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Dogwood Victory Garden

Monday, May 10, 2021


Even as I write, the dogwoods are greening, the leaves are growing each day, covering the aging white bracts that so enchanted me for weeks. I am hurrying, hurrying this spring. It's all so rich and there's so much to be seen and listened to and learned. In April and May, life itself is a race, sometimes thoroughly exhausting, just trying to take in all the wonder. Add house and grounds maintenance to that, and I feel I am in constant motion. Someone said I'm like a shark, have to keep swimming to stay alive. Yes. Like a shark. 

I have to share these photos before the dogwoods drop all their bracts. I went out the evening of April 20 to shoot--the sky had just cleared and the cumulus clouds mimicked the floating clouds of dogwood blossoms. 

Curtis Loew loves taking these several times daily peregrinations out the orchard. He moseys along, usually in front of me, taking in the third dimension of smells as well as the sights and sounds I am able to enjoy. 

It was a most perfect evening--in the 70's, with a soft, gentle breeze. We meandered through the best dogwood passages slowly, spinning around to take them in from every angle. The cloud shapes echoed the puffs and platters of dogwood blossoms. It was like walking into a Maxfield Parrish painting.

This is what I've worked for, this is what I continue to work for--free dogwoods, floating. Dogwood waves breaking in the air, with nothing to stop their curling fall.

As much as I anticipated dogwood bloom this spring, it was so much more wonderful than I'd ever hoped. It was a visual spectacle, all the sweeter because I had freed almost every tree from piles of strangling honeysuckle and rose canes. I'd personally twisted those vines off their scarred trunks and limbs, gritting my teeth and smiling as I did it, thinking of what it would feel like to take in these sights. But still, they were so much lovelier than I had imagined.

In the morning, a sherbert like mix with blooming redbud and I am swooning with delight.

The peek of redbud at the end of the path...

Free open passages to walk without ducking or struggling; free trees with the breeze blowing in between them. My summer office, almost ready for occupancy. 

Phoebe and Liam got to be here for the start of the bloom, and for that I'll always be grateful. We resolved that they should try to be home each spring for this. Dogwood Bloom, our sacred family holiday.

For this, I cut the olive and rose; for this, I make the giant brushpiles; for this, I burn them. 
For this, I learned to wield a chainsaw, and that feels like a big thing to me. I feel powerful, indomitable, strong. I don't need to wait for anyone to help me now. For a woman alone in the world, that's big.

There is so much more to do. I will always be doing this, for as long as always may be for me. I know it isn't nearly long enough.

I so wish I'd started earlier, so I could have been living out here all this time.

But we start when we are ready, and not before.
If Bill were still here, I'd doubtless still be hoping that he'd come over and do a little chainsawing now and then. I'd never have hired the Amish crew to clear out the deadfalls and open the paths so I could get through to attack the work myself, never would have bought my own saw. I'd have been hoping, and none of this would have or could have happened. Life and death are strange that way. Sometimes it takes the death of someone you love to force you to realize you are capable. 

April is strange, too. This was my wakeup on April 21, the morning after I wandered the orchard in a T-shirt, smiling ear to ear. 

I realized that snow on white dogwoods just looks like more snow.

I knew the dogwoods would shrug it off. And they did, with not a mark or a wilt.

Everything came back just fine. I enjoyed the snow overlay on green for as long as it lasted, which was about six hours. Well, "enjoyed" isn't exactly the right word, but I took it in, even as I was dealing with the consequences of a late April snow event in other bluebirdy realms of my life.

Ain't it wonderful? Here:

 and gone:

The poison ivy has finally leafed out, which means I must stop for the season my mano-a-mano fight with invasive vegetation. I'm spot-spraying it in the interest of free access, as I continue to spot-spray the stumps of Russian olive and carpets of honeysuckle, and the small but countless tufts of multiflora rose re-growth. If I don't, all this hateful crap will simply come back, and after a year and a half of intensive clearing work, that would be a crying shame. Much as I hate to use any chemicals, I'm thrilled to say it looks for the moment like I'm winning this war, at least in one old ridgetop orchard somewhere in Ohio.

 Rather, the dogwoods are winning, and all native plants are winning. I keep finding amazing things coming up that I've never seen out there before. Onward we go, beating a path, ever beating a path, making strikes for the good and native against the horrid and invasive. 



I too have been forced by the disappearance of my husband (into Alzheimer's disease, in his case) to realize that I can do a lot more than I thought I could do. And please keep sharing your results with the rest of us. I grew up near a gorgeous dogwood dell in TN and am delighted with yours.

What a lovely spot you've made for yourself. I wish I had a grove of dogwoods.

What a crop of beauty you are harvesting! You'll have a crop of songbirds to enjoy later when those dogwoods are covered in berries. Bravo!

Fantastic job, Julie! Must bring you so much peace and joy :-).

Glorious dogwoods! That picture of them with the high cloud is sublime. Wonderful to see the result of your labours!

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