Last weekend when I really wanted to be out gardening, it was a bit rainy, cool and muddy. So I decided to get to work on "ex-terra" weeding of my Ginger Lilies (Hedychium coronarium). I figured the damp muddiness would help cut down on the shock to the plants, and I would probably warm up quickly doing such a mucky labor-intensive job (I did).
this post by Carol on May Dreams Gardens. And here is another excellent post on renovating an entire garden bed to get rid of a weed that spreads by runners, by Kathy Purdy of Cold Climate Gardening. Good, so I don't have to go into a lot of painful details about the effort this took. I really would prefer not to remember in too much detail. I was so exhausted at the end of this that I wasn't even going to take photos. The effort of walking a whole 20 steps to get into the house to get the camera was just too much. Fortunately, my wonderful husband who came out to help me in the end took a couple of photos. This one counts as sort of a before (in the distance) and after (closer to the camera) all in one, since I only did half the bed. I had developed tunnel vision and just wanted to get done so I didn't bother to stop pitching finished compost on the bed as he snapped the photo.
I'm not completely sure this was the best time of year to do this. I was afraid to do it over the winter because I am never convinced that the Hedychium is quite hardy. Some of the bulbs often seem to go mushy. However, when I dug them up, I found them all very muscular. They were growing under, over, and through each other and really made the job pretty difficult. It was digging up the Hedychium that made this job hard, not the Bermuda grass or ivy. In fact, the weeds really never seemed to bother the Ginger Lilies, just the gardener, since the bed looks so awful in the winter time and is impossible to weed in the summer. I waited until I started seeing a few shoots growing before starting this project, thinking that this is generally a good time to dig and divide. However, the growing shoots are very brittle and I snapped off more than a few of them. I was pretty annoyed with myself each time. Even some of the ones that I managed to carefully work around in the excavation stage ended up snapping when I put them back in the ground. I think it will be OK anyway, though. The amount of plant mass in the rhizomes is so much that I can't imagine them not finding a way to put out new growth.
The Ginger lilies were here when I moved to this house. I think they
probably came from a division from the house next door (or perhaps vice
versa). My next-door neighbors had a huge row of them all the way along
the side of their garage, but last year, before they even bloomed, took
them all out. I do not understand why. That clump also had an
infestation of Bermuda grass, so maybe the prospect of trying to get rid
of it was too overwhelming, but I think getting rid of the Ginger
Lilies was a mistake. Now the neighbor's bed has basically nothing but the
Bermuda grass. How sad. If they change their minds, I'll be happy to
share some of mine back with them. That's the best part of sharing
plant divisions and cuttings. If ever by some disaster out of your
control (or in this case, seemingly in your control) you lose your plant,
there is insurance out there: you can get some back from whomever you
As I labored, my mind wandered (it tends to do that) and it occurred to
me that perhaps I have graduated from being a beginning gardener to an
intermediate gardener. That is, if this theory of mine is correct.
Perhaps a beginning gardener can be thought of as a person who
grows bunches of plants pretty much indiscriminately because they are
still learning about the plants and what will do well in the garden.
Meanwhile, some things are doing too well and some things are going
wrong and a beginning gardener is not necessarily aware of it. That is
why the intermediate gardener, years later, ends up spending so much
time renovating entire neglected-looking garden beds. The beginner
wasn't even necessarily neglecting them, but until they have become
"intermediate", they aren't particularly effective at dealing with it.
Or maybe all this renovation is just a sign that I am still a beginner.
Maybe my commencement as intermediate is still to come. I am very much
looking forward to the time, in another 20 years or whatever it takes,
when I will be "advanced" and all my garden beds will be lovely all the
time. Don't burst my bubble about that fantasy, please! but intermediate and advanced gardeners out there, what marked the turning point for you? Beginners, what do you think the next stage will bring?