Over the past 4 months or so I have been spending a lot of time at Ann’s Place working to build a series of therapeutic gardens. The first phase of this project is almost done after a series of delays that have been caused by the crummy weather we have had this past summer. In the early summer, we started work with the idea that we would be done by Labor Day. Not so much.
The first project was started last year when we tried to get a jump start on the season by planting 4000 daffodils, creating a nature path and planting two-thirds of our native bushes and trees that was part of a mitigation garden required by the town. It looked great in the fall when we planted it; not so much in the spring after the ungulate version of the Taliban decided to lay waste. Between them and the very dry July we had, over half of the plantings were killed and the other half severely pruned.
But as we discovered this, we were able to reclaim some of the surrounding landscape. Like much of Connecticut, the property was ringed with stone walls that had fallen into disrepair; the prior state of neatly stacked stones appeared more as piles of rubble. Fortunately we had a group of volunteer executives from one of our corporate sponsors that hungered for some heavy duty physical effort. We obliged them.
They were amazing as they did not work as executives often do, sitting down at a conference table munching a Danish while listening to a PowerPoint presentation. Rather they were hauling, prying, moving, wheel barrowing, grunting their way to move the rocks back into place that time, nature and people have moved about.
Within six hours they reclaimed over 400 feet of wall and must have moved 10 tons or more of stone. Not bad for free help.
There was another contingent that was less aggressive in their desires, which was great as I needed a group to weed and plant. I had to be careful with instructions for weeding as the site has a lot of Jack-in-the-pulpit planted as well as other wild flowers. But after a few mis-weeds, they followed instructions well and rid the path and site of crabgrass, garlic mustard and other invasives.
Those who didn’t weed helped plant up 80 ferns and 300 Blue Flag irises, which I used to stabilize a hill and fill in an area that is often wet.
But then came the rainy August and September, which stopped us in our tracks (and that of our outdoor contractors.) With over 25 inches of rain over 60 days if it wasn’t raining, it was drying out. Last week we were able to start anew.
We started by deciding to install over 400 feet of deer fence to create a Green Zone against the deer. Amazingly we were able to use existing trees and dig holes that avoided the vast amount of rock that exists around the site. I was worried that the black steel poles and plastic fencing would detract our view into the woods where a few winterberry and grey dogwoods among the barberry escaped the fate of hungry deer.
But once it was done, like the deer it was blocking, it minimized into the background with notice only when the sun shimmered on its profile. We now needed to start the grading and finish planting the rest of the trees. But most important, all the things we were about to plant would get at least a fighting chance from the deer.