Starting over

    Soon, probably in a couple of months, I’ll be moving to a new house and starting a new garden.

    The place I live now is where I learned most of what I know about plants. Thirteen years ago I could maybe spot a geranium, but that was it. The smallish property we moved onto was made from the typical Philadelphia yardscape of hosta, euonymous, overgrown and overtrimmed yew hedges, and a couple of Japanese holly, which had also outlived their usefulness. The first year we hacked everything back so we could see out all of the windows, and that was the beginning of my education as a gardener.

    The yard I’ll be taking over makes that garden of thirteen years ago look like Versailles. This new place had been abandoned for many years. Twelve foot trees and swamp grasses grew out of a crumbling swimming pool. The few cultivated trees that remained from happier times in this property’s life were all maimed in some way or another; a Japanese maple half gone, a very large white pine with the top broken off, and a mature beech suffering from some cankerous disease. The sorry house itself was almost entirely hidden by Norway maples, box elder, and wisteria.

    Poison ivy and English ivy still cover most of the ground, but the trash trees are slowly coming down, revealing even more troubling features. Every time it rains, the above-grade neighbor loses another inch of her yard into ours. Now that sunlight is hitting the ground, broken glass shards glitter in the dirt. My mind can only process so much at a time, but recent inspections have revealed sinkholes, sections of chain link fencing embedded in huge tree stumps, and a bamboo infestation. I’m pretty sure that there are other problems my subconscious is still protecting me from.

    Believe it or not, I’m excited. I’m excited about the first stage, which will be mostly hand-to-hand combat with this yard. The second stage will be my reward (assuming that I succeed in subduing this feral landscape, not the other way around.) Visions of a small grove of dogwoods, climbing roses around the porch, and a Russian pomegranate that might survive in a protected sunny spot, keep me entertained.

    The rest of the project is so ruinously over budget that besides treework and getting a retaining wall built, I’m going to be on my own tackling my new project. But what I’ve learned is that gardening rewards patience, and this is what I hope I can remember in the months and years ahead. Even if progress is measured by the inch, eventually this beast of a yard will be tamed, and from the wreckage will emerge something actually nice .

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