Despite last week’s heatwave into the mid-nineties, which we had not reached all Summer, signs of Autumn continue to reveal themselves. A cool breeze here, crunchy leaves there, along with more squirrel activity than I’ve seen since Spring.
It’s also the start of Fall bulb planting season, and — since CPL (crazy plant lady) ordered those bulbs before what turned out to be a slightly dislocated rib causing all the neck and upper chest pain — I’ve got a lot of bulbs to plant. Not the 1,000 I planted in Goshen in 2015, but 200+ daffodils, alliums, irises and fritillaria are nothing to sneeze at.
About those fritillaria …
I sure hope they’re worth it! I ordered them as groundhog, rabbit, vole and deer deterrents. If the flowers and leaves smell even half as potent as the bulbs, they might also become Laura deterrents. Oh. My. Skunks. Seriously, those bulbs smell like skunk times ten. They won’t make you sneeze, but they might make me gag. Crown imperials are so stately, though finicky, and fritillaria meleagris (the checkerboard droopy tulip looking things) look so dainty. Let me tell you, they don’t smell dainty! And that’s the point. I hope they keep groundhogs at bay as much as people claim they do, because Kalamazoo Kal appears to have found the front yard gardens.
I can’t prove it’s him. Yet. But I strongly suspect, because a) I’ve seen him right across the street, eyeing our front yard; b) a possum moved into his former home under the backyard shed; and c) something has had major kale munchies on the side of the driveway that Kal used to zip past on his way to and from the backyard:
That kale is in a pot between lemon time and day lilies, away from the rest of the edibles. I noticed evidence of kale poaching several weeks ago, but I didn’t really care, because that kale was puny compared to my femur length kale leaves tucked behind the weeping birch tree on the other side of the driveway. It’s also too close for comfort to the neighbor’s septic tank, so I figured whatever wants to eat over there, have at it, as long as it keeps that critter away from the rest of the garden.
That might not have been the best plan. I think someone now has a fever for the flavor of lacinato. Last night, I got a warning as I sometimes do that I should protect my main crops of front yard kale. Instead of hustling out with deer repellent spray, I spent an hour and a half on the phone and then dove right back into novel preparation. Characters, mirror moments, structure, genre, how to do this, how to craft that. Very productive time, I might add!
Unfortunately, someone found the golden goose. A completely unprotected brassica heaven, without the eagle eye view from the dining room table. Whatever ate this kale came up on the house side and munched a lot of leaves at least two feet above the already raised bed. It could be a rabbit, but I do suspect it’s Kal, even though he’s been warned –repeatedly– that the forbidden side of our yard means a trap. Don’t make me do it, Kal.
It’s not terrible yet, but the house side has been seriously gnawed, and if this critter continues like it has with the sacrificial kale, we’re going to have a problem. I suspect Kal due to groundhog’s notorious love of kale, but also due to some interesting timing. I had just yesterday decided those fritillaria stink too much to plant them all. They’re expensive, so I didn’t want to throw them away. I offered quite a few to a friend, but today, I needed to skim the top of that offer in an effort to deter (and thus spare) my worthy adversary.
Several synchronous gifts followed. This friend reminded me about planting garlic, which I already have scheduled to do, but she sent me a site with perennial vegetables in case my sea kale seeds (which I misplaced) didn’t sprout. I’ve procured and not received sea kale several times this year, so hopefully the third time’s the charm. Someone in Kalamazoo offered me one as a gift, but they dropped off the radar as soon as I accepted. Other locations had run out of sea kale, and I have no idea where I put those seeds! I thought of taking a root division in Goshen, but it was sooooo hot and muggy the day I visited. I also at that point, thought I had a plant waiting for me in Kzoo.
In any case, thanks to my needing to explain why I was tweaking the number of fritillaria, I now have 2-3 sea kale root divisions, ramps, another rhubarb and one (that’s all you need!) Egyptian walking onion en route. So thank you, Karen! And thank you, critter, although I will specify right now that this sea kale is not the thank you. You can munch on the dandelions, the sacrificial kale, and be glad I haven’t asked the cat to spray.
Another synchronicity about this suspected Kal violation is that just this morning I got inspired to change both point of view and the protagonist/antagonist structure of my novel. I’m still brainstorming, but I had a major aha moment right before I discovered the early morning mischief. The breakthrough involves creating a surprisingly sympathetic villain protagonist who finds himself caring about his adversaries. How do I show that sort of thing? What does it feel like? What sort of emotions and conflict might that fuel? Enter Kal into my prized front yard garden. Even if it wasn’t him — but oh, you fat rascal, I know it was — the suspicion gave me great insights into character, conflict and motivation.
I walked to the nearby landscape store to get bulb fertilizer since I got my initial batch of 50 daffodils and a reblooming “Mother Earth” iris. While there, I ran into an edible gardener (gardener of edibles?) who actually offered me a groundhog solution besides, “Oh, you just have to trap them. That’s the only way.” “Here, let me show you what I use. It smells like vomit!” Sold! Actually, I did buy it and sprinkle it around the kale. I also sprayed the deer repellent around the edge of the garden. I wouldn’t put it in a perfume, but obviously, this guy has not experienced fritillaria!
Anyway, I got the bulb fertilizer so my daffodils actually bloom in the lawn’s poor soil, and I spent two hours planting eleven daffodils. I need to wait for some rain, or it’s going to be a long, slow Fall bulb season! Daffodils are the best gift you can give yourself, though, imho. One time planting brings decades of Spring cheer, and unlike tulips, nothing wants to eat them. I’ll view this batch first thing in the morning, as I open our bedroom curtains. The others will get scattered around the front and back yards, in spots that won’t get watered during regular garden season.
I also got the reblooming iris planted within easy view of the front window, and the root of a miniature aster by the mailbox volunteered to clone itself in a nearby spot, as well. You can see some of the current garden in bloom, along with newly planted beets and lettuce, and just imagine the deep purple aster and reblooming iris of I forget which color towards the right of this photo:
Speaking of asters, this one made it from Goshen! Once it finishes blooming, I will plant it out back by the shed, between the larkspur and clematis. In Goshen, this one grew to about four feet tall, so I look forward to prolific blooms next year:
All in all, the garden’s doing well. Two rhubarbs have established themselves in the 20-gallon Smart Pots out back, and today I noticed we even have a full sized strawberry trying to ripen before frost sets in:
The late Summer planted lettuce has finally taken off:
And a clematis who’d nearly given up the ghost before we moved in has recovered enough to bloom a second time this year:
So far, the kale muncher has left most of the collards alone:
And to top it all off, the shrub the former, former owner told us was a reblooming lilac is, in fact, blooming right now:
I have been so preoccupied with writing prep and sessions that I really have done very little in the garden of late. That will, of course, change as I plant the remaining 190+ flowering bulbs, garlic and perennial vegetables. Fortunately, my neck-rib-chest bizarre injury/initiation seems to have healed enough to get these babies in the ground. I get glimmers of how colorful the yard will be next year when this year’s newbies start coming into their own. With any good luck, those skunky fritillarias will do their deterring, while I do my writing, and Kal and I will continue this uneasy, yet somewhat comical dance of wills.
Wishing you and yours brilliant colors and abundant harvests — on whatever level!