Spring fever is upon us, when otherwise sober people see holes everywhere and feel compelled to stick things in them. Holes in the garden. Most of the time what appears to be a bare spot really isn’t. But whatever is in there isn’t planning to show up until later, once you’ve given it something fresh and new to strangle. Sometimes it actually is a bare spot, because something you’d loved for years has been murdered over the winter, but if you’re old, you have enough perspective to take that sort of thing in stride, or else you don’t remember what the thing was.
I’ve been doing this a while so I have a good grip on the planting details. They don’t necessarily give you all the particulars in the little tag hanging off the plant, so allow me to elucidate. Carefully remove plant from pot. The roots will have gone around and around inside the pot counterclockwise (in the northern hemisphere) until they’re as tangled up as a nightie on a restless sleeper. So the whole ball should shlorp right out like canned cranberry sauce. Take a moment to poke at the root ball with your fingers as though you were going to tease out all the little root hairs and give them some air; then, after a minute, just begin ripping at it in a haphazard fashion until it looks a little cowlicky all over.
Now. Prepare a hole at least twice the diameter of the pot, or (in dry, rocky, clay, or annoying soil, or if it’s hot out) just big enough to slide the sucker in. Position the plant, attempt to refluff the fudgy dirt you’ve excavated, and stuff it all back in the hole. Put some dark compost on top so that the neighbors think you did a good job. Water, if you think of it.
When it comes to perennials and shrubs, remember: it’s sleep, creep, and leap. The first year it’s just barely hanging on. The second year it seems to show some signs of life. The third year it goes nuts and makes you very proud. Fourth and fifth years it gets big and tall and does every damn thing it said it would do on the little tag. It blooms! It smells like shampoo! It dances the merengue in the summer breeze! Hummingbirds drape tinsel on it for Christmas! You have now achieved the coveted Architectural look, characterized by hard-won Vertical Interest. Congratulations!
Year six, look for new growth in spring, look again in late spring, crease the wood with your fingernail
to look for signs of green in June, and dig up the whole lifeless skeleton in late August. You are allowed a day or two to be morose, but do not trouble yourself looking for answers. Horticulturally speaking, your ace plant has succumbed to Just Because. This is gardening. Don’t be a sissy.
If you want something you can count on, you need to quit cramming things into the top of the planet and hoping for miracles and grace. Instead, you need to look to the heavens. There’s dust and gases and rocks and things up there and most importantly the whole sky is chock full of math. There’s so much math up there that we can plot out what to get excited about years in advance. For instance, we can count on total lunar eclipses, such as the one that just popped by on April 14th. That one was, as our local weatherman would have it, “the first of four consecutive lunar eclipses,” which is a relief–we hate when they come all out of order.
|T – 15 minutes to fog bank|
The lunar eclipse happens when the moon is full, which, naturally, it always is, but since it spends most of the month turning a shoulder to us, you have to wait until it quits pouting. Additionally, you have to wait until the moon is completely in the earth’s shadow. This circumstance is called “syzygy” and is characterized by the perfect alignment of astrologers, crackpots, and spooky predictions in the social media. They called this one a Blood Moon, which sounds morbid, but all it means is it gets kind of a reddish color to it from all the sunsets and sunrises happening at once and smacking into each other. And count on it–the whole thing, the totally eclipsed Blood Moon, is visible from half the earth, except for a little strip in western Oregon, where a bank of fog is penciled in for that night.
Count on it.