RETHINKING A TROUBLESOME GARDEN SPOT
Rose Grootendorst Pink is one of the sad remnants of my recalcitrant border.
What do you do when a border insists on going to the dogs?I have dithered with such a problem for over twenty years. My plan is to move the remaining healthy plants, till the soil, grass it in and add a couple of large shrubs or trees and call it a day. The alternative is continue to pull up mulberry and trees of heaven trees whose roots go all the way to China. Is that masochism or is it an admirable devotion gardening ? Perhaps it is a mixture of both. Having laboured to amend the soil, to free it from weeds and rocks, having planted it carefully with plants procured at a steep cost, it is natural to expect some return for one's work.
I got return all right. First, it came in the form of a plague of artemisia that grows to nearly a meter high, suppressing smaller, less vigorous plants. Artemisia was part a horticultural Trojan horse, a Meadow in a Can mix the previous owner of the lot where I built my house unleashed on the neighborhood. The second nasty return, creeping Charlie came with the riverbottom dirt I added to the border, to make up for the brutal scraping it had suffered during construction when topsoil was removed and mounded against the foundation of the house. Later airborn seeds of maple and wild cherry trees, all lovely, in the right place, landed on the border and clung to it tenaciously. Vigilance kept them from growing into giants, but during my vacations they seemed to double their imperialistic efforts. Blackberry brambles and trees of heaven followed. The latter secrets a substance that kills whatever is planted near its roots. Deuil de Paul Fontaine, Variegata di Bologna, Mr. Lincoln, Little darling and Frau Karl Drushki roses gave up the ghost. So did a gorgeous clump of baby's breath. Voles devoured dozens of lilies, deer ate daylilies, an unknown plague destroyed the perennial bachelor buttons.
Did I give up? No, Siree Bob. I chose tougher roses, such as the shrub Cornelia, the polyantha The Fairy, the rugosa Grootendorst pink, the landscaping Meidiland white and red. They struggled along with peonies and aconitum. A change in circumstance made it difficult for difficult for me to keep up with the border. In a year, it revert to wilderness and thus it remains. The question is whether to neglect more successful garden projects and try to reclaim the area taken up by invasive trees and bramble, or level the lot and start over. Either has its advantages. Originally, the border was meant to be part of a semicircle to frame the lily pool with heirloom roses within a wider semicircle of evergreens. In time. however, white pine and a volunteer cedar grew so larger they shaded three quarters of the semicircle for most of the day. Few roses would thrive under such conditions. I have been replanting that area with trillium, bluebells, phlox, ferns, and Hakonechloa. As for the sunny, tree and bramble ridden part of the border, I could clean it once again, replant it with roses and see what happens. The alternative is to replace the roses and peonies with budleia, hardy camelias and gardenias, leptodermis, mock orange, ornamental quince, viburnum, weigela. Again, I could try adding the unkillable roses Russelliana, May Queen, Dorothy Perkins to the the struggling Cornelia and The Fairy or forget about flowers and plant a single spectacularly beautiful tree--weeping pear, for example.
Whatever I decide, I must follow read and reread Celia Thatcher,
"What is your secret? And I answer, 'Love.' For that includes all--the patience that endures continual trial, the constancy that makes perseverance possible, the power of foregoing ease of mind and body to minister to the necessities of the thing beloved, and the subtle bond of sympathy which is as important, if not more so, than all the rest." All this I have offered, but obviously not as generously as a nearly wild garden requires.