Hello fellow readers,
I’ve had the privilege the last few years to work with Stephanie of Denville, NJ who moved from the west coast. She bought a cute cottage in a lake community with views overlooking a magnificent forest that’s reminiscent of scenery on the Appalachian trail. The dilemma, the steepness of the slope for those like Stephanie who wish to ponder amongst the trees. That’s where a colleague and brave installer Robert of Sierra Landscape Management came in, with heavy equipment and his iconic can-do attitude to build a flight of meandering garden steps and walls using boulders from the woods. I’m glad I missed the first dramatic day when his machine slid precariously down the cliff causing a photo moment for neighbors who watched from above. Fifty years of debris from previous owners’ house renovations were uncovered plus old bicycles and tires. One of Robert’s workers found a Snoopy pencil dated my year of birth. I didn’t fess up (smile).
After Robert dug in the woodland shrubs including Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) and Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora), Stephanie and I planned the perennials and planting day was Labor Day while her folks were visiting from Oregon. Stephanie climbed the cliff of clethra to dig in the Wild Ginger (Asarum) while I “answered back” the vignette of ginger, planting in the safe zone to the left of the shed. The Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) will grow 3-5 feet and went along the garden edges and below the spruces by the neighbor to help screen the wheels of their RV. Around the gravel patio we dug in the largest species of Hellebores (Helleborus argutifolius) with evergreen holly-like leaves that will bloom pale yellowish-green in late winter along with Marginal Shield Fern (Dryopteris marginalis) with blue-green fronds. A favorite fern in the lineup is ‘Lady in Red’ Lady Fern (Athyrium angustum forma rubellum) with burgundy red stems. Then there’s the native Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemummuticum) which grows two to three feet with blueish green leaves that thrives in extreme conditions including slopes in sun or shade. It’s a pollinator magnet and tolerates draught. To create a foot-tall carpet of violet-blue spring blooms we planted Woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata ‘Blue Moon’) that hummingbirds and butterflies will love.
Goat gardening, I called it; planting the steep slope of Stephanie’s woodland garden leading down to the lower echelons of wilderness. What I loved most was witnessing her a mom Cec guiding from above what goes where and passing the plants to her daughter. “We’ve got system going.” And they did, Cec rolling the pots of choice on their sides to her daughter downhill. Her dad Phil ready to intervene should anyone topple. “We’ve been gardening together for years.” The scene made me think of my dear momma and our gardening days together. Just goes to show digging in the dirt is hereditary. Garden dilemmas? Askmarystone@gmail.com