Monday, March 17, 2008

Moving Day

Moving a garden is not something you want to do every day. It takes a lot of planning and preparation. Luckily the season was ideal; the weather is not hot yet and we have frequent rain. As I dug all my plants up and packed them into plastic bags, the neighbor lady Meliha hanım, who is also a plant freak, was over hoping for handouts. I actually love to share plants (and gave her a blooming Paphiopedlium orchid as a goodbye present). Still, it's not much fun to be digging up your prizes and thinking where they will fit in the new place while a 72 year-old woman stands there saying "gimme one of those, why doncha?" It actually got a bit out of control later, when the landlord's wife was there and Meliha hanım came back, this time with her eye on one of the plastic garden chairs. True, they had been left by a former tenant, but a body asks. She just picked it up and started walking with it. The landlord's wife protested; her protest was met with a dismissive wave of the hand. Later I was looking for my hand trowel = gone. The old hag had nabbed it! Yer busted, Meliha. Sağlık olsun as they say here in bad situations: "let there be health." So looking on the bright side, I'm outta there, and I got my health.

Another bright side is that the main "private" area at the new place is not huge, and that means that I get a rare sort of "instant gratification." Because the last place was one large expanse that I was gradually planting over a couple of years. There were about 90 plants to move, and a much smaller place in which to plant them. And they are almost all perennial and fairly developed. So it won't be long before things start to look satisfying. Many gardening books give sample garden plans of large places completely planted. I always thought, "who has the money to plant a garden that way?!" Not me; it's always been a bit here, a bit there - amazing at how sparse a bank-breaking haul can look once you actually get it in the ground. So this is the first time I've ever had the luxury of preparing a bed and planting an entire perennial garden in one swell foop!

Eventually everything was moved. The main area of attack was an area directly across from our entrance. It is the highest part of the garden, but still quite a bit below street level, with its own large retaining wall (R). The wall was overgrown with English ivy, which has been duking it out with the world's largest Wisteria for decades. We removed it (because it's going to hold clematis and Passiflora "Coral Pink," but left it on the ugly shed and across the top of the wall. There is an old apricot tree which bears but not well; it had a large dead branch. The Wisetria had also invaded the soil; all in all we pulled out maybe 100 meters of wisteria whips which had criss-crossed the garden. It's a wild beast but still, there's nothing like the sight and scent of a really old wistria in bloom; it's worth dealing with their wanderlust.

The shed is truly ugly; like Jed Clampett's house without the good banjo music, and I'd dearly love to remove it. But the landlord is adamant about it staying. It contains lots of old rusty hunks of metal, some ventilation duct that will never be used, and scorpions. It's strangely built - it seems it was once smaller and the newer, uglier front was added later. My fantasy (besides a sudden accidental and mystrious fire)_is to secretly get rid of everything behind the front, and have it as a "secret garden." But I don't want to get kickd out of my new digs over something like that. Wisteria hides a lot of sins. So does thornless blackberry, which will also be trained over the front.

Rather than bore the world with all the pictures of digging and planting, I thought it better to just show a picture of the same space after cleaning and planting. There were lots of slabs of limestone and marble leaning up against the side, so I decided to make use of them. I sunk two pieces of the limestone into the ground and placed the largest slab of marble (which was evidently a countertop once) across the top for a table. The pieces of wood are just temporary, to keep the ininformed from accidentally crushing the children. Eventually I'll find some brick or somthing.
Here's a view back the other way. A trimming of the overgrown honesuckle revealed an old bird bath (with a hole in it) and a large urn bearing a single, sickly rose. The dog house will not stay, as the dog ran away. The shrub slightly visible at left is a pomegranate. Unfortunately it is not a good one; the pomegranates are very sour, but pomegranates are beautiful in bloom. And it will help hide the shed!

So far (this is the second day) it looks like I'm going to have a very good survival rate. Everything seems to be perking up. A few things were already in bloom. A little peach tree was being smotherd by the Wisteria; I freed it and it's now opening it's pink flowers. There is lots of borage; I love it but it can be weedy. I'll let a few of them stay next year. One relative that I really do like is Trachystemon orientalis. It grows wild throughout the Black Sea region of Turkey. I would grow it for its leaves along - large and heart shaped. It is tough as nails; it taks shade or sun, and though it grows in wet places it can take a fair amount of dryness as well. The flowers are an added bonus; they are short lived but attractive, reminiscent of shooting stars but in a clear, typically boraginaceous sky blue. Another bonus is that the plant is edible; the rhizomes are cooked in various dishes (but I find them slimy); the petioles are gathered and pickled and are one of the most popular pickles in the Eastern Black Sea region.

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