The assistant gardener, for better or worse


I notice that the assistant gardener (my wife) spends less time in the garden, and while her efforts are appreciated on occasion, I heartily encourage that she come out to visit, and please leave her pruners behind. I notice that ivy along the path to the back deck is still neatly pruned, and that branches of nandinas that arch to partially obstruct the stone path to the rear garden are found in the trash barrel from time to time. But, I note less meddling in other parts of the garden where her efforts have been less welcomed.Bluestone path

I understand that many marriages are troubled over money issues, or squabbles relating to family and acquaintances. In this family, issues are most likely to arise when leaves of the splendid blue leafed hosta ‘Sieboldiana elegans’ are pruned. Yes, the wide spreading hosta was blocking the path, but leaves are easily pushed aside. And yes, more than once a large black snake has been scared off from beneath the large leaves. But, no one has ever been bitten, and the snakes are as terrified of you as you are of them.Siebold elegans hosta

Whether the issue is hosta leaves or nandina branches, I must make my dissatisfaction apparent, but this has never mattered for much, until now. Perhaps the recent lack of interest in gardening chores is related to increased snake sightings, reported with glee, though most are seen in the large koi pond and few are witnessed in the dry land parts of the garden.

I have regularly updated my wife about encouraging progress from surgery this summer that made weeding and other simple chores difficult, but now are only slightly awkward as kneeling and bending have improved. Probably, an overly hot August deterred her from offering assistance more than my assurances, but in either case I have no complaint.Autumn crocus

While recovering, and the garden still  suffering from an extended drought, I have made no plans for September planting. Colchicums have not been purchased, no narcissus or snowdrops, though there is still time. Certainly, cooler weather and a rainy week might be the encouragement that is needed to stir the juices.

There is always a place for a new toad lily or two, if ones of sufficient size can be located, and I am considering a planting of aggressive Hay Scented ferns to fill open spaces where ‘Arnold Promise’ witch hazel was removed after long suffering in overly wet soil. I’ve become impatient with bare ground that requires too frequent weeding, and perhaps the ferns will thrive until aronias and buttonbushes grow.

The combination of ferns, irises, and shrubs could be splendid, I think, and the fast multiplying ferns could accelerate the look from incomplete to satisfactory. After another few years, I am certain this planting will be exceptional, and if I can accomplish the planting before my assistant catches wind of the plans, so much the better.

Terms such as fast growing and aggressive are avoided in the description of any planting for fear that this might provoke anxiety, and a sudden urge to prune. This planting of ferns will be lush, and mostly it will save labor for me and my aching back, I will assure.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. I’m partial to hardy begonia for filling in empty spots in shade; it self-seeds and I love its reddish leaves and stems, and pink flowers at a time when almost everything else in my garden looks exhausted! Your garden looks beautiful.

  2. Julie says:

    This made me smile…..have to agree with some of the things your “assistant” takes care of. Think you can have pretty AND tidy at the same time…………in some situations. 🙂 I have been known to leave a whole wagon full of cleaning up to be put out with the grass clippings, etc.

    1. Dave says:

      Good assistants serve a purpose, but they must learn to listen and heed the wishes of the head gardener.

  3. Sa says:

    Dave, please think twice before you plant an aggressive spreading anything!!
    And no, I am not your wife. Why not consider the Autumn fern. Which is evergreen in my VA garden. Or the Christmas fern, which is also evergreen.

    1. Dave says:

      I plant aggressive plants with a purpose, but well aware of the maintenance requirements. In another damp section of the garden I’ve planted mint, but it is hemmed in by shrubs so that it serves its purpose to filter storm drainage from neighboring properties without erosion. In five years it has not been able to escape its confines, though I pull a few stems that have invaded the blueberries every summer. These are not invasive plants, just fast growing. I have many other ferns growing, and none will serve the purpose of tolerating constant dampness, and filling a space as well as the Hay Scented fern.

  4. Dave, I really love this one. The pictures are beautiful. You write wonderful. Thanks, Betty meadows

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