"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Garden Muscles

Haven't got any.

But I've started building some.

Yesterday afternoon I intended to do a little light raking and clutter clearing. Just in the area where the bulbs are--so I could see all my crocus and narcissus and fritillaria and hyacinths and tulips.

I did a whole lot more than that. I trimmed back the lamb's ears. I pulled up the dead stalks of false sunflower and Queen Anne's lace and bee balm.

And I pruned six rose bushes.

First I dealt with my early-blooming Scotch roses, Stanwell Perpetual and Double Blush Burnet. The latter had become an unsightly behemoth, so I hacked it into a smaller shape. Then I hacked it even more, until it was a neat shrub. If I sacrifice blossoms, I don't care--it was an absolute disgrace. The sheer size and breadth of it infuriated me, because it blocked my view of everything else.

Here it is, post-surgery.

I do need to pull out the dead leaves stuck among the canes. I suspect that when I do, I'll be tempted to chop at it even more....

Next I pruned four of my beloved gallica roses: Tuscany, Rosa mundi, Charles de Mills, Jacques Cartier. Their long, long canes were flattened to the ground by the heavy snow but they're so tough, so hardy--no canes were broken. After the pruning, the bushes sprang up and looked like roses again, not the pitiful, snow-squashed specimens they were before.

My mother is a fan of own-root roses. She swears by them, because she remembers the long-ago day when a notorious commercial rose supplier was selling grafted roses on diseased rootstock.

As a category, I hate own-root roses with a passion. This hatred is based on bitter experience. I've got two of them, Charles de Mills and Double Blush Burnet. I adore them for their beauty and reliability. They're healthy and hearty and huge, but they sucker like crazy. Last year I spent too much time on the Big Lake while the suckers ran rampant and unchecked throughout the garden. Like vandals and visigoths.

Being but a few days removed from a sickbed, I thought using a shovel would be too taxing. Had I employed it, I could've sensibly and easily dug up all those running roses. Instead, I yanked them up by hand. By the roots. By the dozen. Which, of course, was far more labour-intensive.

When I'm in my gardens I have no sense of moderation at all.

I ignore the fact that my supposedly thorn-proof gloves are seasons too old. They've got so many nicks and holes they look like Swiss cheese, and leave my skin vulnerable to thorns and snags. My fingers feel like pincushions.

Because my shirt sleeves weren't long enough, there was a long stretch of unprotected skin between the cuff and the glove. My forearms now have unsightly red tracks up and down, and a gruesome red rash from so many thorn pricks. To cover the damage, I'll be wearing long sleeves for a good while yet.

But when the adrenalin is pumping, and the blood rushing through my veins, and I can see the progress I'm making, I can't feel the stabs and scratches!

I worked for a solid two hours. I tidied up not quite half of the big garden. I didn't lose any roses this winter but two of my antiques had all the canes that were broken almost at ground level. They're alive but one of them probably won't bloom this year. My damasks suffered a bit of die-back but no more than usual.

When the Chap got home from his Planning Board meeting, I showed off my wounded limbs. "I got in a fight with some rosebushes. But I won."

He then told me as he drove up the hill, he saw eleven deer crossing our road. "It might've been more," he added. "The were in groups of four and fives. I counted eleven."

If they're on the march, I'd better not delay putting my protective deer barrier around the rose garden!

My rose-scented geranium is blooming.

I'm a bit achy this morning. The price I must pay for my immoderate gardening!

Oh, and a little while ago I spotted the first robin in our yard.

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