Monday, February 22, 2010

Do you need Dr.Quinn?

Remember watching those old "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" re-runs?  (As I recall, this was a phase in my life that came just after the "Little House on the Prairie" re-runs and just before my "A-Team" days.  Or was it "Magnum P.I."?)  That plucky city gal always seemed to find a cure for what ailed the townsfolk on the frontier.  Now how badly do I need a garden version of this character?

Dr. Quinn can save the day!

I can see it now: dress swishing and held high to avoid dirtying the lavender hem, she tramps single-minded through the entrance and pauses a moment.  "Oh dear, did you know your Veronica has a terrible case of mildew?"  This would be said in a most kind and regretful manner, for Dr. Q is nothing if not classy and compassionate.  And I would bow my head in acknowledgement and a bit of shame.  If I was feeling bold I might add, "And it's been mildewed for two years in a row."  Then she would spontaneously convey that my lilac is very unhappy in it's current place (no flowering) and the grasses are getting crowded and dying out in the middle.

The funny part about this scenario is that I know exactly which plants are not thrilled with their place in my yard, as evidenced by disease, pests, or poor growth.  I don't need "Dr. Quinn" to sashay through and point out what is to me obvious.  What I need is the guts to do something about it.  Some guts and some initiative.  But sometimes the thought of the work involved in removal or transplanting seems nothing short of colossal and I find it too intimidating to start.  "I'll just wait 'til next year."

Woman, divide us, please!

I have five specimens of Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' that have been needing division now for two or three years. By procrastinating I have just made the job more enormous. So my thought process goes something like: Let's see, last time I dug and divided a Calamagrostis it took about an hour (just the "lift, divide, and avoid tramping other plants" part) for one large plant, not counting the re-planting of divisions. Applying some fuzzy math, that would be a months' worth of free time in the garden down the drain. Oh joy, when do I start!?

Martha says: Get's a good thing.

This procrastination thing might need more of a Martha Stewart approach (sorry, Dr. Quinn).  No doubt there is a special notepad adorned with scrolls and ribbon that would help me find the desire and the time to do the deed.  Hmm, maybe not.  I'm sure that her calendar has a day blocked out for transplanting tasks.  Someday I'll be that organized.  Today is not that day.   

I do find fearless authority figures to be very motivating: labor and delivery nurses are especially good.  They might make the best of what I like to call, in a highly specialized (and entirely made-up) niche of garden professional: the garden sergeant.  "It's six a.m., stop being lazy and get moving!  Dig, dig, you little nitwit!!  And none of that lip or you'll drop and give me twenty!"  I'm losing weight just thinking of it.  Just what I need to get me going...unfortunately, I haven't seen any listed in my area. 

In our consumer culture, it's too bad I can't find guts/motivation/initiative on the shelf at Target: I'd drop by and pick some up.  (I'd even settle for the generic brand.)  This reflection is rather ironic because some of my plants are moved so often they never get comfortable.  I guess it's those others that I'm thinking of, the too large or the unwieldy, those that cannot be pried out by one or two scoops of the trowel.  I have a few months to think of a solution to my mental inertia/physical reluctance on the subject.  It may crumble if spring is long coming. 

What does it take to overcome dividing and transplanting resistance?  And where can I get some? 


  1. Keeping a garden is like having a zoo, plants are set free but we curtail the freedom..., then suddenly they become overly dependent even for food and water...... ~bangchik

  2. I think I have the opposite problem. I can never just leave a plant alone and let it grow. My husband often asks, "Wasn't this shrub over there before?" The dividing I'm not as good about, I'm worried I'll kill most things by cutting them apart.
    Maybe you should just write on the calender in pen on a certain day that it is "transplanting day." If it's in pen you have to do it :)

  3. I loved Dr. Quinn....great post...

  4. Reading your post Christine has left me exhausted, or maybe it's the glass of wine I have just finished drinking, I think I will have another one. It's still winter where I live and I know it is where you live. Worry, or not, about it in the summer. PS I'm sure your springs are just as short as mine, no time really to do anything but admire the propensity of plants to grow. :)

  5. Hi Christine~~ I think the thing about pruning or dividing that stalls me is denial about the plant's eventual size. Case in point: I've got a Calamagrostis also. It's getting wider than it should and I must divide it right now. But the lazy part of me says oh, you can wait one more year, shrouding my mental recollections of a plant bursting at the seams last summer. Time can wipe away my resolve.

