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Janice Wells: Fifty shades of gardening

The path uncovered last year, the beginning of another, and a war on red ants.
The path uncovered last year, the beginning of another, and a war on red ants. - Janice Wells photo

There are gardeners and then there are gardeners. There are dedicated gardeners and there are gin and tonic gardeners. There are gardeners who are only interested in growing vegetables, gardeners who are only interested in growing flowers, gardeners who grow both, bee gardeners, bird gardeners, butterfly gardeners, native plants gardeners and gardeners who specialize in a particular species that calls to them.

Some of these “whips” reach 10 feet and tower over the bird house/feeder (whipping post). — Janice Wells photo
Some of these “whips” reach 10 feet and tower over the bird house/feeder (whipping post).
— Janice Wells photo

And then there’s everyone else. In this group you will find people who aren’t remotely interested in gardening, people who would sort of like to have a garden but don’t have the confidence to start, people who think gardens are too much work and people who picture gardeners in sun hats and gloves, communing with nature and having the most wonderful time while the house is up in slings.

None of that second group thinks of gardening as dangerous work, or certainly not erotic work. Ha, I say to “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Try Fifty Shades of Green.

Yesterday I was dressed in leather, whipped, tied up and tortured. I was stretched to my limit, knocked flat on my back, knelt in dirt with my backside exposed to the elements, and finished up the day with bite marks on my belly, and yes, if you must know, I enjoyed every minute of it.

It started with an old shrub rose that was reaching to the sky with wonderful straight fresh green canes. I loved the arching look of them but I knew something was wrong. I knew they weren’t suckers (shoots that grow from beneath the graft) because some of them started well above the graft. Then a little bit of knowledge that I’d forgotten I had popped into my head; water sprouts.

Yesterday I was dressed in leather, whipped, tied up and tortured. I was stretched to my limit, knocked flat on my back, knelt in dirt with my backside exposed to the elements, and finished up the day with bite marks on my belly, and yes, if you must know, I enjoyed every minute of it.

Water sprouts are whip-like shoots that go straight up from an older cane and are often caused by incorrect pruning. (ahem). They are not good for the plant but that thorny old rose wasn’t going to give them up without a fight. Dressed in a leather welding jacket and gloves from Son-in-Law’s foundry I attacked. I got a whip across the face, lost my balance and ended up flat on my back. I won, but not before getting poked in the eye.

Off I went to disentangle a spirea from the standard willow it was tied to, and thanks to the dog’s leash hanging from the clothesline, had to disentangle myself.

Then I got at the black knot on the plum trees. Black knot is an ugly fungus that likes trees from the prunus family. You have to cut out all the infected stems of branches. It was really torturous to have to lose all the lovely healthy buds above the unsightly scabs but I survived and got it all, including the ones on the very top branches, thanks to my loppers and some tippy-toe stretching.

That done, off I went to what I consider the fun stuff; uncovering a stone path that I wasn’t even sure was there. It runs off the main path that I uncovered last year, but was so overgrown with goutweed and dandelions that if I didn’t have a love of, and nose for, stones, it might never have been found.

On my knees (on my kneeler) I was getting happier with each rock I uncovered, when I noticed a distinct breeze in my nether regions and felt, literally, upon inspection, that my trusty gardening overalls were trying to tell me they were ready to retire.

That didn’t stop me of course; there was no one around but the birds. I was quite content grubbing along and then went to answer a call of nature of the indoor type. Before I even got back outdoors I started to feel a burning sensation on one of my stomach bulges, (lower left quadrant).

I went undaunted back to my path and it got worse. That’s when I noticed the tiny red ants darting around in a section of the earth I’d disturbed.

The ants defeated me. Five big red bite marks, itchy as the devil. Newman has mixed up a natural solution for me to try. On the ants, not me.

I’ll let you know if it works.

Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. She can be reached at janicew@nf.sympatico.ca.

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