Garden puts on its best face in early spring

#529 in a series of true experiences in real estate
March 2007, Hills Newspapers

I love the look of my garden best in early spring when there is a lot of plain, unadorned dirt showing, when I can see the rock walls and gravel paths, and the trees are bare, beautiful twigs.
The next thing that happens is tiny green points poking up, the beginnings of daffodils and hyacinths, and I find these more lovely even than the flowers to come.

This year I got a jump on things. I was in the mood, it wasn’t too cold or too muddy, and so, over a few days time, I cleaned up crinkled fallen leaves and cut back plants so they can begin again all new, and I pulled seedlings from the gravel paths. Then I stood back, especially in the mornings with the sun coming across sections of the garden, admiring the tidiness and the promise of leaves and branches to grow.

With spaces looking large, I started visiting nurseries, bringing home with me old favorites and also new plants I’ve never grown. Last spring I had workers help me expand my gardening space by almost a third. I have now an ten-foot long rock wall and wooden stairs accessing what has become a full-sun area with the elimination of a huge acacia tree stump.

Also, an old wooden picket fence on that side of the yard is again upright, and bare. Much of my hunting in nurseries has been for shrubs, vines and small trees to go along that border between me and my neighbor.

I go slowly through the nursery and look at the leaves and the shapes of all the plants. I read the labels to see if this plant is likely to grow taller than I want and if it will be happy in full sun. If it meets the requirements and I like the plant’s looks, especially if the foliage will probably be good in a flower arrangement, I buy it.

But only if the container it is in is no larger than one gallon. I cannot dig a 5-gallon hole in my garden. Too much clay, not enough strength and patience.

On several different days, I carried pots and 6-packs up to the garden, then in between rain showers, dug holes and planted, a perfect arrangement of timing as rain contains magic ingredients that no other water does. Plants planted during, or just prior to, rainfall, I’ve found, get settled in immediately.

I’ve been gardening for a long time. I used to pick plants I wanted to grow by reading about them first, then going on a hunt for them. I read a lot of plant catalogs and sometimes ordered from them. But my present method – buy what’s available today at a local nursery – is better I think in many ways. I can see the plants with my own eyes. They can be in the ground within the hour. Chances are good they’ll like my climate. Maybe best of all, my choices are limited.

Catalogs present unending possibilities. I’m easily overwhelmed by them. The Forest Farm catalog, for instance, is so replete with possibilities that my mind staggers. There are two print editions of the catalog, spring and fall. Each is paperback novel size, 500 pages of type, no photos.

What offerings! Thirty kinds of bridal wreath, 80 viburnums, 25 pages of maples.

I read and think, do look-ups in Sunset, make lists and make notes in the margins, but not yet have I been able to advance the process to actually placing an order. Almost every written line calls to me, each listing sounds good and is probably a plant I would like to provide for.

I need to see the plants. I need to go, to visit Forest Farm in person. See first hand the “dresses on the rack.”

Forest Farm is in southern Oregon, about 12 miles from Grants Pass. Google driving directions say that it will take 6 hours and 13 minutes to get from my house to their growing grounds. Anet says that if we leave at 6 in the morning, stop for lunch, still we can be there by 1:30. Stay overnight, come home.

This would be a great time of the year to go, see what’s going on in early spring. Of course it would be even better to go many times during the year. You know how gardens change because the plants change, flower and leaf and grow; just about everything looks different in winter than in spring or summer.

Anet is game. She’s not a gardener but she enjoys the garden, and she loves to drive, to take short driving trips. I can’t believe I’ve never gone to Forest Farm before now. What an idea!

I am a little worried about how many plants I will see that I will want, plants I will need to find places for, dig the holes and get water to. But my, how exciting this is.

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