I went down to Ardmore yesterday to take some Burma-Shave signs I’d made for a lady who bought them at a charity auction this summer. I didn’t get any sensational pictures on my trip, because I was running behind schedule on the way down, and I felt a migraine settling into the left side of my head and just couldn’t bring myself to take the slow, scenic route back.
I did, however, stop to move a turtle off the road on U.S. 77 a few miles north of Ardmore, and when I got home, Ron told me he’d seen something extra cool in the yard: He raised the blind in his office yesterday afternoon just in time to see a hummingbird zipping around the water hyacinths.
I didn’t know hummingbirds liked water hyacinths, but that cinches it: I’m expanding the pond next year to include a second, smaller pond with a waterfall and a biological filter involving a miniature marsh full of water hyacinths and rocks. I’ll have to dink around with pumps and tubes and plans this winter and figure out how to do it so it will work right and look pretty.
Theoretically, I could get the water regulated to the point where it’s clean enough for koi, although I probably won’t bother. Koi are notoriously expensive and temperamental — not exactly a good combination for the Darwin Garden of Red Fork.
The Darwin Garden is a place for hardy creatures and even hardier plants. Sunflowers and zinnias thrive; roses struggle. (The ones in the previous link were given to me by a friend whose husband has the patience to baby his plants a little bit.) Scissortails gorge themselves on the tiger mosquitoes in the garden, but purple martins think they’re too good for us. It’s survival of the fittest out there, and finicky, wilty, high-maintenance life forms need not apply.
I’m planning to introduce a low-maintenance addition to our garden next spring: When I build my Green Man sculpture, I’m going to brew up a batch of moss spores to slather over his face, and I’ll move some of the wild morning glories that are trying to take over my garden and let them climb around to form his hair. They don’t bloom very well (just tiny white blossoms — none of the big, showy, gorgeous blue and pink blooms like you see on the kind you cultivate), but they’re tough as nails and grow like kudzu. If they’re going to insist on taking over my garden, the least they can do is crawl all over a sculpture to make it look cool, don’t you think?
This is a continuation of that Darwin thing I was talking about. In Belleville, I pretty well mastered the fine art of zero-maintenance gardening: By the time we moved, I’d given up trying to grow anything that wasn’t a perennial, a self-seeding annual, or a tomato. (Homegrown tomatoes are worth the extra trouble, but just barely.)
Over time, I figured out what would grow well and what wouldn’t, and I had some very well-established perennials — mint, echinacea, Texas bluebonnets, Indian blankets, and some kind of mutant collard that thought it was a perennial and refused to die — and some highly enthusiastic self-seeding annuals, including California poppies (slow-loading link, but gorgeous photo!), dill, carrots, cilantro, lettuce, and spinach, which would grow and grow and grow. By the time we left, “spring planting” consisted of walking through the garden, grabbing dried seed heads as I passed, and sort of crumbling them in my hands and scattering the seeds back into the beds before turning a couple of rotten tomatoes into the compost pile to ensure a steady supply of compost tomatoes later in the summer.
It wasn’t the neatest garden on earth, but I suspect it was one of the healthiest, and there was something charming about walking out the back door with a pair of scissors to harvest herbs that had basically planted themselves next to the door.
We’ll reach that point here eventually. It’s just a learning process, and every garden is different. But I think I’m on the right track with the morning glories. If you can’t beat ’em, train ’em.