In the middle of August, the garden feels different. It’s not as fresh or vibrant, not as satisfying. This makes it tempting to move into planning mode. But first, I need to review the goals I set for the year, to assess what still needs to be done.
One goal was to hold a second Open Garden Day. I checked that off in July. Another was to let the garden express itself. This is a goal that will never be finished. But I’m doing my best, letting nature take its course in the fields and in The Big Meadow, previously known as The Big Lawn.
My first major goal was to finish Orin’s Sugarcamp. Last week we cleaned up the area, removing some tin leaves and miscellaneous bits and pieces. We added slate steps to make it easier to walk up the incline that leads to the sugar camp and visually lowered the granite lintel by adding more earth in front and behind. Now, someone climbing the steps will easily see the quotation cut into the stone: “The Gods can be known to exist on account of the existence of their altars.”
Before the clean up we added a short column of corrugated tin at one corner. The column ties in with a larger project I’m working on, which I’ll write about at some point. I like the contrast between the rusted tin roof and the un-rusted column — it underlines how things change over time, an important idea behind that larger project.
The final change was something minor that nonetheless has a big impact. Compare these two photos to see if you can spot the difference. The first photo is from July 1 …
… and the second from August 8.
Did you spot it? The change was lowering the boiling pan and turning it around so that a long bent piece is in front, almost touching the ground.
The weight of winter ice and snow brought down some of the tin maple leaves that hang around the sugar camp. Within the next few weeks we may re-hang some of them, but we could stop today and call it quits. Except for one thing.
The installation is named after Orin Gardner, a real person who worked for my father-in-law. Recently I learned that Orin was a strong Christian. The person who told me this worried that combining his name with the quotation from Chrysippos could lead people to think otherwise. I respect this concern and am searching for a way to acknowledge it.
The second major goal was to improve the plantings at The Skating Pond.
One area at the Skating Pond has never done well — it’s soggy, with soil that no plant seems to like. Last summer, hoping to uncover more of the rocky ledge that edges part of the pond, we started digging. We didn’t find rock; instead we created a mess — a steep slope with crumbly rock.
To correct the problem we added crushed rock for drainage, rocks for stability and good quality soil. We transplanted several clumps of the Calamagrostis that is growing nearby, even splitting some of the larger plants, and to my delight, they didn’t suffer.
In the fall we’ll divide more Calamagrostis. We’ll move out the Japanese blood grass that has never done well, repair some of the boardwalk and change the shape slightly, to provide a better entry point.
I’m confident that we’ll finish work on the Skating Pond this year. I’m equally confident that next year I’ll fiddle around with the plants. What I won’t do is disturb what is working well.
The Skating Pond is at its best where it is most natural.
A flower I seeded years ago has happily spread all around, as have many other wildflowers.
Resident snapping turtles sun themselves on the rocks.
Water bugs, dragon and damsel flies add life and movement.
The constant movement makes the area an attraction for children and grandchildren. And for me — I can watch for hours at a time.
Work on both of these projects will probably continue next year but for now I’m satisfied with the progress made.