a hidden oasis. I started drawing up some designs like this one.
The hedgerow could be changed to a flowering border with rhododendrons and magnolias and a large catalpa. On the opposite side a large oval bed could hold honey locust and other brightly flowered perennials and shrubs. I was hooked on this idea and started to plan work on the hedgerow. The first thing would be to remove the diseased plums that stood there. I decided to do some reading about hedgerows and discovered how they provide shelter for birds and roads for wildlife. How they produce valuable food, and create a windbreak so that topsoil doesn't blow away. Suddenly a flowering shrub border didn't seem so appropriate. Perhaps I needed to add native plants? Staghorn sumac is native and has a tropical air to it. And bayberry has lovely dark green shiny leaves. I considered that I could possibly have my lush green border but with natives as well.
Several weeks ago work finally began on this project. The plums were cut down and burned and I began raking up the fallen pieces of branchs and black knot fungus from the ground. Almost instantly though my plans started to go sideways. The skies opened up in April and we had rain. For a month straight now it has rained every day. So much rain that I was unable to finish cleaning the hedgerow of the diseased plums. The last pile of branches is still waiting to be burned. The raking is incomplete and branches and fungus still litter the ground. I am not ready to start planting. This is an issue because my local native nursery will only sell bareroot plants until this coming weekend. Once the trees leaf out the nursery will sell only potted stock at a higher cost.
The second issue that came up was the rental of a sod cutter. This machine was rented and miraculously it didn't pour that day. However, we had much work to do and at the end of a very long day we began work on the large bed that would be opposite the hedgerow. This is what happened.
We let the grass grow in this area last year and the roots are very deep. And very difficult to cut. Instead of a large oval bed we now have a narrow strip in the shape of a smiley face. Definitely not what I had decided on. Now, I have no hedgerow, no oval bed and the garden I dreamed of is nowhere to be seen. What to do? Make a decision, any decision.
I decided to finish the bed for the plume poppy as planned last fall.
The work on the hedgerow will continue over the summer and by next spring I should be ready for the purchase of trees and shrubs. I am still favouring a lush green secluded area but more native plants will be added to the mix. I will have a year to make a clear plan for this garden. And the large oval bed that was to hold so many trees and plants? I can't let the small strip that we did clear go to waste so instead of trees we're planting a row of giant sunflowers. Why not?