Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Spring Dispatch from Storm King Mountain

Like all gardeners, I have been mostly out of commission for the past three weeks, engaged in the annual race to clean up the remnants of the autumn leaves and get seeds and plants into the ground after the danger of frost is past, but before it gets too hot for delicate seedlings. Normally I take a week's vacation from my job specifically to work in the garden. This year, since I'm working at home, I had the luxury of spending quality time, and it has really paid off.

My house is situated deep in the forest on the north face of the mountain. Though it is a beautiful spot full of native wildlife, it also means that I am engaged in an ongoing struggle with the deer who eat all my plants and shubbery. In addition, this year I have been doing battle with a little gopher, who has worked diligently behind me each evening, digging up everything I plant, neatly laying it on its side next to the empty hole! I don't use traps in the garden (I figure the animals and I are sharing this patch of earth). I also don't use chemicals, since we eat herbs, edible flowers and vegetables that grow there. Luckily I found a biodegradeable, granular spread called MoleMax, which is activated by water and repels burrowing animals. For the deer, I am using a spray called Liquid Fence (all natural ingredients like hot peppers and rotten eggs which make everything taste terrible), combined with a technique suggested by an Amish gardener near Highland Lake, Pennsylvania (where I grew up, and still vacation with my siblings and their kids). She puts chicken wire on the ground around plants that she doesn't want deer to eat, and told me that they hate to step on the wire. I have tried it around my azaleas and some flowering perennials. So far, so good.

Today, for the first time in weeks, I didn't spend the cool morning hours hauling gravel, digging, and planting. Instead, I took a cup of coffee, my camera and tripod, and photographed the results of my work.

Usually, the sage in my kitchen garden is an annual - I have to replant every spring. This year, the weather was so mild that my sage wintered over, and I have a HUGE patch which is flowering (I've never had sage flower before - very exciting!).

This is a Dock-Spider, which I found warming itself on one of my paving stones. It is a beauty - nearly 3-inches in diameter.

My Clematis didn't flower last year (often the case with a new planting), but it is in full bloom this Spring.

I love the perfect symbiosis between ants and peonies. The ants drink the nectar, and their constant movement is thought to help open the dense, double flower buds. This bloom was literally trembling on the verge of opening when I photographed it this morning. As I post this afternoon, the flower is open and the ant is gone - his work is done!

Lots of wrought iron - both new and antique - in the shady "Angel Garden."

The Garden Shed

And finally, the porch. We are ready for "a long summer's rest" here in Cornwall-on-Hudson!

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