Sweet peas and stumps

When I dreamed up a bed behind the house, I had two objectives: (1) place the bench my father built for me years ago in a spot where I could see it from the house and (2) screen the stumps left behind when we cut down a clump of birches.

April 23, 2008. Very little is growing at this time of year, but a patch of heartleaf arnica is emerging behind the stumps.

April 23, 2008. Very little is growing at this time of year, but a patch of heartleaf arnica is emerging behind the stumps.

 

When I say “we” I mean our friend and woodsman extraordinaire, Bud Hobenshield, who cut down the birches one winter before we moved to the farm. When we came up at spring break, Bud brought his splitter out for the week and he, LW, and the boys split the wood and stacked it in the woodshed.

splitting2

 

I decided to plant herbs in the bed, not because it was an ideal site for an herb garden. It was not. For one thing, it didn’t really get enough sun. However, it was close to the kitchen and I happened to have rhubarb and strawberry plants available, so that was my jumping off point.

I scavenged the surrounding bush for materials to make my first twig construction project—a trellis. Hazelnuts are abundant here, so that’s what I used, even though the saplings are a little too brittle to work with easily.

May 7, 2008. The arnica patch is greening up.

May 7, 2008. As the trellis comes together, the arnica patch is greening up.

 

My trellis looked a bit sketchy from the front, but the side view was better.

sideview

 

Next order of business: taking out the old clothesline pole.

DSCN2916

 

Then I started digging.

May 7, 2008.

May 7, 2008.

 

As you can imagine, the area was full of birch roots, generously complemented by thimbleberry roots and fibrous bracken fern roots.

After a week of hard digging and yanking out roots, I laid some stepping stones and planted the first few plants: rhubarb, strawberries, and sage.

May 13, 2008.

May 13, 2008.

 

When I hunted the yard for flat stones, I was thrilled to find an old cement block with a bit of moss and lichens growing on it. It made a perfect step into my little herb bed and looked like it had been there forever. The old iron boiler was a treasure that came with the house. I hauled the broken chiminea from Victoria, knowing it would add some character to a flower bed.

By mid-June, the sweet peas were poking up under the trellis and the north slope was a mass of thimbleberries and ferns.

June 17, 2008.

June 17, 2008.

 

In August, the garden was thriving, but the sweet peas were still not tall enough to be visible on the trellis.

August 18, 2008. Nasturtiums in the tub, rhubarb and strawberries growing like crazy, Campanula carpatica "Blue Chips" left of the step, which is hidden behind oregano. Bee balm (Monarda didyma "Blue Stocking") is thriving in the back behind calendula and sage.

August 18, 2008. Nasturtiums in the tub, rhubarb and strawberries growing like crazy, Campanula carpatica “Blue Chips” left of the step, which is hidden behind oregano. Bee balm (Monarda didyma “Blue Stocking”) in the back right behind calendula and sage.

 

The sweet peas finally hit their stride at the end of October—just before the first hard frost!

October 28, 2008. The sweet peas were an exuberant disaster.

October 28, 2008. The sweet peas were an exuberant disaster.

 

Lesson learned: Sow sweet peas early and tie them to the trellis as they grow.

4 Responses to “Sweet peas and stumps”

  1. Diana Z

    It’s so nice that you documented this creation of this garden with photos! I love that you grew a garden around a bench and built your own trellis. It is beautiful.

    Reply
  2. commatologist commatologist

    Thank you, D! I kept trying for two or three years to grow sweet peas on that trellis, but they just didn’t get enough sun. I tried a clematis – same problem. So the trellis is gone now, but the stumps have weathered nicely and they no longer need to be screened.

    Reply
  3. Debbie

    Gardening is an ever evolving challenge, as are the skills of those who sow. That which we seem to harvest the best is often the pleasure we reap from our time spent in our gardens, however successful we may be in their development. So the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I love seeing your pictures and find myself thoroughly entertained by your writings.

    Reply
  4. commatologist commatologist

    Thanks, Debbie! The gold standard for sweet peas in my mind was set by those my Auntie Millie grew every summer along a chain link fence between her yard and the back alley in the blazing Saskatoon sun. I may not have inherited her skill and I don’t think I’d trade our Skeena valley weather for that heat, but I certainly harvest a lot of pleasure from my garden – even when the results aren’t exactly what I was aiming for. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

    Leslie

    Reply

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