    Martha Stewart sleeps, like four hours a night. And I daresay she's got a bevy of gardeners at her disposal. I doubt she does any serious gardening herself. But I could be wrong.

    The only thing I remember about the Dr. Quinn show was how the townsfolk fought with the displaced Indians.

    For me garden chores won't get done unless I'm in the mood to do them. Somehow everything gets done.

  6. Great post ... just found your blog and enjoyed my first browse through it.

  7. Sounds like you know what you need to do... just do it! ;-)

    And are you kidding me? Calamagrostis waiting to be divided? The things I would do if I had a lot of extra feather reed grass to go around - a hedge for sure, maybe some vertical accents in key places, I could go on...


  8. Well, I suppose you could make like Martha and hire an army of assistants to do the manual labor for you... But where's the fun in that? :)

  9. Maybe you could adapt the old housecleaning trick to work in your know, the one where you have significant people coming to visit (in-laws work the best) and you are then motivated to clean the house from top to bottom. I know some gardeners who enter their gardens for open houses or tours and having a deadline like that works wonders on their motivation!

  10. @Calgary Garden Coach
    My problem is too much lead time. I brood about it for three months and make myself dread the actual event by the time it is supposed to happen.

    I will be potting up all the extras from the grass division session to take with me when I move this fall (that's the plan, anyway...)


    If I had an army of assistants, they would be cleaning the bathroom or grouting the fireplace!


    It's no use, my significants are here right now visiting and I the garden is buried under snow. I do have a big garden tour in early August. It is quite motivating to have people pay money to see one's yard but as I am not able to get started yet, I am just dreading the whole thing.


  11. I agree with Melanie. I can barely pronounce those words LOL! I think Melanie and I will stay in the corner with our booze and watch you tend to your zoo...I mean garden! HAHAA

  12. Well now, I think that we all have something in our lives that we treat like this... for me its calling service people or dealing with things that just aren't going right over the phone. :) I somehow always tell myself I'm going to do it after. After coffee, after lunch, after I get home, after I relax a little bit! So, as I see it, you are quite normal! Martha is not.

  13. Christine, can you find another gardener who wants that type of grass? You could offer her/him to divide it and take some home. You see, I want it to be easy for you! Other way which I use myself: get angry! In similar situations, I tell myself that an actual job will take less time than my suffering about it!

  14. Hilarious post!

    I came over to say I'm so glad I'm not the only one who kills daffodils.... then I saw your "I am a Daffodil" tag - too funny!

  15. Dear Christine, I have so enjoyed reading this highly entertaining posting which, in a light hearted manner, brought home the downside of gardening which faces us all.

    I fear that I personally tend to avoid anything in the garden that calls for more than a trowel.
    However, I am so fortunate that J, my gardener/handyman, is not afraid of a spade, and using it.

    Thank you for picking my latest posting without which I should not have discovered you.

  16. @Ginger
    One of life's little ironies, I suppose. I'm trying desparately not to read to deeply into what it just might mean.

    @Edith Hope,

    Three cheers for avoidance: hip hip hurray! Maybe just one cheer.... I need to train my minions better, they're a bit surly when they have to stop playing in the sandbox/fiddling with machinery and come help in the garden. I guess they need, in the words of a venerable aunt, "an attitude adjustment."


  17. Very funny post! Thanks for making me feel normal for procrastinating the jobs I don't like doing.

  18. My garden needs some serious work and as soon as Spring is here I'll have no excuse!

  19. I am laughing, because I watched most of those shows you mentioned when they were first runs.

    I am as big a procrastinator as you. A couple years ago, I kept asking my husband to dig out the huge pampas grass he insisted I plant when a neighbor brought it over without asking if I wanted it. Finally, I got tired of waiting, and took a shovel to it. I was shocked at how easily it came out. I'm thinking it wasn't a good place for it, so the roots weren't healthy enough to resist my shovel.

    Maybe yours won't be as difficult to divide as you think they are going to be. I hope to do some major dividing and moving things around this spring.

  20. Garden boot camp and a firm sargeant major would be the thing for me. Especially if he knew how to dig!


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