A BOUT 375 VISITORS AND A MILLION QUESTIONS LATER, Jack and I are resting comfortably—Jack in his giant terra cotta bowl out back (lined with kitty bedding, thank you), me in my favorite chair. Garden Conservancy Open Days are over (“Thanks goodness,” he says, in the funny way he talks), and it is possible we may not get up for quite some time. But before our next nap, a recap…in words and also in a slideshow…of new friends who visited from as far as Canada and Seattle, of the most-popular plants, and the most-asked questions (and their answers):
WHO VISITED: We met Twitter friends like @GardenGuyKenn (all the way from Michigan) and other blog-commenters like Bobster (all the way from Rhode Island) and Leslie (from Connecticut) and Ailsa and Patti, from Ottawa, Ontario.
We met Joyce from Iowa and Michelle from Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania (31 miles from Wilkes-Barre, apparently) and Sandra from Clarks Summit (also Pennsylvania, 8 miles from Scranton) and Julie from Reston, Virginia, and Stephanie from Bainbridge Island, Washington, and Stephanie from Seattle (both Stephanies, both from prime garden country…a coincidence?). Someone signed in as being from Scotland, but can that be so? And all of you, thank you, whether from a mile down the road or a country or ocean away…or whether you just visited our virtual tour yesterday.
Some of those who came in person came with gifts (a ceramic frog candy dish containing chocolate kisses from a crazy, crafty neighbor; a true alpine iris; a really giant and odd reddish plant, that apparently looks like a cross between cockscomb/love lies bleeding/and The Plant That Took Over the Universe). Jack waited for his favorite blog commenter and repeat visitor, DenDen, who again brought him his favorite brand of cat treats. All good.
They came with greetings, and they came with questions, including these that I answered at least 88 times apiece (more in the slideshow, below):
Q. Whose garden is this (asked at the registration table, where I do the signing in and say hello myself)?
A. (Big smile from me. Then laughter from both of us after they realize the answer is, “Mine.”)
Q. What is the cat’s name?
Q. How long have you been doing this?
A. I’ve been here almost 23 years. Part time the first 21 years or so, fulltime since 12/31/07, but who’s counting? My 11th year of charity garden tours.
Q. Who helps you, and how much work is this?
A. I don’t recommend you try this at home (like they say on the automobile commercials when they drive fast on a steep cliffside).
I worked alone here on weekends the first 10 years, and then came Susan, a neighbor who gardens for a living. She has worked with me three or two days a week (depending on the month) from March or April to November for a decade. We are both getting too old for this, and there is a lot of wandering around on both our parts saying, “Now what was I going to get out of the barn?” when we cannot recall by the time we cross the yard, and (when moving heavy pots on the hand truck uphill or downhill): “You know, this will be how one of us gets killed someday…run over by a Japanese maple, RIP.”
Seriously, though, to barely maintain this place takes six or seven total days of someone’s work each week in April into mid-June (ditto during fall cleanup), and we could use a whole other person. In May we frequently ask our friend Kelly, a local chef and musician, to come help as well so we don’t fall too far behind.
Even with the occasional pinch-hitter, we don’t get some of the outer areas edged or mulched until about mid-June or even July. We start near the house, and work outward, and do the best we can. Susan is a dynamo (and the only person allowed to call me Marge, so watch it, the rest of you).
A. If there are perennials in them, such as hostas or heucheras or golden Hakonechloa grass, I remove the plants (plunging them in the empty vegetable garden for the winter) and then wheel or carry the pots into a shed or barn or onto the back porch.
If there are houseplants in them like bromeliads or fancy-leaf begonias, I take those plants into the house (sometimes in their pots, sometimes in plastic pots that I have simply tucked into the clay ones all summer outside). Many tropical things go into the basement, some in big plastic nursery pots with soil; others bare root (like cannas) in open garbage bags.
Q. What do you do with your Japanese maples (in very large clay pots) in the winter?
A. They are technically hardy, but hate the ice and wind, so we wheel them into the unheated garage for the winter, in their pots. They stay there until sometime in mid April or so, and require water once or twice in late winter so they don’t dry out once the potting soil thaws. Every third year they must be potted up or root-pruned.
QUESTIONS ABOUT PLANTS:
Q. What is the dark-leaved “viburnum” way out in the farthest beds, with white flowers?
A. It’s not a Viburnum, but Physocarpus ‘Diabolo,’ the ninebark. Deer love it (and so do I).
Q. What is the dark-leaved thing in the front yard with frothy white flowers?
A. That’s a non-vining Clematis, C. recta purpurea ‘Lime Close.’
Q. What’s that reddish vine on the back porch post, and the one with the painted leaves on the other wide of the house, and the fruit tree espaliered on the back?
Q. There’s a pink Queen Anne’s lace out front. What is it?
Q. What is that large-leaved plant? And that one? And that one?
A. Petasites japonicus (naughty thug, below, so don’t get started with it); Astilboides tabularis (a dreamboat) and its cousin Rodgersia podophylla. I have the plain green one, but yum, anyhow. The latter two love shade.
Q. Are those some kind of giant onions in the vegetable garden (Alternate question pointing to same plant: Is that sugar cane in the vegetable garden)?
A. No, that is garlic. (Apparently actually following my own growing instructions carefully this year is really paying off in robust plants.)
MAYBE A SLIDESHOW TELLS IT BEST:
Click the first thumbnail to get started, then toggle from slide to slide by using the arrows next to each caption.
VISIT US THIS SUMMER:
The garden will be open again on August 22, for Copake Falls Day (my town’s second annual such event). Hours to be determined and posted here or on the community’s blog as the time approaches. We will once again have a plant sale during the tours from nearby Loomis Creek Nursery, featuring plants I love and grow, which we did yesterday for the first time and was a big hit. Jack and I will see you all then.