Monday, March 14, 2011

I Am Afraid of Spring

This will be the fourth full year of the garden. In the second year anything that grew, or luckily bloomed, anything that did anything blew me away. But I've come to expect more. The surprises must be more, and in turn, the heartbreaks will certainly be more. And this is right.

In 2009 the sweet autumn clematis was huge, but for some reason last year it was small, as it was in 2008. What will it do this year? Will I have to start over?

Swamp milkweed seems to be a two year plant; will the plugs from last year be massive this summer? Will I have as many monarchs as I did last year, which was a banner year?

This is the first winter when I loved the winter garden almost as much as the summer. It's close. So many birds have taken refuge in the dried stalks, the now-full perennials. And all the color and texture--I will truly hate to cut it down in a week or two. I'll leave the grasses as long as I can because the birds might want bits of them. I'll also need to be especially careful about what I'm cutting--I already see swallowtail cocoons and preying mantis egg cases, rolled leaves of viceroys and spiders. What else must I carefully prserve that I can't see? Where do I step?

I garden in a living graveyard, where ghosts haunt me and each other. Decay is life, and life is decay. When I look at the arched stems of wild senna, I remember it being alive so cleary, all the days, all the insects, the close inspections, the wonder of developing seed pods--it's alive even now, my thoughts shooting outward like a projector on a screen to make it so. And the liatris. The eupatorium. The salvia. The aster laevis.

I'm a sentimentalist. I can't bare to cut down these memories. I was surprised so much last year, will I be again? I was crushed last year, will I be again? I will cut it all down in one afternoon, then forget everything so that I might remember it again, but better.

9 comments:

Elephant's Eye said...

I am on this journey around our garden. Make room for the new, while trying not to destroy the still living old ...

Sandy Longhorn said...

Beautiful post and it sets me to rethinking the cycle of a garden. (I'm a non-gardener, you see). I love the idea of inspecting the dried stalks for cocoons, but do not envy you the choices. The stuff of poetry, those choices, for sure.

Benjamin Vogt said...

D--It's a hard journey. It's strange to think are gardens are on opposite ends of the seasonal timeline, and world, yet must look quite similar.
S--Non gardener! Say it isn't so! Yes, the stuff of poetry, every moment is a poem, because only moments can be.

Barbee' said...

Such responsibility.

Christina said...

Oh I will come back. See, I already did. I like your take on things and love your gardens.

greggo said...

My fear or I should say disappointment of spring revolves around loss. Spring always shows me my failures of proper plant selection in proper place. I've lost two hyssop plants, one liatris, three brown sedge, and three campanula plants.

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Benjamin Vogt said...

Greg--See, who wants spring? I don't see anythign good about it. This is the first year I want more winter, but it's too late. It's already 70. Cat's outta the bag, and things are coming up.

Corner Gardener Sue said...

You have a way with words, Benjamin. I guess that's why you are a writer.

I have gotten to the point that if something doesn't survive, I'm able to take it in stride. Now, the surprises light me up in the spring.

I was tickled yesterday to discover some lisianthis plants greening up. I've always grown them as annuals, but it looks like Greggo in Kansas grows them as perennials. Now, why did he lose some there, and I have some alive here? They did have a nice blanket of leaves on them.

I've already started taking off last year's growth on the perennials. I didn't think to watch for insect life.