Weeding a garden as antidote to chaos and hard times

Beach Meadows April 23, 2020

Dear Philip,

I started this blog Sunday before I heard about the  tragedy that was unfolding while I was weeding away in Port:  If I thought the idyll of a country garden was a blessed antidote to a virus, I don’t think there is  any pursuit, anywhere, at anytime that could inspire calm or equanimity enough to make sense of something so utterly senseless and sad. I was spared the story until I got home – unplugged and tired – when Rachel rung me up with the news. I was well into sending you off photographs by then but sidelined it all, numb and deflated. These times have been made more grim if that is at all possible. I spent the next day at home, weeding.

Pussy willow

Sedum, new growth and last year’s spent flowers

Last year’s stachys flower and new growth

Amidst the gloom, the garden grows. Spring has sprung at last and you’ll see from the photographs any number of plants popping through the soil, that chartreuse green of new growth in pockets everywhere. Trees are budding. It’s kind of neat to see the new growth against  last year’s vestiges; of course that new growth means it’s time to bid all those stems and stalks farewell. Excuse the last, self-indulgent photos of the bleached out echinacea and the wild-eyed anemone which have become favourites these last few months. 


I’ve sent photos of the butterbur. Our darlings are growing and looking very cute. Not one to be fooled, my guard is up.

Rachel stopped by with a bunch of lupine and I gave her some errant rudbeckia from the pollinator garden. When I went to plunk the new lupine in the first meadow, I pulled out another 28 spruce saplings! Add this to the total from a couple of weeks back and in just those three meadows, the tally now stands at  640 saplings! SIX HUNDRED AND FORTY!  Now some of them, many of them were the size of my ring finger but some were as big as my forearm. Okay, half a forearm. Still, quite a heap. It does give one an idea of first succession growth in an Acadian forest. I thought for sure the alders would be there but nope, it’s all spruce, all the time. Six hundred and forty. Wowzie!

Six hundred and forty spruce saplings culled and lupine ready to plant

I’ve moved some of the monkshood to the right side of the cottage (pollinator aka Lynn’s) garden to give the whole area  more flow and some autumn flare. I had gloves on this time so no hand to mouth contact (the pandemic has been great training), no tingling lips and emergency calls to Rachel this time, me wondering if I’d done myself in as in past. Tomorrow I’ll continue weeding  a very neglected and matted patch around the ornamental grass we migrated there from the main house a few years ago. Once that’s done, the chips go down: weed suppression and soil building.

The dead and cascading tresses of bush clematis

Molly’s Siberian iris (they are a beautiful soft blue) seem happy. I wasn’t sure if they’d take: Hers grow in what looks like gravel so they’re clearly not fussy and I thought they’d either buck at the new digs with all that rich septic field soil or flourish, not knowing what hit them. Allium leaves are sprouting in all the gardens. Don’t ask me to name them because I’ve misplaced my notepad but once they bloom, I’ll know!

Self-portrait with my favourite, Amsonia Hubrechtii

Speaking of misplacing things and if I needed any reminder of how one marks the official start of the gardening season, I got it: One cultivator already lost. It’s in there somewhere.  Actually, maybe the real start is finding one that was lost in the past as I did when I was clearing and making room in our compost heap. So as far as cultivators go, the count is even-steven. Let the games begin.

Missing you both very, very much, and Misty, too. Lynn

Weeping larch, in bud

Dear Lynn,

We need something to cling to in this age of pandemic and violence. The world seems to be unraveling. The centre cannot hold. It is easy to become utterly despondent behind our facemasks. Where do we find pleasure? Ah, the garden, full of great delight as it comes to life for another year, there’s the pleasure. Don’t you think?

Birds’ nest in the beauty bush and angelina sedum on the rocks, seaside garden


Lynn, the garden is the pleasure, but I’m not sure that I’d emphasize weeding. Dr. Pangloss told Candide, “il faut cultiver notre jardin,” what Julian Barnes described as a call to “horticultural quietism.” I don’t recall Voltaire mentioning weeding. We cultivate our garden, quietly put other cares and concerns aside, forget the rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem.  Does that mean we have to weed?

Unless you want this garden matted with chickweed, yes, we must weed!

As you say, this is a unique time of the year in the garden—we see new growth set against the vestiges of last year. (I am exercising self-discipline and blocking a powerful metaphor.) I was so happy to see pictures of the butterbur emerging. Spectacular as it begins, the butterbur, little jewels on the grounds, and spectacular in its grandiosity as it comes to full growth. A favourite of mine…

Looking cute enough, the deceptively innocuous Butterbur


Six hundred and forty spruce saplings! What are we doing with them?

We will be there soon (and that includes Misty).  We will stroll together through the gardens at dusk, commenting on this and that, making plans for the future, and then, of course, adjourn for martinis. 

Meanwhile, “Calmly we walk through this April’s day…”

Much love,  Philip

Our little constant reader in the sun with Montauk daisy making a move

6 thoughts on “Weeding a garden as antidote to chaos and hard times”

  1. such a mindful garden that seems to flow naturally in its environment…pretty sure there’s an abundance of healing energy and peace of mind to be found in this place.

    1. Hi Sylvia, thanks for dropping by and writing this: Solace for sure against the present and persistent odds.

      Did you see the butterbur? The leaves are starting to surface so it will change dramatically.

  2. sylvia oostijen-matsumura

    such a mindful and beautiful garden that seems to flow naturally within its environment…i’m pretty sure there’s an abundance of healing energy and peace to be found in this place.

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