Friday, April 27, 2012

Let the Gardening Games Begin!!!

                                  LET THE GARDENING GAMES BEGIN!!

Planting Spring Peas, Progress # 9, on March 17th, St. Patricks Day

Dear gardening friends,
     Welcome to the 2012 gardening season! This year in the Northeast, record warm temperatures arrived in March, making for an extended Spring. Many plants got an early start, encouraging us to hope for an especially productive season. Then too, this years garden at Penrose Bungalow will have special meaning, since, for the first time, we have been invited to participate in the local community garden tour, scheduled for Sunday, June 10. Make no mistake, the prospect of sharing our green sanctuary with the public, has us on our gardening “toes,” figuratively, and knees, literally. One goal is to share our experiences with you through photographs and written musings on this blog. I hope you will enjoy it.
Bronze Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare purpureum
     Often, gardening is as much about what one removes, as it is about what one puts in. With this in mind, today I am experiencing a great sense of accomplishment, bordering on elation, at having successfully extracted the Bronze Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare purpureum, from the herb garden. Is this too strong a reaction, you wonder? Perhaps, but this was the most odious task facing us as we went about our Spring garden clean-up, contributing to a sense of utter hopelessness. So, given the difficulty of accomplishing this task, and the impact that having this chore done has on the rest of the garden, I don’t think so. Permit me to go on. Yes, this is essentially a weeding job I am talking about. A couple of years ago, I, like many a misguided gardener, introduced this plant into the garden, attracted by its feathery foliage, and similarity to Foeniculum Vulgare Azoricum, the bulbing fennel that can be eaten, cooked or raw. While the F. purpureum has an appealing fragrance, not unlike anise or licorice, it does not produce an edible bulb. The root system it does produce, is long and slender, carrot or parsnip-like, but plunging 15 to 18 inches deep into the ground. On the other hand, it seeds prolifically and germinates easily. In no time at all, it becomes an invasive, pernicious nuisance, requiring being dug out, with great exertion on the part of the gardener.  So, beware! For weeks, as we have enjoyed this unusually long Spring, I have watched with dread as the new seasons crop of fennel shoots came up. As this was a particularly dry spell, I knew what a tight hold the roots of this plant would have on the arid soil. Given a casual tug, the tops might break off, but the roots would only grow deeper. Then, when we got word of a drenching rain forecast for Saturday/Sunday April 21/22cnd, I knew my opportunity had come. Wet soil would loosen the grip the roots would have on the earth. The roots would still have to be dug out, to be sure, however, they would come out much more easily, and hopefully, as a single piece.  Yessss!!!
     Outfitted with gloves, a long-handled fork and a warm jacket to fend off the still damp air, I set about my work. The jungle of feathery growth visible above ground, emanated from a tangle of long roots standing shoulder to shoulder and reaching deep below ground. Still, thanks to the previous days soaking rain, the ground spread open under the weight of my body counterbalanced against the tines of the steel fork. With the soil loosened, the roots eased up from their earthen hiding place with a minimum of resistance. The removal process took several hours, not including a break for lunch, but, bit by bit, I observed progress as the surface of the soil was revealed. By mid afternoon, I had filled two Hefty Cinch Sacks with the unwanted growth, and rediscovered Tarragon, Lemon Balm and Oregano plants that were all but squeezed out by the encroaching fennel. Most importantly, I had regained a sense of control over our garden, no matter how temporary. Whatever other challenges this gardening season presents, can now be met with optimism and confidence.  Hurray!!
Queen of the Night Tulips
Mini Daffodills
Peach Irises
Blue Irises
     Here then, are some images of the garden thus far that I hope the reader will enjoy, including a short video of part of the New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show for 2012. Enjoy, and share your comments and reactions, please. 

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