• Claudia Myers

Ah, the lovely smell of Manure.


I know it's February 13th and the thermometer says nine--yes 9, degrees--and there's still white

stuff all over the ground out there, but I KNOW Spring is coming, soon--because I have been buried under at least 24 Nursery catalogues--some of the same ones come every Tuesday, like they have a deadline to meet. Every one has a "come-on line--"gettcher giant polyanthus before it's all gone! See the newest and most gigantic platter-sized zinnias, here!--Order before March 1st and get 40% off everything! Free shipping before February 28th! Free earthworms with every order!!" Okey, I just threw that in there. But, I have to tell you that I "caved" and have already placed my orders. It's just such a "long Winter's Eve-in-Minnesota" thing to do--something to look forward to while you're scraping the crust of ice off your windshield.

I love to garden and I love my gardens, past and present. Just like I draw my quilt designs on graph paper, I draw out my garden designs the same way. Here are the drawings I made for a good friend who wanted an all-blue garden.

My first garden was 49 years ago, when we bought the Victorian house.

The house was built on solid clay. I didn't know that you were supposed to dig out the clay and replace it with lovely, rich, garden soil. I just kept trying to grow things in the clay and wondering why I was such a rotten gardener.

After all--I came from "gardeners". My Mom and Dad had a huge vegetable garden, plus grapevines and dwarf peach trees--in Upstate New York--. I used to get paid a penny for each Japanese beetle I knocked off the grapevines into my little can of gasoline. And one of my most enduring memories of childhood is watching my Dad lean out the attic window with his 22, shooting the barn rats off the tops of the corn stalks. They would sneak over from the farm next door and we'd see the corn tassels shake. BOOM! Well, it was only a 22, so it didn't really go BOOM! but, to a little kid, it was pretty exciting.

The one thing I did learn at River's Bend--the Victorian house--was how to do the "Minnesota Tip". Nope, not a tricky dance step to do at the VFW. Nuh Uh--not a Nordic drinking game. This is how Northern Minnesotans attempt to grow hybrid Tea roses. When it looks like it's about to turn really cold and maybe snow (usually the day before Halloween) we rush outside with our trusty garden spades and behind each and every rose bush, we dig a little trench, maybe 3 feet deep. Then we go to the front of the trembling little shrub, stick the spade into the ground just far enough away so's not to hit any roots, and--TIP!!--backwards into the trench it goes. Cover it up with dirt, pat it down--all tucked in for the Winter! That's the Minnesota Tip! The hard part is remembering where you buried them, come Spring.

My second garden was all sand--in the middle of twenty acres of woods--where we built our great adventure--The Log House. Those of you who have ever built a house know that when the house is finished, it is surrounded by DIRT. Which turns into MUD the first Spring that you are there. Which the dogs and small children appreciate, but you, who have to clean them up, do not.

However, a new house is a wonderful opportunity to plan a garden from scratch, and because we built our house next-door to the old, defunct, gravel pit, I had to learn a new kind of gardening--sandy soil, no more clay, and all sun, no shade. I learned to water, water, water.

One year, I fell in love with the look and smell of cocoa bean mulch, so we piled a dozen bags in the back of the truck and deposited them all on the driveway. The next morning, they were all gone--nowhere! not a trace! AHA!! We followed the drag marks into the woods, where, about 50 yards in, we found every single bag. Each bag had been chewed open and tasted. Bad Bear!! Very Disappointed Bear! Didn't taste at all as good as it smelled, did it?

My gardens are always 'way too crowded with plants of every color. I'm always trying to have a complete showing of colors with every bloom time. No showcasing species examples in my yard! My friend, Kathy, once commented that I was trying to make quilts with my gardens--Absolutely!

Speaking of Kathy, she was the

only person I ever knew that could (and did) completely re-arrange her garden plants, every year--and they all survived and thrived! You never knew where you were going to find the Anemones, that year.

My last and current--garden--has to be my most unusual. Our one and 1/2 level Prairie Rambler is built on a granite ledge--as is most of Duluth. In fact, we have only 1/2 a basement (lengthwise) and if you look through the small trapdoors down there, you can see the huge boulder that runs the length of the house.

So, the first Fall, when I rushed out to plant the 50 daffodil bulbs I had just gotten in the mail, the first time I stuck my shovel into the dirt, it went CLUNK! So, I tried over there--CLUNK! And there--CLUNK! The granite was about 4 inches below the surface. And worse, yet--in between the rock and the surface were---deadly Buckthorn roots! Un-garden-able!

I spent that Winter trying to figure out what to do. Hey, Tom, how much would it cost to bring in 20 truckloads of good soil? Huh--that much!? How about a backhoe? How about blasting? Yeah. Not a good impression to make on the neighbors, I guess. Maybe a container garden? But, I wanted a BIIIG garden, not just a few pots sitting around on the patio. And I didn't want to spend a fortune on it, either.

Then,on Amazon, I saw galvanized containers--square wash tubs, round wash tubs--bigger round wash tubs, bushel basket-style tubs. AND-HORSE TROUGHS!! Wowza!! Pretty soon, three horse troughs showed up in my driveway. By this time the UPS guy knows that "the new people" are nuts, anyway, so he doesn't even blink. There have been boxes of furniture arriving since they moved in--what's a few horse troughs? My obliging husband pounded holes in the metal tubs and dragged them up into the area that would become my "Galvanized Garden"--and the new learning curve began.

1st year--what perennials and shrubs can I plant that will make it through the Winter in a metal wash tub, covered with bags of leaves and wrapped in aluminum insulation? Answer---Absolutely none! was the answer the next Spring.

2nd year--what cheap annuals and Summer bulbs can I plant that will grow fast enough to flower before it's Winter again? Answer--annuals bloom, then most give out and have to be replaced by the end of the Summer. Some bulbs were successful, but others just barely made it above ground. That was also the year we had the huge wind storm, which blew down many trees, including one enormous pine that crashed down on top of my "tin can garden" and smooshed several of my tubs.

3rd year--Enter the All-mighty Dahlia and the Year of the Wettest Spring Ever. My dahlias grew to well over 6 feet and bloomed their beautiful heads off. The Delphiniums were phenominal! The glads laid all over everything and had to be propped up with tomato cages, the roses tried to hit the top of the 6-foot fence--it was a FABULOUS year! And I have the pictures to prove it!!

Delphiniums, Ninebark, roses, Monarda, and a Hibiscus.

Red and purple Dahlias, over 6 feet tall, and Verbenas.

Dahlias, cannas, glads, purple petunias and orange zinnias.

Cannas, sweet potato, clematis, red dahlias and Rudbeckia

Otto's Thrill Dahlia

One can only dream---and plan--what this next year will bring. Maybe I need to order just a few more lilies.

#gardens #NorthernMinnesota #quilts