Spending Sunday afternoon

Sunday’s a day of rest, right?

But I’m a non-stop kind of person. I was up early and spent some time just trying to put things away. This eternal move started in July and the furniture and last of the boxes arrived on September 4th. I’ve loads to unpack and I’m trying to not fret about that, but I need calm in my daily living space, so I try to keep some areas clutter free so that I can find haven in it when needs be.

Late morning, I rewarded myself with some piano playing. The piano has not survived the move intact. The sustaining pedal is stuck and so every note sustains, which is quite cacophonous, but I can still get the feeling for my pieces – Chopin at half speed, Rachmaninoff with out the fourteen finger handspan and equally not up to speed, Schumann’s easier Scenes from Childhood and Ibert – and enjoy puttering thereat.

Early afternoon, I decided that a peaceful way to spend a Sunday would be to putter in the garden. My nephew staying with me was away visiting friends overnight from Friday that extended to Sunday, so I was enjoying a bit of solo time.

I’ve brought many a plant from my mother’s garden. Some are heritage plants that have survived from my horticulturist grandfather on my father’s side, as a gift to my mother and now I feel like I am a keeper of the gift. Then there are perennials that I have bought over years of stewardship I’ve done in mother’s garden.

So I began by trying to find places for these transplants, though much of the garden needs to be dug up and turned over to loosen the soil, needs to have weeds extracted and the shape and composition of the flower beds reconsidered.

There was already some lily of the valley planted in the garden, but it was doing poorly, which I suspect was occasioned by the overgrowth of the rhododendrons and another flowering tree, now cut back and lightened by my nephew. He’s raked up all the dead rhodo leaves and now the lily of the valley can be seen sparsely inhabiting underneath. The lily of the valley that I brought from mom’s have been packed tightly together in a spare plastic hanging basket pot all summer. I prepared the soil, digging it, loosening it, and preparing four inch troughs to place the individual plants. When I de-potted them (OK – de-potted isn’t a real word – give me the right one if you can think up better), I found the roots were vigourous and healthy. Each one was happy and strong enough to make the transition. I hope they will do well here.

I especially feel tender towards the lily of the valley plant. It’s a sweet, unobtrusive plant with small but broad leaves and lovely, tiny white flowers that form in droplets off a single stem. It has always been in Mother’s garden at every house we’ve lived in. Besides, when I was in France, every first of May, which is when the blooms come out, there are street vendors with their bouquets of it, Muguet in translation, that are wrapped in small posies that as tradition has it, are meant as lover’s offerings for a sweetheart. It has that Charlie Chaplin-ish tender-and-shy-offering feel to it.

In contrast to this low, ground cover I brought a tall shade plant, a bleeding heart, to sit in this garden bed. Until I wrote this two second ago, above, I never thought of the symbolic rightness of this lover’s-plant garden bed, but there it is – the sweet and the bitter of relationships planted firmly beside each other. This plant has sat out, waiting for the move, in a too sunny spot all summer. It’s leaves have gone yellow with too much sun. Really, it’s no matter, because it will come again in the spring with its green dress back in its proper shade, but it must feel glad to be shaded again.

Next I moved to the back yard where I dug up a spot none deep enough to plant some Shasta daisies, also a favourite of Grandfather’s, though I doubt somehow that these have followed the family through its various moves. I also have some from Heather and I’ve clumped them together to make a good showing and hopefully, provide some cut flowers in the summer (even though they do attract ants). In digging them up, I sacrificed some phlox which had gone wild and overtaken space. They break easily at ground level, leaving the root underneath to come up again the next year. They invade, Their roots compact and are difficult to dislodge. But I managed. The Shastas will do the same, so they can have a root-territory war when both come back in the spring. Maybe they will keep each other in check.

The Phlox I took out will go to Lila, a new neighbour, who currently has only a little of this particular plant; and she will bring me back some hollyhocks, which I’ve never been able to get to grow. They are supposed to be weeds, but I manage to let them wither and shrivel each year, I don’t know how. Lila has plenty and she’s willing to help me try again.

When I was all done these tasks, I was losing steam, so I went to tend to watering the other plants sitting on the cobble stone patio. There I found a travelling slug.

Now normally these garden pests merit instant death, they are so plentiful and therefore so destructive. I will not tell you my methods – they are simply too gruesome. But not this time. Nephew, in his major cutting and lopping exercises, found a composter deep in the recesses of the front yard, behind the Japanese maple, back behind the holly and then behind the flowering tree. He dumped the dirt (oh, such lovely dirt now that it has sat for a good few years) and brought the composter to the back yard. He washed it down with a jet spray from the hose leaving it clean for the next fill it would get from kitchen and garden wastes.

I was delightedly happy about this find. I detest putting compost material in the garbage if it can be helped. I’d been down to the recycling station, but the Municipality was out of them, was not selling any until the spring, the only time of the year they purchase them. July to March is a long time to be chucking wet garbage if it’s not necessary. Not only does a composter  keep waste out of the landfill, but it provides excellent nutrient to plants once it has reverted to soil.

But this process does not happen by itself. It needs a host of garden denizens to churn it up and digest it into soil form. And so, this lucky day, I scooped up a half dozen of these snail like creatures and dumped them into the newly christened composter to send them into forced labour. Not that they will suffer, I’m sure. Their first offerings were apricots gone too soft and mouldy; tomato ends, small blueberry culls, corn silk leaves, cucumber peelings, celery root, all layered and warmed in grass cuttings. Soon the worms will find this composter, and the millipedes and centipedes, the wasps, the bees, the beetles. It will be a thriving community, all working to a common end – and kindly rewarded by my kitchen cuttings. I feed my worms well.

I hooked up some soaker hoses in the garden and then I came into the house about four, exhausted from my various tasks, all a pleasure in the hot, late summer afternoon. Just as I heated a cup of tea to restore me and I sank into my newly arrived sofa chair to rest, I heard the key turn in the front door. Nephew was home.

We shared our news from the past two days and not two minutes after, I said,

“Sorry , you are losing your companionable ear. I’m falling asleep” as I did, there ending a lazy Sunday afternoon.


4 Responses to “Spending Sunday afternoon”

  1. paintingartist Says:

    I never thought I would like gardening as I had to pull a blue-million weeds growing up every summer but I love it. Nice to read about your gardening.

  2. Kay Says:

    Thanks for the comment. I remember gardening as a chore albeit an interesting one when I was young, but now I think of it as a meditation – even for the more tedious, repetitive work.
    I took a trip back to your site and enjoyed your flowers one more time. I really do like those hydrangeas coming up on your easel gallery. It’s one of my favourites in your work.

  3. paintingartist Says:

    That is what I’m completing right now. I hope I’ve not ruined them for you. They should be up pretty soon.

  4. Kay Says:

    Not at all. I always think a work in progress is interesting – to see how one gets there, from alpha to omega.

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