The first day of the Christmas break was nice and relaxing. I watched Sunderland beat Bolton, everyone went to Hot Springs for a soak, and watched the Polar Express with the kids. But, for me the most relaxing thing was futzing in the garden for a couple of hours raking the last leaves, transplanting a few bulbs, stirring the (half-frozen) compost and flattening the many erupting mole trails. Turning the soil in two of the new raised beds I put in last spring, I saw how deep and rich it appears to be, and am already thinking where to plant things next spring. I dug up some gladioli bulbs that never bloomed this year (I think they were in too shady a spot) and moved them into the new bed I put in a month ago. I was happy to find a lot of bulb lets/corms under some of them. The Gladioli were beautiful this summer, and I’d like a lot more.

Not much to look at now, but hopefully this will be a sunny, colorful corner come spring

The bed I’ve been working on is in a southern corner, and I had given it over to strawberries two years ago. The first year’s crop was OK, but the second was really poor and the offshoots never got established. It was only when I transplanted a couple of strawberry plants from huge pots into another part of the garden that I realized how deep and thick the root structures of a healthy strawberry plant are. Checking the poorly performing plants in that bed, I saw how shallow and thin their root structures were, and digging around I found that this was because there was not one but two layers of landscape fabric a couple of inches below the surface. This is a recurring issue in our yard, as crabgrass, ivy and other invasive plants have been plentiful, and previous owners did their best to control these weeds with landscape fabric. Foolishly, I had tried to put a couple of inches of new soil on top of the soil already above this fabric in this bed (not a good idea!) and that was presumably why the strawberries didn’t do well. I removed the new soil, pulled up all the fabric and broke up the underlying clay soil pretty well, then replaced the new soil and added a lot of compost.

There’s a small cherry tree just beyond this bed (on the south side) so while it gets a lot of sun, it doesn’t get constant sun, like the most-productive part of the vegetable garden, so I moved a bunch of root-bound irises into the back of this bed and planted dozens of tulip, daffodil and dahlia bulbs along the middle. These other bulbs were thinned from the massed plantings in other areas of the garden. In the front, along a low rock wall, I planted a few cuttings of ice plant. I added the non-blooming gladioli into the mix, today. Hopefully this will become a colorful corner of the garden in the spring and summer—I disturbed a daffodil bulb as I planted the glads, and was pleased to see long roots and a couple of inches of shoot, so hopefully that indicates the oil is deep and rich enough. But, I’ll need to transplant a few Black-Eyed Susan and Echinacea plants over there in the spring if I want much fall color.

Not blooming now, but Echinacea grows really well in our yard.

Sometimes the planning and dreaming of next year’s beds and projects is the most fun part of the year’s garden work. It certainly makes the dreary fall raking and winter cleanup more fun when you’re seeing the spring bulbs blooming in your mind’s eye and start planning for next summer’s color.

Here’s what I was seeing in my mind’s eye (aka, the best photos I took of our yard in 2010):

First came the Daffodils, Primroses and Hyacinths

Followed by the Tulips.

The front door of the rats' house.

They might just be a cheap annual, but I love Petunias in hanging baskets.

New additions to the garden this year, some Lilies.

When everything else has peaked, here comes the Rose of Sharon.

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