There Are Always Sweet Peas

sweet peas with Clematis

How prescient or coincidental or hubristic I wrote about my roses last week.  Bragged if you will.  Yesterday I went out to prune them, and did a fairly good job in creating empty vase shapes, taking out dead and skinny branches, despite my trepidation in cutting a living, budding thing.  I did notice that the branches had splotchy markings, and much later I investigated.

Rose Canker.  A virus of the rose that appears as splotchy spots of purple and brown, which will ultimately destroy the rose.  After researching numerous sites, including the agricultural extensions and rose societies, I determined I did infact have to act fast, and cut down each affected branch to a several inches into good healthy growth.  After my radio show, I went out with the hand pruners and tried my best.  I hacked away at my newly pruned beauties, and discovered the damage was too severe.

With heavy heart I went inside and called an old friend for sympathy, and then called my local expert at the nursery who promised to take a look.  I admit I was deeply upset.  Five bushes in all, and no recourse but to dig them up.  Then I visited a gardening friend to get some seeds for another friend, and looked at her roses, which also had canker.  I wondered if I had been too rash in cutting down the bushes so severely.  Perhaps I could have let them bloom, and enjoyed the roses until the plant gave up.  Kind of like my plan for my beloved ’92 Honda Civic.  But when the Honda began falling apart, yet still had life in her, I traded her ruthlessly in for fifty dollars toward a newer model, regretting the purchase all the while.  They don’t make Hondas like the ’92 anymore.

After a while, I rememembered I had to plant the sweet peas I had soaked overnight.  I constructed a wigwam, amd sowed the seeds.  In a week, if I am lucky, they will poke their heads out.

Meanwhile, the world as we know it has changed rapidly.  Universities, museums, and public institutions have closed to combat the spread of Covid-19.  We are told to socially distance ourselves and wash hands constantly.  The shelves are emptied of paper products, though I still fail to see the connection.

Gardening is the balm.  Getting fresh air, working in the soil, and planting for the future.


The back yard

Seven summers ago, I started a new life devoted to writing, in Provincetown. Naturally, I wanted to distract myself. My apartment was surrounded by growth. The front garden was tamed by the former tennant, an admirable writer, who grew epic tomatoes and many herbs.  I was told repeatedly, though,  that nothing would grow in the back, though; too much shade, poor soil; wind.

Nothing motivates me more than a gardening challenge. I researched Cape Cod garden peculiarities, studied books on soil improvement, and shade gardens all winter long. In the spring, I got to work.

The back had two bare plots, divided by a common gravel path.  The north-facing cement wall, aka foundation,  featured a tangle of wires and meters, and wooden fences ran along the east and west sides.  The front was seperated from the wetlands by another gravel footpath.  It wasn’t a secret graden, or a reading nook to escape with a book and tea.  Without privacy, the backyard became a place to landscape and learn.  The nooks and bits of garden I’d had before mostly consisted of pots, and not much dug into the ground.  So, right off, I bought a shovel, pruners, and a rake, and the first in a series of garden hoses.   The pruners especially rusted magnificantly.    

Two hostas already grew along one fence, so I took the cue, and planted a few more. I found cinnamon fern, dicentra, astilbe, Forget-me-not, sweet woodruff, and huchera in the local nurseries. I added that year’s star perennial, geranium Rozanne, and some annuals, guided by garden catelougues, books, and sales.  


Things grew slowly that year, but steadily. Clematis came next, and buddleia. I tried a potted dahlia, trout lilies, and to my surprise, I had a volunteer Joe Pye’s Weed. The latter was good for the bees, my gardener friend told me, and she gave me some monarda to plant as well.


I kept trying new things, like margoton lilies, heirloom glads, snake’s head fritilleria. Some plants reassuringly appeared year after year, while others, like the trout lilies and buddleia, last only a five years. One year, the cinnamom ferns kept having babies. But the garden feels incomplete. It lacks a sense of sanctuary, a sense of safety. It looks good in parts, but does it have a sense of harmony? I have my catelogues and graph paper out. I’m watching garden shows and taking notes. If you have suggestions, I’m listening. (Below the next two photos is a slideshow.)740″] Fern explosion, 2017?[/caption]

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


gallery of roses

%d bloggers like this: