Gardening in Maine is like surfing in Alaska. You can do it, but you’ve got to pick your moments. Not that there aren’t some fantastic gardens in Maine, and garden writers, too. Katherine A. White’s Onward and Upward in the Garden, for instance, is a door into summer even in January, useful and inspiring.
I doubt my garden will ever be anything like hers, though. For one thing I’m a lot less picky about what goes where. Colors, shapes…with the limited time I have, I tend to work more on keeping things alive and less on who plays nice together. Also, hired help is pretty thin on the ground around here; what we don’t do ourselves doesn’t get done, for the most part. Also, deer! The magnificent vermin are on the hunt, now, to fatten themselves up before autumn, and they gorge at will unless the plantings are non-tasty.
Deer like hosta leaves, but these hosta are so huge that I think the deer might be afraid of them. I’m even a little cautious about them — they look as if they’re waiting for some unwary gardener to turn her back, whereupon they will fold shut upon her. And then…well, there have been little bone bits found around the stems of these vegetable behemoths. I wonder whose they are? At any rate, it’s too bad the hosta don’t find the deer as tasty as the other way around.
These poppies don’t have to be gardened at all, which is my favorite kind of bloom. They are all over Moose Island, great wide drifts of them that self-seed bigger every year. People mow around them, but once they’ve bloomed you can yank up the raggedy, untidy foliage or run the mower over it, and they’ll still return the following spring. Talk about easy-care…they are so determined to survive, it’s just about impossible to kill them. Their only fault is that the blooms don’t last very long — one good rain and they’re done.
There’s a certain kind of spot at the corner of an old house that is made for a hydrangea. No other flower will do, and it has to be a blue one, which means you need to test the soil, add acid or alkaline depending on what you’ve got there, and then if you’re lucky you’ll get the traditional bloom in the traditional color. Here’s my attempt, just started this year, to cultivate this for-me symbolic vegetation. Symbolic of what? Of days gone by, I guess, but not entirely gone…as long as gardeners are still cultivating the blue hydrangea.
And then there’s what to do once the gardening is done for the day. (Which never happens, there’s always something more wanting attention, which is another reason why it’s good to have a dog.) On Moose Island, to cool off after digging and weeding and pruning and fertilizing and mulching, you just… well, you get the idea, right?