By LYNNE IRONS
How is it even possible that the weeds have already overtaken my gardens? You have to admire them. They get pulled, cut, cultivated and mulched and yet they persist. I wish I knew my weeds better. I need to give Abigail Higgins a ring and get some identifications. I have several with which I am learning to live. They bloom and provide living mulch, so to speak. One is jewelweed. The foliage is attractive as well as the yellow flowers. The orange juice from inside the stem somewhat relieves poison ivy itch.
I have to confess, I have a few areas that were never cut back last fall and now the dead stalks are entangled in the new growth. I think I am at the stomping stage.
My quince is in full and glorious bloom. It has been in bud for months. I am particularly fond of it as I planted it on top of my old dog, Emily, who helped me raise my little children in the 1970s. We had a lovely funeral for her with my then-10-year-old playing the clarinet as we dug the hole.
I looked up the common flowering quince, Chaenomeles speciosa, in Michael Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs. I have to quote him and either laugh out loud or heartily disagree. “At the least hint of winter warmth, the buds swell and the flowers open, which results in cold-damaged ugly brown petals. The habit is rather oafish and clumsy, lacking the grace and dignity of the viburnums. Strongly multi-stemmed, with a tangled mass of stems, it often becomes a hummocky mass of unmanageable proportions.”
Well, there you have it. The expert has spoken. I am, however, thoroughly enjoying mine. Shirley Miller told me that, in colonial days, they used the quince thorns to do needlepoint. Somehow they put a hole in the end for the thread.
Thirty years ago I worked for Gratia Harrington and Mary Macy. They were the captain’s daughters of Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book fame. They were well into their nineties at that point. They encouraged me to pick some of their quince and make some jelly. I was on a no-sugar-eating kick at the time and made an unsweetened sauce. Let me just say, it was the last time I attempted that project. Yikes, we are talking tart here.
The slugs have wiped out half of my petunia seedlings. They might be the most despicable creatures on the planet. I did find an organic product, Sluggo, at SBS. We will see how successful it is when the hostas and dahlias survive. I have tried several methods. The sure thing is setting about saucers of beer. Only humans and slugs will drink beer to the death. The swollen, disgusting bodies need to be removed daily. Snails are slugs with mobile homes.
My Emperor tulips are in full bloom. They do not last long in the unseasonably high temperatures we enjoyed last week. Emperors and Darwins are actually perennial tulips. Most of the others last only a few years and then need to be replanted.
I used to bend and squat while planting and weeding. I finally said “uncle” and bought some stools. I, apparently, am not aging as gracefully as some. I fought reading glasses until one day I realized I was no longer reading in bed. Acceptance comes to me painfully.
Where is she going with this, you might ask? I sat on that stool and painstakingly separated hundreds of leek, onion, and beet seedlings and it was not an unpleasant task. Actually, let me confess, I used two stools and kept sliding along so I didn’t even need to get up.
I started some green beans in three-inch plug trays. It is the same principle as starting peas inside. It gets them up and running, weed-free, and can be planted a few inches apart in the row. Otherwise I tend to seed them too heavily and cannot bear to thin them. I hate their little lives to be lived in vain. I put three seeds in the plug and let them grow happily as a ménageà trois.
People ask how I manage to get so much done. It is simple. My house is a train wreck. I have to quote my friend Taffy: “Who needs rugs when you have clothes!”