Purple Haze

I will be the first to admit that our yard is not the greatest. Our lawn is somewhat spotty; the grass is garden variety grass and it rubs elbows with all manner of weeds, wild onion and other flora. I suppose I could treat the lawn with a weedkiller and follow it up with some kind of grass seed, so it looks uniform and we could point to it with pride. But if I did that, I wouldn’t have this:

Every spring, our lawn sprouts violets. Violet violets. What had been a wan composite of leftover dead leaves from the fall and struggling new spring grass suddenly flaunts a sheen of purple. And it’s literally overnight – one day greeny-brown, the next this haze of purple over everything. Oddly, it doesn’t happen in the front yard, only in the back.

I was out wandering in the yard this morning when I saw that the violets were up. It took until midday, when the sun was warm, before they opened completely. In the meantime, I’d checked on the various gardens (I have to replant tarragon this year, but otherwise my herb garden wintered over intact), repotted some plants, raked some leaves and refilled all the bird feeders. It was while I was at the potting bench that I felt eyes on me and glanced to the right; a very small mouse was tucked into one of the crossbars of the fence, staring at me. I went over for a closer look and it scuttled away. I found a dead mouse just off the front walk later in the day; in the eight-plus years we’ve been in this house we’ve never had mice, and I hope we’re not about to start. Perhaps the foxes which I’ve sighted in the neighborhood will take care of what’s outdoors so they don’t travel indoors.

More busywork in the yard: much to his disgust, I had asked John for an electric hedge trimmer for Christmas last year (“that’s not a Christmas gift,” he groaned, but one ended up under the tree all the same), and I decided to inaugurate it by cutting back a decorative sawgrass that’s planted in the middle of my ornamental garden. The damn thing went nuts last year and is every bit of two feet across and taller than me; little does it know that I have transplanting plans in store for it. New growth has already started, which meant that I was overdue to cut back last fall’s fringes and dead leaves.

I unpacked the hedge trimmer and read the instructions, found an outdoor extension cord and ran it from the deck down to the garden. Here is a photo pre-flattop; that red thing hanging at the upper left is a hummingbird feeder – I’m probably well in advance of any hummingbird activity, but at least it’s scrubbed and ready. The green bushes in the background are some sort of extremely hardy bush not dissimilar to box; John gave them a very bad haircut last summer, using hand shears, which precipitated the request for an electric trimmer. I promised them a lick and a promise, too. I plugged in the trimmer, gave it a couple of satisfactory vroom-vrooms, and laid into the sawgrass with a will.

And voila! a few minutes later I had an prickly brown blob, like a rolled-up hedgehog, gracing the middle of the garden (the red thing in the middle ground is my spankin’ new trimmer, the brown mass in the foreground are the sawgrass trimmings). Not to worry; there’s new growth aplenty coming up in the hedgehog, and now it can get the sunlight, as well as the spring rains we haven’t had yet.

I pottered into the afternoon; raked more leaves and transferred them into the vegetable garden plot, where they’ll get turned under to rot when I till the garden (I should say, when John tills the garden – we bum a tiller from our neighbor Dennis and it’s too heavy for me to handle). I’m hoping we can get it done this weekend; I’ve got a bag full of shallots that my mother-in-law gave me to plant, and time is a-wastin’. I moved some pots on the potting bench and discovered one of them was full of some small bulbs that I took out of the front yard last fall; the damn things had sprouted so I used up the last of my potting soil and popped them into a window box. I don’t even remember what kind of flowers they have (purple, I think); I planted them back when we first moved into the house in 1997 and they didn’t flower much, but by God they propegated. I don’t think I planted more than twenty back then, and I dug up over a hundred. Once they come up again, maybe I can ID them and figure out what caused me to plant them in the first place. All gardening is an experiment, I guess.

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