Dead Heads and Dead Poets
by Dan Clost
by Dan Clost


First serious garden earned 25 cents from the Kemptville Horticultural Society when I was 12. Have been poor in horticulture ever since but rich in spirit.

Went to work writing the Good Earth column (over 500 articles published in newspaper, magazine, website and journal.) and learned that what was printed wasn't what I wanted to say and certainly not what Gentle Reader understood me to say. Subsequently have developed a certain clarity and economy of words.

Day job- nursery and production manager for a large nursery/garden centre
Side job- Garden restoration and renovations, design consultations, remedial pruning.
Night job- garden writer and communicator (overnight success in another 20 years)

Dan gardens in Canadian Zone 5b

October 11, 2009

Last week I bemoaned the demise of our gardens due to inattention during a heat spell. I thought all was lost but I underestimated the tenacity of plants. A bit of rain, a bit of cooling down and almost everything has come back to its earlier vibrancy. Mind you, there was a bit of dead heading to do. In our city lot estate, I removed seven-plus wheelbarrows of clipped materials.

It took a while but since we had our annual July bbq scheduled, sprucing up the yard was mandatory. I sort of like that type of work because it affords time for part of the mind to wander off on an unfocussed journey of disassociated thought. I made a few interesting discoveries:

Discovery 1: Coneflowers are the both the rabbits and lemmings of the flower world. Two years ago I planted 7 or 8 wee clumps to become backdrops of 3 front lawn gardens. Now, we have more than 2 dozen groups that have produced more of a thicket than a verdant screen. Just like rabbits. When those original Echinacea were introduced to an unsuspecting greenscape, they were all different cultivars. Magnus, Doppelganger, Razzmatazz, Albus, and Kim’s Knee-High are the one’s I remember off hand. At the moment, they all look the same, I think even the white one is changing to purple. For some reason, everyone of them decided to “fade” at the same time even though they didn’t bloom so. The result was that all of them needed deadheading at the same time. Lemmings. So, this fall, if you want generic coneflower divisions or seeds you know where to come.

Discovery 2: Also, there is no doubt in my mind that de Mestral might have invented Velcro after noticing burdock in his dog’s fur but the genesis of that thought occurred whilst deadheading coneflowers in his garden.

Discovery 3: Mulberry is an ubiquitous beast of a plant but, fortunately, is gifted solely with the brains God granted a rock. We have a Carolina All Spice shrub that thrives happily giving us a “sweet” textured leaf and wonderfully curious fruit. As I was working away last week, I thought it was looking a bit strange but didn’t really investigate. Yesterday, whilst experiencing the tedium of dead-heading drudgery, I glanced over to “Carol” and saw that she had gained a foot in height during the week. Further examination exposed a mulberry seedling that had shot up above the canopy during an ill-advised growth spurt. Once identified, it was Morus mortus and consigned to wheelbarrow load number four of future compost.

Discovery 4: I am not a poet. Bear with me Gentle Reader and I’ll explain. As I was standing there with secateurs in my hand and an empty wheelbarrow before me the gardener’s lament crossed my mind; that being, “You should have seen it last week!“. The disassociated portion of my brain said, “You (meaning me) are standing in a disgraceful estate. Now, one of my favourite sonnets is Shakespeare’s No 29. which has the opening line, “When in disgrace with...” The connection was made and what follows is the result of my musings.

When, in disgrace with St. Fiacre and all gardeners' eyes,

I all alone beweep my barren estate,

And trouble deaf heaven with my flowerless cries,

And look upon my perennial beds and curse their fate,

Wishing them like to those more scenic than hope,

Featured like Sissinghurt, like Quatre Vents with creativity possessed,

Desiring Monet’s art, and Capability’s scope,

With swards I most enjoy contented least,

Yet on these grounds my greenery almost despising,

Haply I plant in thee, and then my estate,

Like the morning glory at break of day arising

From fertile earth, sings hymns at Eden's gate

From those sweet seeds remembered such fruits bring,

That then I scorn to change my estate with kings.

You’ll be pleased to know that I shan’t quit my day job just yet.

In closing, Gentle Reader, the farmer’s markets and roadside stands are full of this good earth’s bounty. Take advantage of it and let your local farmer feed you.

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