My Secret Garden

My Dad has this huge back yard. Years ago, before my parents divorced, it was one of the favourite places to be outside. (I was one of Those kids that hated bugs and didn't do any organized outdoor sports, so being outside was an big thing.) I remember spending weekday evenings following my Mom around as she cleared out the beds and planted petunias, arranging the built in watering system my Dad engineered, as he mowed the lawn in diagonal lines. 

The garden hasn't been properly done up since those days, but this year, as a father's day present, I cleared out all the years and years of dead plants and tree suckers. 

 Blood Blister. Even the not-pokey end of the shears are dangerous. Worst.

Blood Blister. Even the not-pokey end of the shears are dangerous. Worst.

Harder than it sounds. The first day, back in May, I started on the tree suckers. (Suckers being tree roots that have grown above ground.) There is an oak and a tree with purple leaves (??) that have been left to their own devices since the last time I massacred suckers at least 4 years ago. Needless to say, pictures above, it looks like a nice hedge is growning under the trees. All suckers. I managed to pinch myself with the shears I was using to wage war against them, giving myself a lovely blood blister. Joy! After three hours of suckers and only getting a square metre of the beds done, I called it a day. 

Next day was back to the grind of sucker wrangling. Trimming them isn't enough. You have to dig and get them trimmed at the source. It's that that takes the longest, especially since the soil is so compacted.

 Peony poking out from the mess. Hi Peony!

Peony poking out from the mess. Hi Peony!

After completing another square metre of suckers, I moved on to release what was left of the living plants from their dead plant prisons. First up: Peonies. My Mom planted these gorgeous peonies eons ago. Big white and pink blooms. They did so well she had to cut the plant in half and transplant it over to another location. (I also later found a third peony that had seeded itself by the bird bath.) Now, there was at least 4 years of dead leaves and stems in the way. (So much so the bottom layer of debris was actually turning to dirt. Hah.) But as I carefully cut away the old remnants, there underneath were a dozen little sprigs of soon to be peony. I even found 7 chive plants (that my Mom had relentlessly tried to kill, back in the day) under the brush and dandelions. Once the peonies were unearthed and properly caged, I called it a day. (Also, as I had managed to get, and burst, a blister in the palm of my hand, I decided to take a couple days break.)

Back at it a week later and summer had apparently arrived. Everything was green and lush. And by everything I mean all the damn suckers. I spent day three pruning the double flowering prunus, digging out suckers from a silver leafed tree (that of which I don't know the name, something Russian?) and finding a random vine that was definitely never planted but seems to be growing just fine anyway.

Day four. Gad. I decided that those suckers from day one can suck it and I moved on to a more manageable area: the Apple Tree. Once upon a time there had been a tiny bush and a giant bleeding heart under the apple tree, but today the bleeding heart is gone and that tiny bush was definitely 3 meters in diameter. I had to jump into the back of the bed and hack that bush down to size. It was so big I had to roll it up like a carpet to get it out. Phew! But it was a beautiful day for it! Apple tree and the ornamental cherry tree blooming and not a cloud in the sky. 

I called it a day after 4 hours, when I could barely move my arms from bush/carpet rolling. 

Unfortunately I may have overdone it that day, because I proceeded to catch a horrible throat virus and head cold, stopping the gardening train for a full week.

 Baby fern is going to a new home! Also, yes, I grew up in St Albert.

Baby fern is going to a new home! Also, yes, I grew up in St Albert.

When I got back to it the garden had kept on going without me. Much to my chagrin. But I pushed on! My friend Angela came to help me out! She's a fanatic about pulling dandelions, and as I absolute hate that, it worked out that she pulled the weeds from the interlocking brick while I pulled up trees from the long neglected beds. Yay! Teamwork! I only got a small area done because whatever tree is besides the ornamental cherry had 2 inch sharp thorns growing out of it suckers. (Which I discovered by stabbing my thumb good enough to draw blood.) I have now learned to never grab at nature blindly. Because apparently thorns are a thing. A terrifying thing.

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Once again, the weather continued to misbehave. And at this point it was approaching July. So much for a 'spring' cleanup. When I finally got back to it another week had gone by full of rain and grey dullness. 

But I was energized! Only a third of the garden left! And, after thorned suckers, nothing was too daunting. I cleared out the beds around the bird bath and into the corner where the oldest tree in neighbourhood stands. Our house was the first to be built in the area and so the mountain ash was the first to be planted. It may not be the tallest but it's been around to see houses be built and people come and go.

To the right of the mountain ash used to be a lilac bush. It is more of a lilac tree now, but still flowers up in the air. Besides the lilac is the dreaded plum tree. Those suckers are almost as bad as the first ones I tackled. Luckily, Angela was back to help and, since apparently she loves doing the jobs I hate, she tackled the oak and purple tree (??) suckers while I massacred the plum ones. 

The home stretch! I cleared out the beds under the plum tree, including scraping out the old cedar leaves, into the green bin. And done. It had taken all of spring and nearly all of summer, but I did it (with Angela's help too!).

 Lobelia, Petunia and Geranium <3

Lobelia, Petunia and Geranium <3

I still had the chance to plant my own flowers too (back in the spring). They are the same kind I first planted in pots with my Mom all those years ago, sitting on the deck, looking into that big beautiful back yard. 

I'll miss you, my not-so-secret garden! <3

-Andrea

The Half-Assed Hobbyist