Woodland Invaders

It’s wonderful how a garden is never quite finished. There are always parts you didn’t get to yet, but also, the seasons are always changing and requiring you to pay different kinds of attention to different aspects of your enterprise. In this way, a garden is like your life, like your character, like your friendships. You do what you can, you always see the shortcomings and challenges (if you are honest), and you are always trying to make it better.

My ten acres is mostly untended forest. If a tree falls down in it, the tree stays right there unless I am lucky enough to have a friend volunteer to chainsaw it out of the way. I have waited years for some obstacles to be removed. In the tended acre or so around the house and cottage, I have a few areas of grass, plantings of perennials around a few trees and near entrances, and a large vegetable garden with raised beds and mulched paths surrounded by deer fencing.

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A month or so ago I decided that I also wanted a “woodland garden,” in my mind a kind of space that falls somewhere between tended and untended, with lots of perennials and a more natural look.

“Natural” has such an innocuous ring to it. Clearly an overused word. But whether or not putting a planter box in a woodland garden is natural or unnatural, I decided to do it. Bradley had built the box below about ten years ago and it sat on my back deck. The casters were shot but otherwise it was in great shape. Dirty and neglected for sure, but in great shape. A week ago it had nothing in it except weeds because nothing grows very well on that deck – not enough sun. Plus I’ve been busy with a few other things.

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I admit it was looking sad. While I am shocked at myself sometimes that I let it (and other things) just sit, the fact is that there are only so many hours in the day. Some things have to wait. Then along came Fred with his power washer, which made an extraordinary difference. (Thank you, Fred!)

Now why would you leave such a nice planter box hiding on the back deck? Of course it had to be moved. Let it shine!

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Moving it was easier said than done. The wood framing alone weighs quite a bit, to say nothing of the dirt inside. However, it doesn’t weigh as much as you might think. I watched a video some years ago about container gardening, and it said that in such a deep container, you could use filler in the bottom half – big empty cans, bubble wrap, even Styrofoam peanuts. We found these things when we dug out some of the dirt.

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Once most of the dirt was out, it was pretty easy to move. We carried it to its new location near the chicken coop in what is going to be the woodland garden (someday all that space will be lovely, believe me!). But of course we had to first prepare the landing pad.

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You can see that those bricks are not even close to level. But it’s easy to find dirt at my place, so we dug and built up the low corners and checked it, and built it up some more, and moved the bricks and finally got it. Voila!

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If you want very cheap flowers at this time of year, make a trip to Lowe’s and look on their reduced rack in the garden section. Some of these were 50 cents. I bought enough to fill it and make it pretty, came home, added Miracle Gro potting soil to the planter box, carefully planted the new flowers, bedded it down with the same mulch I’ve been using everywhere else, gave everything water and called it a day.

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I was quite pleased. Bought the other plant behind it too – this is the “Sizzlin’ Pink Fringe Flower, a.k.a. Loropetalum Sizzlin’Pink.” Moving right along, and don’t you love it when you make something look nice where it didn’t look nice before? Maybe not natural, but nice.

At that point I still had (okay, I always will have) plenty else to do, so other than giving the new plants a daily drink, I switched gears and moved on to, let’s see, was it polyurethaning the cherry frames of the cottage windows that day? Maybe. Or collecting more rocks for the stream bed and adding length little by little?

Five days later, along I came with the hose and was shocked by these green invaders poking up through the mulch. What are they? They were not invited to the party!

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No fair. Where did the little aliens come from? They weren’t in the original dirt or they would have been there when the planter box was on the deck. Could they have been in the potting soil? That’s never happened with store-bought potting soil before. And I’ve used that same mulch in lots of other places and never had sprouts appear.

I suppose it would be boring to just move a planter box and put flowers in it and walk away. And we can’t have boring. So, hello! (You rotten little aliens!) Enjoy your brief visit. You won’t be here long!

Rocks Leading to Mushrooms

Lately we have been collecting rocks for the stream bed that will run through the woodland garden next to the chicken coop. It’s going to be wonderful. This is where the water flows…

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And this is what the stream bed looks like so far. I have never made such a thing before, but I hope it’s going to work. After Fred and I puzzled together many flat rocks, we sprinkled fine crushed rock in between, hoping that when the water comes, those little ones will glue together the bigger ones. Time will tell.

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That might not look like a lot of rocks, but it is. This length is less than half of the full length of the winding stream. So now, whether in the car or walking, I am on the lookout because I need more. It turns out there are a lot of rocks along the side of my road and in my woods, many more than I ever paid attention to before.

They were not delivered here, they were collected. That is, we collected them. The crowbar came in handy for some, but most were just pick-upable. This collection task was made far easier by this attachment on the back of Sandy’s car. Look how many we fit on there. Beats a wheelbarrow.

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The bigger and rounder rocks will go around the coop fencing on the outside as one more barrier against predators, and the flatter rocks were destined for the stream bed. We made four trips up and down my gravel road, which is about ¾ mile till you get to the paved part and has mostly woods along the side. We made one trip into the woods too and got these mamas. I dare the foxes and the raccoons to get past them!

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I find the rocks so beautiful too. These are two found recently.

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First glance, eh, okay, rocks. But look closer.

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The marbling through the, I don’t know, what is it, granite? It’s intricate and delicate and unique. And just sitting there by the side of the road, tucked into the dirt or surrounded by last year’s fallen leaves, ignored and unappreciated till now. Here I come, looking where I don’t normally look. Oh, there’s a beauty! Look at that one!

This evening, same deal, walking along the road, glancing side to side, beauty here, beauty there. The white ones especially catch my eye because I imagine that after they have found their perfect spot in the stream bed, they will glisten when they are still wet after a rain or sparkle under the light of a full moon. Can you imagine that?

In the woods along the side of my road is something else I would miss if I were looking only down at the road or straight ahead: mushrooms! I don’t eat them, not even the kind you buy in a store, so they are not really on my radar, but up they pop through the damp leaves in random places at this time of year. We’ve had a lot of rain, and that helps.

I was not looking for mushrooms. I was looking for, admiring and delighted to find rocks! Keep your eyes open. It’s no surprise that when we are attentive to what’s amazing and wonderful in the world, we will see more that is amazing and wonderful. As happens in countless ways every day everywhere, good begets good.

This perfect white specimen looks like it belongs in a textbook. How perfect is that? And all those funny bumps on top – I wonder if the patterns that the mushroom bumps make are like fingerprints, no two the same. Would have to be.

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Coco is not overly interested. It doesn’t move, it doesn’t smell like meat, it hasn’t been peed on like that teeny pine tree she spent many minutes fixated on just prior to this find. In case you were wondering, that pink pug tongue does occasionally fit into her mouth.

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This next one seems inside out, maybe confused about how that top part is supposed to be shaped. But maybe it has more confidence than that, even a mild measure of chutzpah. Look at it taking great pleasure in expressing its individuality, reveling in its few days of glory and especially pleased to have been discovered. No other mushroom like me, be sure of it! No curves like mine, baby!

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