Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

Ivy takes over the garden, but it can't ruin this summer

The last day of June, can it be? But it must be right - 30 days has September, April, June, and November - you know the old grade-school verse. The days and the months seem to be on fast-forward lately. It's scary to think that another July 4 is but a few days away, and before we know it the leaves we waited for so patiently will be turning and falling on browned grass.

I get up at 5:30 and stay up until 9, trying to get the very most out of each day.

Are we having fun with summer and all of the things that it entails, including the expense and work that we say we won't do another year? Are you one of those people who spun yarns about having only one pot of flowers next summer as you pulled off the dead flowers last year and put the crocks away before the first frost? Last fall, in a foolishly frugal move, I dragged one pot of geraniums, another of begonias, and the dragon begonia plant onto the sun porch to save for this year. They flourished, but only because I bought an electric heater and paid outrageous electric bills all winter to keep them alive on the unheated porch.

No doubt about it, gardening is high-maintenance, but how can we pass up buying more plants? If greenhouses are still selling, I am still buying. One more six-pack of petunias or another salmon geranium to fill in where the straggling one was planted is only logical, and now we can get in on some good markdowns.

So once again the yard is beautiful - if I do say so myself, I don't believe it ever looked better. You may remember that I spent my first Social Security check in the summer of 1995 to have a 20-foot garden installed that I could see out of the kitchen window while I was relaxing over morning coffee. The relaxing didn't work, but the garden did.

Oh, it was a beauty for a couple of years and well worth the investment, or so I thought. Such a major cost for a depression baby was done by a supposed professional landscape artist, educated in the placement of plants according to growth rate, color, and blooming times. She even drew a map.

You should see the SS garden seven years later. It is a mass of ivy that has crowded out the rose bushes, hostas, the lilies, the herbs, and is working on the peonies though they seem to be holding their own.

In the beginning I was so enthralled with the little ivy plants that I brought the idea into the kitchen with ivy-patterned wallpaper and matching dish towels and potholders. Experts I consulted, mostly employees at check-out stands, say ivy is easy to kill because the root system is above ground.

The temporary solution to the thick ivy blanket is to set pots of flowers on top of it, a move which works in my eyes, but may look like a glorified dump to others. Of course, I have an old bottomless chair out to hold a pot of flowers, doesn't everyone? To that setting I have added mother's small wooden stepladder, which I consider a treasure because the rings left by paint cans are still testimony to her hard work in our old rooming house in Adrian.

Mr. Ed, the neighbor who can fix anything, and just about has in my old house, says that I have a heart bigger than the house when it comes to sentiments. In response, I tell him, so what if I enjoy it. Furthermore, if I had children and grandchildren to round out my life, I probably wouldn't cling to things from the past as much as I do, and probably always will.

I like the ladder topped with a wooden box spilling with red petunias as a new focal point on the ivy. The ivy isn't the only stubborn ground cover being eliminated. I am gaining on the snow on the mountain, but it still pops up. This is the third year trying to kill it. The first year I paid someone to do it; another professional landscaper, I might add, but he obviously didn't know what he was doing.

Like a lot of other folks, this year I strayed from salmon colors in the gardens and added red, white, and blue, or as blue as you can get. The red and white striped petunias are perfect for such displays. With matching birdhouses and a flag, the patriotic corners in the yard make a definite statement that is as cheerful as it is American.

So, over Sunday morning coffee -that's when I write this column -with dirt under my fingernails and an aching back from planting and weeding, I ask you again: Are we having fun with Mother Nature this summer? Absolutely, and I hope that you are too. Just don't plant any ivy.

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