Saturday, October 25, 2008

Shade Garden Construction Continues

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A quiet morning here on the mountain. 37 degrees which is the warmest in a few days. A front is approaching with rain by noon and heavy rain by tonight. Predictions are from 1 to 3 inches by midnight tonight so there's lots to do this morning to stretch the day as far as possible.

I took off most of yesterday from my regular job to work on the new shade garden. This is a big project which Gail had her doubts about me completing, actually even starting, this fall. Good gardeners have goals and one of mine was to get the designated area cleaned up and rototilled for next spring. This had to match the declining night time temperatures and my need to get the tractor home and get next year's wood supply out of the woods before the snow comes. As of this morning, the project has a bunch left but is on target to be completed. It was "close" a couple days this week because night temperatures in the low twenties froze things solid and thaw didn't occur until late afternoon. This is a characteristic of this portion of our new land. It lays in a hollow, bordered in the back by the Winooski River for some warmth but low enough otherwise to frost up first when other areas are warmer.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, our hosta collection is not big by collectors standards but hidden away here on the hill are over 400 varieties. We actually have more but unlike some gardeners we don't maintain an Excel spreadsheet with everything in the collection. If we grow for sale, we know what we have for stock but probably half what we grow has not been put into sales yet. The only excuses for that is developing salable numbers or finding the time.

This new garden intends to recreate the shade garden in the old barn foundation here on the hill. For many people, no matter how nice it is, it won't be the same. I agree, but also guarantee that in a couple years, the garden will be a destination for those interested in shade plants including hostas.

The soil at this site is alluvial clay washed there annually for years as the spring river flow went over the bank and covered the area several feet deep. There's not a rock, not a pebble to be found. Just before we came to Marshfield in 1989 the river was reconstructed a bit and the spring flows began going where they should. This summer's rain was a good test to how much water that river can hold and save for debris damming it up, we have no worries.

Riverbanks are notorious for their collection of weeds and shrubs. They contain wide samplings of about every plant that lies upstream from the point you are working on. In this part of Vermont you can be assured that you'll find wild hops growing up the alders, Joe Pye Weed, Jewelweed, Forget-Me-Nots, Ground Ivy, Vetch, Burdock,Canada Thistle, and Japanese Knotweed in abundance. There are tons of matted Goldenrod woven into a terrible mess with a variety of 5-6 foot tall grasses. On any perimeter where there is a little sun, poison ivy is guaranteed and smattered here are there are wildflowers, in this case trilliums, Lilium canadense, Purple Fringed Orchids, Red and also White Baneberries. The mix creates a challenge for the gardener as members of this offering belong to the "Wish I Never Saw You" Collection.

As of last night I am down to two truckloads of top growth to load up and bring back here. I'm filling in a couple areas in a back field here so I can get the material off the nursery land and put it to use. I have now rototilled all the new areas over a dozen times and with each till I am getting a little deeper into any remaining root systems I missed earlier. The three yellow "x's" mark large groups of Spotted Joe Pye Weed which I have left for their height and shade. The large yellow spot is a wet area which will be dug out a bit next year. I have lots of left over clay piled up and the plan is to dig out the wet area and drop in some loose clay so hold the water in that area better when it rains. Earlier this week there was one night of rain and I can't work that end again this year because it is saturated. My plan is to surround that area with various Ligularias, Rodgersias, Astilboides tabularis and similar plants that are large leaved and like their feet wet. Then I'll add giant swaths of various astilbes. Each tree will be surrounded by swaths of the same hosta and somewhere, yet to be determined, will be a network of stone paths.

If you look at the picture with a little imagination you can see a slight definition above the truck and tractor that represents an old road. It comes down behind the tree line and is more noticeable on the right side of the picture above the pond location. I have already cleared this and tilled it. It is directly in front of the fence and now represents an elevated walkway. My plan is to have a stone path come down the perimeter from the right of the picture and then extend across through the trees so visitors can view the gardens from above. I'll probably need a bridge of sorts to keep people out of the seasonal muck that predominates above the pond location but for next year that may be a couple elevated 2 X 12's.

Next spring after the summer planting is done, I'll go through this whole piece, free it of weed plants I have missed, rototill it again and then begin planting. The soil is so good that I really think the plants will catch on quickly. It is a work in progress no different than the foundation garden we have left behind. If you travel Route 2, glance down the bank and you'll see a garden that will be worth stopping to visit!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the only noise this morning is my stomach suggesting breakfast is in order, two cups of coffee doesn't cut it!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm

1 comment:

tina said...

Holy smokes-what a bunch of work! 400 varieties of hostas? That is a pretty big collection by my standards for sure. It will be so beautiful once done and planted. I look forward to seeing it.