(alt. title: No More Monkeys Jumpin' on the Bed!)
|Pre-removal. It almost doesn't look bad, looking at this photo, just a bit wild and informal. At least it's mostly full.|
Yesterday, I decided it was time to tackle the Mimulus cardinalis in the Acer griseum bed. This bed has mostly been a messy, embarrassing eyesore since shortly after my brother and I built it some years ago. It lay empty and became full of weeds. It became storage for plants that didn't have homes yet, either planted directly into the raised bed or simply sunk into the soil still in their pots for winter protection. One of those pots contained some Mimulus cardinalis I brought home with me when I still worked at Castle Rock Nursery. The monkey flower reseeded and spread through the loose, water-retentive soil of the raised bed like wildfire. It quickly become known as monkey weed. But we allowed it mostly free reign of the bed. It was pretty, required no care from us other than cutting down old stems in winter, and it helped prevent less-desirable weeds from taking over the bed. Also, the hummingbirds might have retaliated with lethal force if we had dared remove the monkey flower, so perfectly adapted to serve and be served by the tiny flying syringes.
|Post-removal. Look at all that space! That was all covered in monkey weed! And wild strawberries. Now I can actually see what to do with this bed!|
Fast-forward several years, and I've since spread divisions and seedlings of the Mimulus to several areas of the garden, with denser, tougher soils where they won't grow into 4' monsters. That's the real problem with the monkey flowers in this bed. They do far too well (a novel reason for me to pull plants out, over-performing). The soil is loose and rich, easy to grow in. Surely the hummingbird overlords will be appeased, right? I can tackle the Monkey Monster that has overtaken the Acer griseum bed now, right? I nervously set to with a shovel and hori hori, keeping my head low in case of fly-by needles, to de-monkey-fy the bed. I've been wanting to do this for years, but until now didn't have a clear enough idea of what I wanted this bed to be to justify removing them. They've been place-holders, of sorts. Now I not only have a direction for this bed, I'm designing a large area around it. I can't have a chaotic, shapeless weed patch in the middle of my lovely new garden area! Time to clean house!
Tearing out plants can be so therapeutic. I know, it seems an odd thing for a gardener to say, but I don't think I'm alone. It felt wonderful to tackle this project and get it off my mind, sweeping away the dust (oh, wait, those are Mimulus seeds) so I can actually see what needs to be done in this bed, what needs to move where, what needs to be added or subtracted. It's like spring cleaning, even if it's done at the end of summer. It's a bit like what I've been doing with my life for the last year. This won't be the last of the monkey flower seen in this bed. After years of growing in this bed, there's a substantial seed bank that's been accruing interest for all that time. I wish my savings account had interest rates like monkey flower seeds. Hmm, where was I? Oh, right. So, I will have to continue pulling monkey flowers from this bed as the copious seedlings appear. I imagine it will take several years to get it to a point where the bed is planted and soil need no longer be disturbed to awaken the sleeping beast within. But I'm excited to finally know what I want to do with this bed, and to be able to see the bed clearly without the monkey weed in the way (Again, like my life. Ooh, I sense an allegory!). Because of the well-drained, moisture-retentive soil in this raised bed, and a siting that provides mostly full sun with shade during the hottest part of the day in summer for most of the bed, it's the perfect place to experiment with Southern Hemisphere plants like Calceolaria arachnoidea, Bolax gummifera, Astelia 'Red Devil' and Coprosma 'Roy's Red'. I've already had success with the first two in this bed, and I've planted the second two. We'll see how they handle this winter. I have to be careful about height, though. I don't want too many tall plants in this bed blocking off the view of the Acer griseum, particularly on the north side (this photo was taken from the south side). So this bed will be full of plants less than 2' tall, with only a few taller shrubs breaking up the low growth. I'm picturing the windswept heathlands of Tasmania meeting a woodland garden in a strange but wonderful synergy.
You may have noticed in the second picture that there was one monkey flower left in the bed. One of the benefits of letting a plant reseed in your garden is that sometimes you'll get something new. As I was evicting the monkey monsters, I got an unexpected bonus in the form of this rather interesting seedling with flowers in multiple peachy colors on the same plant. I had noticed it a bit over the summer, but kept thinking my mind was playing tricks on me as I would later be unable to find it again in the morass of monkey weeds filling the bed. You never know what treasures you'll discover when you do some serious searching and clear out the dust, in gardening and in life.
So there's my (sort of) Wednesday Vignette post, and some progress in the garden. Progress makes me happy. I've been feeling a little panicked and overwhelmed lately, and it's nice to tackle something where I can see results immediately, and check it off my list. On that note, I'm slowly picking up the pace in my coding studies, establishing habits and figuring out goals to help me succeed. It's a good feeling, like I actually know what I'm doing and have things pretty together. (I don't, but it's nice to feel that way.)