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Monday, October 14, 2013

Thank you, Phantom Gardener!


 
Looks kind of fake, doesn't it?
    As the season draws to a close in the Midwest, I have an obligation to thank the supernatural force I call The Phantom Gardener. This mysterious entity has taken over all my gardening and convinced me that The Universe has gotten wind of my writerly pursuits and given its approval. Although I should’ve issued thanks long ago, the Gardener must not mind my oversight. It continues to tend my yard, even now, allowing me to get away with the bare minimum of weeding. Thank you, benevolent Phantom!
     It all started in the spring. I decided to cut back on my flower budget, resolving to make do with a few hanging pots that were Mother’s Day gifts and some perennials that I moved from elsewhere in the yard. Freebies all. There was the necessary evil of replacing three spirea bushes that had died, but we left the bed on the other side devoid of bushes. I told myself it was because things were looking too symmetrical. Now I know that I was too lazy and cheap to buy and plant three more matching spireas. Some lovely wildflowers are just the thing, I thought, anticipating a slightly lopsided look. It’ll be like that hairstyle that’s shorter in the back than in the front. Angular chic.
     Unfortunately, I’ve never had luck with wildflowers. Deep down, I knew they’d never grow well enough to offset the three bushes on the other side. The tame wildness of an English garden has always been out of my grasp—and would be again, I feared. In any case, we spent less than a hundred dollars on the yard, and that included veggies for the vegetable patch.
      Okay, so the transplanted perennials finally took and spread this season, filling out the kidney-shaped bed that had looked pretty dire in past years. I owed a debt to early and extended bloom times, thanks to unseasonably warm weather followed by a stint of cooler summer nights. I think we had TWO springs instead of one. This benefited the front garden, which I barely had to weed, and time for writing emerged as sure as spiderwort.
     I should’ve mentioned that these floral cutbacks had to do almost as much with time issues as financial. I resigned myself to letting the yard go to pot in the name of finally finishing my damn book.
     But I didn’t have to cope with a yucky yard, because the Phantom stepped in. A perennial that I’m sure I accidentally pulled, thinking it was a dead bloom leftover from last summer, popped up in another spot and grew to huge proportions. (My friend’s theory is that a squirrel dug the bulb up and relocated it, but I know it was the Phantom.) Smack dab in the middle of the wildflowers that never were and flanked by armies of blue bells, it gave the air of wildflowers. As if I’d planned it that way.

     At the same time, a crop of petunias in all colors began to bloom along the back of the bed, apparently seeded from last year’s hanging pots. Since there were no longer any bushes to cover them up, the freebie petunias could be seen from the road. There were so many varieties that I was able to transplant a patch of white to the front. There they complemented my pre-planned pansies.
     In the back of the house, similar wonders were afoot. Since au naturel was the theme, I planted only one thing around the patio. The rest of the beds were occupied by herbs and odds and ends. (Smelled wonderful.) The plant I went with was a climbing yellow something or other from my mother-in-law. She gets me the same plant every year and I think I’m the only one in the family who hasn’t found the proper spot for it. Wherever it ends up, it look green and lush but refuses to climb, its blooms sparse. I’ve tried to plant it near a trellis, in a wishing well and along a line of netting meant to lure it up the porch railing. No go. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law’s not only climbs like a toddler on speed, it becomes top heavy with blooms. Its vivaciousness taunted me whenever I went over there.
     So this year I literally plopped it in and expected it to snub its little picket-fence neighbor. Yet not only did it climb the fence, it scaled the deck. And simulated the container garden I’ve always wanted. Thank you, Phantom Gardener. 
You wouldn’t believe how many compliments I’ve gotten on the yard this year.
    Here it is almost wintertime and I’m still benefitting from my Phantom Gardener. Around the hydrangea shoot I transplanted (from a bigger bush in front) a patch of moss roses from years ago sprouted, adding some well-needed color to the patio. They’d re-seeded in a symmetrical formation at the base of the budding bush, which also took immediately to its new location.

     One day I noticed some moss rose vines shooting up from a container I’d left out for a few days. While I never planted them, I took the pot into my house and set it by my kitchen sink. With a little TLC, I know I’ll be able to keep it alive through the winter months and enjoy a little touch of Spring when I need it most. All thanks to my Phantom Gardener.
    

     

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