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    Prunings from bottlebrushes and Virginia sweetspire bring the outdoors inside. Photo by Pat Foster-Turley/News-Leader

Spring gardening

It’s that time of year again. Time to get out in the garden. Last year, as some of you readers might recall, my spring gardening didn’t turn out that well.

Last spring, I finally convinced Bucko to have a fence and gate put in to isolate my veggie garden from the rabbits that, in previous years, ate up all my bean sprouts as soon as they sprouted. They ate almost everything else too, despite the attempts we made over the years, like installing wire mesh “rabbit proof fencing,” which they happily hopped through, and livetrapping and removing some rabbits. Others always came back. Last year, with a wooden fence in place, I was eager to get to work establishing a garden again.

But there was a hitch: I had a dream of a trellis on the fence full of native honeysuckles to form a backdrop for the rest of my butterfly garden. I dutifully yanked out all the other vines that had grown up in the area, a day’s worth of work carrying armloads of vines off into the wood in preparation for planting the five new honeysuckle plants. Then disaster struck. Those vines I laboriously removed? Virginia creepers. And, unbeknownst to me then, I had developed an allergy to those plants. The next day, before I even attempted to plant anything, a poison ivy-type rash broke out on my arms, chest, and legs – a horrible itchy, weepy mess that took me to the doctor’s office three times before it was resolved. That was it for my gardening last year. Bucko planted the honeysuckle for me, but the back veggie garden, even with the new hopefully rabbit-proof fence, remained unplanted. I just couldn’t face the garden again, for weeks.

But it’s another year now and a fresh start. This time, Bucko dutifully cleared out the Virginia creeper that had grown back. Out of the five honeysuckles planted last year, at least three survived, and they are now climbing up on the trellis. Great! But alas, it seems that Bucko is now a bit allergic to Virginia creeper too. His rash wasn’t as bad as mine last year, but still unpleasant.

Now we’ve both teamed up to get our spring garden in shape at last. We carted bags of amendments for the vegetable beds. I dug it into the soil and planted one whole bed of three different varieties of beans. I planted another bed of basil for my pesto making and lots of zinnias for cut flowers. Fingers crossed now, we are on high alert for rabbits. The beans haven’t yet sprouted and time will tell if this new wooden fence does the trick.

Together we pruned the bottlebrush, pineapple guava and Virginia sweetspire shrubs, and I saved some of the cuttings to fill a vase in the house. I spent a few days at various nurseries collecting more butterfly-attracting plants to replace those in pots that didn’t survive through the winter. My butterfly garden is a hybrid of sorts. Instead of battling the “weeds,” I let some – like the Spanish needle, the reseeded milkweeds, and some of the spiderwort flowers – live in this area, in and among the pots with better soil and more elaborate plants. It’s looking good. I also spent more time repotting all my herbs and arranging a tower of potted vegetables and herbs for a decorative kitchen garden.

Even Bucko this year got into the mood. His favorite gardening tools have always been chainsaws, pruners, and Roundup. Where I see things happily growing, he sees things that need to be managed. But this year marked a big difference for him.

He read an article about sunflowers and decided that he, too, would actually plant some seeds. He’s never done this before, as far as I know. But now for him, spring is finally a world of hope. He has his packet of seeds planted here and there around the garden, expecting, no doubt, lots of giant sunflowers around our world. Well, here’s hoping, Bucko. Each year my own seed planting efforts yield some results, but not nearly as many as the seeds I put into the ground. He’s got the sprinklers set to water deeply and often, and we’ll see. Stay tuned to hear how things work out for us this year. Wish us luck...



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