The buzz in the garden? Busy, busy | AspenTimes.com

The buzz in the garden? Busy, busy

Anna Naeser
Aspen CO, Colorado
An overwintered container of the herb Tar­ragon, next to the vine, and Aristolochia durior (Dutchman's pipe) being trained up the deck post. In the background are some vegetables being hardened for the garden and, in the foreground, a tall bearded iris and Nepeta faassenii (catmint) are bloom­ing. The string across the photo is a virtu­al fence to keep the dogs out of the garden. (It works!) (Contributed photo)
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It’s been a busy week in my garden. It began nice and easy, granting us a little more time to get the prep done. Then it warmed up and now everything is leafed out and growing like mad.

I did a lot of knees-on-the-ground kind of work. While the ground was still moist enough to easily slide in my weeding knife, I pried and pulled up weeds with their roots intact. With thumb and forefinger, I pinched out a crop of tree and shrub seedlings that germinated since my first round of weeding. The trick is to get the apricot seedlings while the pit is still attached. If I wait until I can see them waving to me above the lavender or currants, when the tender shoots have hardened into wiry stems and “have roots to New Zealand (not quite to China),” in the words of Henry Mitchell, it’s too late. I will be trying to grub them out forever, unless I decide that a thicket of apricots among the daylilies is just what I really wanted all along. The same goes for box elder and chokecherry seedlings. I scratched out legions of Russian thistle/tumbleweed seedlings, so young they had not yet grown their first set of true leaves. This is the sensible kind of weeding you only have to do once ” very satisfying.

Weed grasses, perpetually infiltrating my perennials and shrubs, are another story. I’ve dug up bushels of them, but hardly made a dent. Though a dreaded takeover hasn’t materialized, I keep expecting it to. I watch landscape crews install fabulous new flowerbeds with a jaundiced eye, because they are seldom sustained for more than a year or two, done in by grass and bindweed growing unchecked. The most amazing thing about the municipal gardens in Basalt, which are under the direction of Lisa DiNiro, is not how extensive they are, how well designed or how many native and adapted plants have been used to great advantage, but how beautifully they are kept weeded. No danger of grass outcompeting the perennials here. I resolve to be more vigilant and diligent in my own garden.

I pruned and tied up my vines. When an overgrown silver lace vine needs to be rejuvenated, it is simple enough to whack it down to the ground. Not easy, maybe, with inches thick trunks and gnarly old stems that resist the loppers; not easy, either, grappling with the volume of a tangled mound of stems. Most of all, it is hard for me to cut down something growing lustily just because it is untidy or I wish to confine it to a smaller space ” it feels like I have way too much power over the plant then.

However, the actual job is simple enough: hack and slash and cart away to the chipper shredder. Nipping off winter-killed stems and seed heads, or guiding a vine up a porch post and over the deck railing to make a living wall, now that is easy work, but not simple. It’s picky and takes patience, as my partner always says.

Training a vine is an ongoing, season-long job, like deadheading perennial flowers. I’ll pick up the clippers ” they’re lying about everywhere ” while I’m on the phone or waiting for the dryer summons, and absentmindedly shorten an errant stem here, snip a withered flower there. The phone call ends, the dryer bleats, and one clip just leads to another. I pull lengths of jute twine from my pocket and tie in long shoots to their supports. Pretty soon hours have evaporated and another vine has been trimmed and tucked, and a whole bed of flowers looks as though the blossoms are forever fresh, never dying.

By the way, Eagle Crest Nursery is presenting a seminar on vines and groundcovers on June 7, if you want to learn more about vines.

Gerry has been tirelessly tending the vegetable garden: digging, spreading compost, sowing and weeding, harvesting rhubarb, asparagus and orach. The tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and beans he started from seed in the greenhouse have been repotted in ever-larger pots and are being toted out onto the porch to harden off.

Wandering around the garden this morning, I noticed several foot-tall box elder seedlings and a healthy dandelion among some columbines. Some bindweed is emerging from a timber wall, and several struggling wild shrubs are being inundated by the golden hops vine. Better get after it before they smother. It’s almost time to bring my tender babies out of the greenhouse for their summer holiday. I had better get the irrigation organized too. It’s going to be a busy week in my garden.


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