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Just Checking In...
Hello Beautiful People, and welcome to Quarantine Gardening!
It feels like the closer we get to normalization, the farther it seems. I am so excited that I’ve gotten my first vaccine dose (and most of my family has as well!) None of us have really shown any side effects, although my arm was quite sore for 24 hours- so worth the peace of mind.
Now I’m waiting for dose #2, and glaring enviously at my husband who got the one-and-done J&J.
We are attempting to stay safe and healthy which seems to be harder and harder.
How Gardening has helped me...
We were able to safely host Anne and her husband for beer on the deck last week. None of us knew how to converse in person anymore but we still had a nice time!
Otherwise I’ve been working for the weekend so that I can go outside and play in my yard. I think Alice and Anne know that I’ve been struggling with feeling inspired to write with how stressful work has been- I stare at my computer for 8 hours a day and I honestly want to be as far away from it as possible when not working.
Luckily they’ve been incredibly understanding- this pandemic has been pushing everyone’s mental health to the limits.
Anne is starting therapy, Alice is disappearing into her books, and I’m trying to hold on by enjoying NC’s fake spring #2 and gardening; soaking any sort of sun I can get.
I guess the reason I’m explaining myself so much here is because:
1) It’s a little embarrassing to feel so stressed out when I have so much privilege in that both myself and my husband still have our jobs, are able to social distance safely, and are bubbling with our family so we still get to see them regularly.
2) I think I’d also like to make sure that if anyone else also feels like they’re down the rabbit hole, they know that they are not alone.
3) I’m going to give you all a few glimpses of my garden, which (aside from books, cats, and my hubby) is what has been giving me joy.
So, on to Quarantine Gardening!
Designing Your Own Garden
PSA: First things first- if you’ve never designed a garden and are interested in learning how, check out “How To Create Your Garden” By Adam Frost for some inspiration.
I think it gives a good deal of practical insight into planning out what you’d want your own garden to look like and how to take into account your zones, weather, soil, and light when picking out plants that make you happy.
This is crucial!
I have a shady backyard which is very hard for my rose-loving heart. Don’t plant a poor sun-loving plant in a place where it will not be happy- because it will be sad and therefore you will be sad.
Moreover, if you’re in mid-NC like I am- you will always be struggling with clay soil. It’s so sad and so painful to dig into. Get a good pickaxe and a strong drink!
I get asked for ‘fun facts’ at work fairly frequently. Since we all work remotely, it’s a quick way to get to know each other.
My fun fact?
I collect roses. I love them. They are persnickety, vain, and showy. As a result, they’re like the cats of the plant world.
You know that scene in Alice in Wonderland where she’s talking to the flowers? I always quote it while spraying their leaves for mildew or mold or bugs or whatever they’re complaining about.
Historic roses are the most fascinating to me- I have a gallica rose (one of the first to ever be cultivated in Rome/Europe!) and rosa canina that stems (excuse the joke,) from the German Thousand Year Rose.
Rose history is something I find absolutely fascinating- something that my mother and I geek out about.
Furthermore, I’m a huge fan of David Austin English roses- because they are as beautiful as heck- so. many. petals!
For sourcing, some historic roses of your own, try heirloomroses.com.
You can also check out Vintage Roses by Jane Eastoe or The Rose: The History of the World’s Favourite Flower Told Through 40 Extraordinary Roses by Brent Elliott (see below). I love thumbing through these for the pictures- but they also help me build my wishlist!
Don’t worry, I don’t only have roses! What is a southern garden without hydrangeas, daylilies, gardenias, and azaleas?
My hydrangeas are blue for the most part- I have acidic soil so I lucked out there. I have a small limelight hydrangea in the back (green hydrangeas are my favorite!) and this really cool shooting star hydrangea- only on year two here, so can’t speak to its growth potential yet.
You can change the acidity of your soil and change your hydrangeas from blue to pink. You can buy it from your local garden supply, or be like my old-school mom and bury rusty nails with the roots.
I’m a big fan of Asters as well- but they are slug bait. Another strange tip from my mom- put a tin pie pan with old beer in it to attract slugs away from the plant babies.
The daylilies are exceedingly happy- although I’m too scared to dig around my mailbox to divide them.
We have a baby rat snake nest in there- not super fun to come across suddenly. They’ll coil up to strike even though they’re not harmful to humans.
Why do I allow them to stay?
Well, they’re kinda cute- and we have a lot of copperheads around and rat snakes eat copperheads, so we have an uneasy truce. We did find the most gorgeous garter snake in the backyard- but he was a little too interested in my goldfish and frogs, so he had to go.
Don’t worry, Mr. Rochester safely relocated him to a nearby creek! Even though I live in a very suburban neighborhood, we have lots of wildlife- snakes, obviously, frogs, birds, hawks, mice, bats, deer- all sorts of fun critters.
Additionally, we have a little woman-made pond out there as well- 5 fish with countless baby frogs (the cutest!) Mom calls them ‘pond fairies’. They have plenty of mosquitos to eat- which as you know, is the state bird of NC.
We use this for snake ID-ing- it’s out of stock currently, but there are plenty of other books you could use!
As I said before, my backyard is very shady. To counter that, I have to look for plants that are okay with part-sun or full-shade.
There are definitely fewer varieties out there, but you can still have some beautiful flowers even with shade! Try camellias, azaleas, and astilbe.
I also have some gorgeous lenten-roses aka hellebore (not real roses) that I find enchanting. Our gardenia tree does well, and we have a really cute indigo vine that I just love.
There’s definitely plenty of opportunities to find things that make you happy in the shade- just make sure you check their tags or bios to make sure they like shade too.
You don’t have to just have hostas!
However, there are some REALLY cool ones- check THIS ONE out or THIS ONE! And lastly, don’t forget lily of the valley- those always start popping up around my birthday! (So cute!)
Check out Making the Most of Shade by Larry Hodgson (below) for more ideas.
Veggies Not Welcome Here
Finally, you may have noticed that all these plants I’ve shared with you are not for eating.
For that, I’m hoping that Anne will throw a little something together as she has the most amazing veggie garden. Mr. Rochester and I are both highly allergic to veggies- or at least that’s what I tell Anne and Alice when they nag me about it. Also Anne, PLEASE put a pic of your gorgeous french lavender in the comments? For me?
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now- I hope you enjoyed my garden tour!
And never fear, I’ll be back soon with a new batch of thrillers for you soon. If you can’t wait, check out some of my previous recs below.
Just remember to be kind to yourself and to others- we’re all doing the best we can during this final stretch.