|Our back yard, mid-June|
One resident of the neighborhood had watched the process in awe. "Only in America," she said. "An instant lawn in a day. What a wonderful country!"
In contrast, our yard has been a slow work in progress, and at times it seems as if the elements will win. Grass has been migrating and establishing roots across our gravel driveway. Days of heavy rains encouraged such rapid growth that plants toppled over. Soaked ground loosened roots. Weeds had a holiday and celebrated all across my herb and flower beds. The south lot, especially, is a lot in transition. Tom is still hard at work chopping into firewood the two water oaks we had cut down last summer. He is making progress, and the wood rack is almost full again after a cold winter, but the area remains littered with remnants of wood and bark. I mow around the piles, but grass grows tall between the pieces of remaining wood and waves gaily across the yard to its neatly trimmed and circumspect neighbor like a friendly country cousin.
Gardening for me is a process, but I recognize--and often sympathize with--the urge to have an immediate end result, to hire others to do the work, to buy mature plants every year and rotate those plants in and out of the garden seasonally. That's one kind of gardening. and more power to those who manage such gardens. But I'm willing to work and wait and experiment.
Two years ago, we decided we would have to have the two water oaks nearest our house removed as they threatened the house in this hurricane-prone country. I imagined the stumps of those trees as being the center of flowerbeds and began raking leaves around the water oaks to compost. By the time the trees came down, the leaves had created a layered humus. I had to wait while Tom chopped and stacked the piles of wood nearest the stumps. Then I began hoeing and shaping the beds, removing some of the cast iron plants to a shadier flower bed near our front gate and getting rid of the more easily removed weeds. What we think are two Confederate Rose bushes sprouted spontaneously in one bed; Tom transplanted Turks' Cap in the other, where I also transplanted some native flowers that had sprouted in other areas of our yard. Virginia creeper, brambles, elderberry, and a persistent native plant with bulbous roots had covered the area around one stump, so Tom sprayed the area with Round-Up so that I could remove the weeds more successfully. Their tangled roots spread throughout the soil, and I spent a day last week--between days of rain--clearing the weeds and loosening the soil. This past weekend I transplanted to that new bed Black-eyed Susans that had sprouted near their parent plants in other flower beds in our back yard. We probably won't see any flowers from those plants until next year.
Gardening in southeast Louisiana is tough, as the heat and humidity challenge one's commitment. We had an entire week of rain at the end of May and the beginning of June, with between 10 and 11 inches of precipitation. During the following days of sunshine, we were out of state, attending a wedding, and when we returned, sunny days were offset again with pouring rain. Afternoon showers are common in June. As the planet heats up, humid areas such as southeast Louisiana are projected to have more precipitation and higher temperatures, and gardeners will have to adjust to those changes. Our entire planet is undergoing a process that will enormously affect the lives of not only gardeners but every inhabitant. I hope we're prepared for the work of adjusting.
|An afternoon's worth of weeding and thinning my herb and flower beds|
|weeded flower and herb beds--lemon basil, borage (most of which did not survive the heavy rains), zinnias, dill, portulaca|
|The once bushy lemongrass has been reduced to one blade-like plant, which I will probably transplant elsewhere. Black-eyed Susan on the far left; rosemary in the middle; blue salvia trying to take over most of the bed; red salvia, far right|
|white-blooming monarda (bee balm)|
|Sungold tomatoes beginning to ripen in our vegetable garden|
|Yellow squash maturing in our vegetable garden|
|Spearmint loving its new location|