My garden To Do list started filling up in early May. When I look back at it, many of the tasks remain undone.
When overwhelmed by all the neglected work it helps to sit in a part of the garden that looks good, seems settled.
My favourite mini vista is in front of me. It’s where a swath of Japanese forest grass, feather reed grass, salvia, ‘Big Ears’ lamb’s ears and perennial geraniums mingle together in harmony. It makes me look like I know what I am doing.
Sitting royally in the middle of it is a blue-green agave. It spends the winter indoors, where any encounter with its spines and needles could send you to the emergency ward. In summer it comes out for a suntan.
Agaves turn up in high design magazines, but really gardeners have been employing their charm for years. Take a trip to the Dundurn Castle kitchen garden and most years agave guards the garden from perches in big, iron urns.
Sitting here shields the view of disturbing trends elsewhere in the garden.
For the first time I saw a single shoot of Japanese knotweed in the garden. Where there is one, there will be hundreds. It’s in a yard two lots over and has jumped the neighbour to neighbour barrier.
My only hope is to chop it off every time I see it. As the author of the guidebook Ontario Weeds, Jack Alex once told me, “No plant can withstand continuous hoeing.”
This season plants that have never vigorously spread are sprinting. They include native sweet grass, and Russian sage. Every year new seedlings of the native tree Pagoda dogwood appear, but this year they are unnaturally robust. I forgive them, this dogwood is a gem.
Everyone tells me that their lavender died over the winter. Ours is fine. It has settled into a spot it loves, sprouting out of a stone wall where it can soak up the heat captured by the sun on the stone.
I can only think the spread of some plants and the demise of others is related to weather.
Unless you are a note keeper, can you remember if it was a dry fall, followed by a sudden snow storm, then a weird warm spell in March followed by a freaky freeze up in April? The impact of drought, deluge, and see-saw temperatures directly impacts the survival of plants, particularly ones that are on the margin of their hardiness here in Zone 6.
I post pictures of the garden on Instagram and sometimes people ask to come and see it. I discourage this vigorously. In the back of my mind I think of something the artist Mary Pratt said when I interviewed her about her garden.
“It’s perfect, but not perfect enough.”