In the Garden:
Upper South
April, 2006
Regional Report

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The joys of spring can last all season long with some weeding and organization early in the season.

Wanted: Garden Organizer

On a recent morning news show there was a segment about people's clutter and their need for organization, with the accompanying statistic that the "organizing business" is a multibillion dollar one. And here I was, thinking that I was the only one with stacks of newspapers, magazines, Web site printouts, and assorted knickknacks. Unfortunately, my clutter doesn't stop at the front door, as my garden falls into this category as well.

Perhaps I am also not the only one that needs to confront this issue. Sure, most of the yards I see in my area are neat and tidy, with a few ubiquitous, neatly trimmed shrubs across the front of the house and a tree at each corner. Meanwhile, the beautiful gardens pictured in magazines may be filled with plants, but there's nary a weed in sight, and everything is wonderfully organized. So maybe it is just my problem.

But what's an inveterate plant collector to do? Particularly one who not only has an interest in lots of different kinds of plants and who can't bear to throw any plant out, but also one who inherited the garden of her mother, who also never met a plant she didn't like. The issue is not a minor one, because, for the first time in my life, I'm dreading the growing season.

Obviously, the problem wouldn't be one if I had the money to hire a dozen minions to weed, edge, divide, replant, mulch, fertilize, water, etc. Or unlimited time and a trust fund. None of the above is an option, however. So, how to proceed? Any good organizer would most likely tell me to analyze and prioritize, then divide the project into manageable portions, and then begin discarding. Easy for the organizer to say, but not for a sentimental packrat.

A Plan
Let's look at the problem areas. One spot, immediately adjacent to my house, is what amounts to a border approximately 10 feet wide and 150 feet long. It's planted with trees, shrubs, perennials, ornamental grasses, and bulbs, with annuals interplanted each year. In retrospect, I should never have made an area this large, but I did start out with a certain logic. The immediate problems are shrubs that are already becoming overgrown, and a year's worth of weeds. Since this is an area with plants that I particularly like and want to keep, it makes sense to begin here.

Cutting back last year's growth, weeding, and mulching are the first priorities. Most of the overgrown shrubs are too big to transplant, so I need to at least trim them back if not remove them. The good news is that so far this year I haven't bought any new plants for this location. The plants that are becoming pests by readily reseeding or otherwise spreading need to go. Why invite unnecessary problems?

Another nearby bed that I have kept up fairly well should get the same treatment. The vegetable garden is in pretty good shape, needing only a day of cleanup and weeding.

The real bugbear garden areas are those that were my mother's. There are a lot of them, with weeds and invasive plants a major concern. They are a problem that will not get solved in a single season. The sooner I accept that fact, the better. I will also have to either become best friends with some type of herbicide to kill off the ivy, vinca, and aegopodium that are overtaking large areas, or learn to live with them.

Daylilies are among the plants she collected. Once they were cutting-edge varieties, but now they are old hat. Still, they were hers. I have decided on two goals for them. I will dig up as many as I can this year, remove weed growth from the clumps as best as possible, and replant. Fortunately, I have a newly developed area where portions can be transplanted. A friend suggested another way to dispose of them besides the compost heap: pot them up and sell them, adding the proceeds to the scholarship fund set up in my mother's name.

Some variation on this theme would be a good idea for others needing to scale down a garden area. Extra plants can be donated to a local plant or botanical society or given to a school or other organization that would like to have them. All this organization will take some time but every little bit is progress toward putting the fun back in gardening.


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