Last year at this time, I admired the row of lime trees at Chatsworth, exclaimed over the profusion of perennials and the striking color combinations in the walled garden at Parham, and drooled over the terraced beauty of the landscape at Renishaw Hall. Although I adored Petworth House, the Capability Brown landscape did not inspire me; rather, I wondered what all he had destroyed in his manipulation of the park. (I’ll address my conflicted feelings toward Brown in another post.) This summer, I knew I would be at home in the Bluegrass, and my plans for the garden were lofty, slightly dramatic, and only a teensy bit achievable. And then the rain set in.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I will never complain about the rain. This stems from some very dry summers growing up on farm, and operating off a cistern until I was in high school. (After studying the culture of Native Americans in the Southwest, I determined that performing a rain dance was in order. This was accomplished to a great flurry of twirls, hoots, and hollers in the dusty ground in front of one of our barns. I may also have been dressed in what I considered appropriate clothing, which was a hand-me-down costumes of a “buckskin” skirt and vest. Please keep in mind that I was eight years old.)
My water conservation techniques are well-known, and sometime cause other members of the household much grief. But, rainfall amounts in much of Central Kentucky are more than a foot above normal for the year. Not only does that mean I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time inside when I should be outside, attacking weeds, deadheading, and keeping a vigilant eye on the rampaging morning glories – but also that plants (and the lawn) are behaving in a fashion most unlike a Kentucky July!
I thought this past week that I might be able to cut hay on the my backyard – but the rain stopped for the briefest of periods, and I dashed out (setting the blade up to 3.5 inches) to commune with the push mower.
I live in an early 20th century neighborhood that many would consider “downtown” but when developed, was a suburb. Bungalows predominate the housing stock, and long, narrow lots provide the gardening structure. Curious about the dimensions of my tiny piece of land, I got out my trusty tape (usually employed for measured floor plans of buildings and structures) and walked off my back yard. It is roughly 90 feet long by 40 feet wide – but a chunk of that is taken up by the deck and the garage, which measures in at a whopping 16 feet wide by 20 feet deep. I fear that Frank Lloyd Wright was correct: garages, like basements and attics, encourage an accumulation of stuff that one really does not need.
My latest hardscaping plan (adventure? harebrained notion?) is to remove a portion of the garage, and rebuild it with a smaller footprint, and reclaim that land. It sits in one of the sunnier spots in the yard, and since I must juggle a garden with ornamental plants and vegetables, and have room for the dogs to roam, all spots of earth are valuable.
While not typically a fan of decks (give me a back porch, ideally with a portion of it screened, any day. Also, while I am asking, a sleeping porch would also be nice.), the drop-off from the back door to the ground is four feet – one needs a way to get down to the earth. Since the deck does sit up (above my privacy fence), I had lattice panels installed on one side of it. That is the designated morning glory spot (along with some more clematis). Clematis, by the way, do not survive in pots during very wet and snowy Kentucky weathers. Perhaps my containers were not deep enough, but I am afraid the poor dears drowned and rotted.
We received another inch of rain last night, and the air today is humid and close. I haven’t dared to look at the forecast, since my list of gardening chores grows longer, it seems, by the hour. And the front yard! Well, that will be saved for discussion for another day…and I hope next week to write about an incredible garden in downtown Lexington that I was invited to view – a truly inspirational oasis! Until then, I will weed and maybe even take a moment or two to enjoy the garden, ignoring all that clamors for my attention, and sip some lemonade in quiet contemplation.