You know, when you start gardening for 8 hours straight, with a one hour break for lunch, you've quite possibly moved from having a hobby to having an obsession.
I think I crossed that path long ago. However, it's become really obvious to everyone else in the neighborhood, too.
Today, while I was outside installing some Russian stonecrop (Sedum kamtschaticum ellacombianun), a neighbor dropped by and said nice things to me. One thing he said was this: "You have to be the hardest working gardener in our town!" He shook his head in amazement and walked on.
There's something about praise from a stranger. It's unlooked for and very sweet. Heartfelt compliments, from perfect strangers that are moved by the sheer amount of work involved in putting together this garden, are a heady thing. I've never, in all the years we've lived here, spoken to as many people as I have this year since working on the garden in May. They stop by while walking their dogs and/or children. They stop while driving. One even came directly to the door and chatted with Eric for awhile. I've even seen folks walking or driving by slowing down to take a good look at what is going on in the front yard. Some of our neighbors have told us that they look forward to seeing what else I'm going to do, each year.
All of these years, I've had the worst internal conversations with our neighbors in my head. Whaaat? Don't you have biting comments from the voice inside that tells you everything you're doing is wrong?
Must just be me, then!
That voice, all these years has been my version of The Voice of the Neighborhood. And it was a grumpy, complaining voice.
"What's she doing now?"
"Is she ever going to weed that stuff?"
"Why do we have such people living in our neighborhood?"
"Get some lawn!"
I worried for years, inside, about what the neighbors were thinking whenever they looked at my yard. Without a doubt, the most unkempt yard in the 'hood. No lawn. Wildflowers. Weeds. And a truckload of mulch, dotted with random plants. I thought they must have despaired of ever being able to sell their houses with such an unconventional house on the corner of the development. However, after last May and especially this year, that voice has changed considerably.
Now, I know what they are thinking. They are thinking they like what I'm doing. That I'm adding something to the neighborhood. That, yes, I'm different, but I'm doing something that they can share in, too. It's a heady feeling. It moves me to keep on digging and planting until I finish my vision of a my garden that keeps me from sleeping at night.
Oh, but what about the Shrub of Doom? Well...let me tell you.
Remember how I was working on the Sunflower Replacing Garden? Every garden has to have a name, but The Right Hand Strip just doesn't sound very special, does it? Sunflower Replacing Garden is the best I can do at the moment.
Well, the SRG has been moving along very quickly.
From this, on 8/17...
To this on 8/31.
After I'd ripped out the trashcan filling piles of sunflowers and other doomed wildflowers.
On 9/2, I woke up at 5:30am because I just couldn't sleep anymore. I needed to draw up my plan for what would go in the SRG. I worked on it (With graph paper, compass, triangle and colored pencils, even!) until breakfast time and then I got to work around 11am.
Remember how I said their leaves were trembling in fear? They were right to be afraid. I pulled them all out except for the lavender in the corner.
They were all jealous of the lavender. "What makes that one so special?" They grouse alot, those plants.
I considered rototilling around all of the plants, but discarded that idea because it's insane. Instead, I "lifted" (Don't I sound like I know what I'm doing?) all of the plants, save for the lavender, and moved them all out of the way. Then I rototilled the heck out of the very hard clay soil (watered it the night before to soften it) and then raked it smooth. I then added in 3 bags of compost (still not enough compost in my compost bin to cover a 3.5' x 20'10" section), raked that in to the soil and smoothed it out again. Then, it was time for lunch. Whew!
Here it is, by the end of the day on 9/2. Perhaps it doesn't look like much at first. Look closer.
There are 3 phlox subulata, 3 yellow coreopsis (original to the site), 6 salvia 'Blue Hill', 4 Keys of Heaven, 1 (purchased) Mrs. Maxwell heather, 3 goldenrod (from seed this spring), 3 pink yarrow (from seed last spring), 3 'Johnson's Blue' geraniums, 2 lavenders (the original received a friend), 6 blue flax (original) and a honeysuckle. It's been so long since that honeysuckle has bloomed that I have no idea what it will look like. Yellow? Magnifica? I don't know.
I finished at 7:30pm, knowing that there was still more that needed to go in tomorrow, 9/3.
It was a garden mostly made up of plants from the backyard, where they were languishing in the shade. What used to be a full sun garden in back has become a part sun garden. Not enough to keep these plants happy, thus the relocation to the front yard. All the other plants in back are jealous.
Today I woke up at 1:30am (since I still couldn't sleep) and drew the plans for the left strip garden. The left hand side of the stairs. The side with RoundUp sprayed on it. Yeah, I've got a plan for that one, too. No, it's not identical to this one. That would have been too simple, wouldn't it? Besides, I have a pattern to continue on the left.
Aching and tired, I started work around 11:30am or so today and finished around 3:30pm. I installed all of the ground covers that will help to fill in the SRG.
Six more phlox subulata, 6 purple ice plants (grown from seed this summer), and 11 Russian stonecrop (from seed this spring).
And then, the mulch.
Remember that parts of The Shrub of Doom made it to our town's shrub collection center? Well, they shredded all that they'd received and made it available to the public for free as mulch. Free mulch?! Ooh! That's the way we spent early Saturday morning: shoveling mulch into six huge black plastic leaf bags and tossing them into the trunk. It was about 12' tall and unknowably wide. We didn't even make a dent in it by the time we were done.
The Shrub of Doom has returned home again, along with thousands of its other doomed buddies, in the form of mulch.
I like it lots better this way! Now, it's useful.
Three days and sixty five plants later, I have a new garden. I'm looking forward to seeing what it looks like next year!
And so are the neighbors.