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April 29, 2021 - Be friends with time

Updated: May 5, 2021

I cannot recall the specific day that our backyard had transferred to a woodland suddenly. Oak trees and hickory trees have fully leafed out, casting dappled morning sunlight onto the now thickly green meadow. When there is wind, thousands of leaves wave together, creating a strong low-toned tide sound. Birds' songs are echoing from everywhere, often mixed with hatchlings' thin but noisy chippings in response to their tirelessly feeding parents.

Roses started to open up one after another, despite the horrible aphids and caterpillar attack. We tried to release some ladybugs to help control the situation. But more than half of the ladybugs that we have bought from the store were already dead when we opened the box...poor bugs:( Eventually, we used an organic plasticizer with sesame oil as the main ingredient to kill the aphids and handpicked a lot of baby caterpillars. I collected them into a saucer, but no birds have come to take the free food yet. I suppose the mass attack of aphids is the bitter result of pesticides being used in the previous years. We did not have many bees, ladybugs, or even birds before we started gardening. It takes time to repair the eco-circle in this little garden world, and we should just be patient and keep inviting more wildlife friends to move in.

Rose-princess charlene
One of my favorite roses: Princess Charlene de Monaco. It also has a light and sweet fragrance.

Seeing the stunning view of wild wisterias blooming along the highways of Atlanta, we could not help ourselves and brought a wisteria, "Amethyst Falls" home. Knowing how invasive wisterias can be, this beautiful "monster" has been carefully potted and placed on our deck without any direct contact with our garden soil. Amethyst is a native American plant and is supposed to be easier to keep under control. There are purple flower buds forming slowly now, and I will definitely paint them once it is fully blooming.

Wisteria "Amethyst" -Wisteria Sinensis
Wisteria "Amethyst Falls" is a native American wisteria that is less invasive. But its roots are still pretty aggressive.

The tomato, arugula, and pea seedlings are big enough to be transplanted in the ground now. The problem is that we were too greedy and inexperienced when seeding these veggies, and now we realized that we have run out of sunny space to grow all of them! We have only a few corners in our backyard that get full sun for more than 6 hours. We have created a herb garden, an annual flower bed, a rose bed, and planted a few fruit trees on the rest of the area. We have to dig a trench by our neighbor's fence and plant the tomatoes there, and the rest of the veggies have to stay in pots and maybe stay in the greenhouse. That's one lesson we have learned. Be friends with patience and time. Gardening is not just about planting, but also planning.

The other day, we found a gigantic snakeskin under our front yard bush. Judging from the head shape, it seems to be a harmless native brown snake. We just left it as is. A few weeks later, around the area when Matt was cleaning the weeds, he almost touched another small brown snake who was enjoying the cool shade under the grass. Well, always wear a pair of gloves and don't go with bare feet is all I can suggest.

a brown snake skin
The brown snake (nonvenomous) skin that we discovered under the bush

Back in our pond, the tadpoles are still legless tadpoles! I did not know that it will take two months for them to become toadlets. I am very glad that they have not been all eaten by our goldfish, and that they have greatly contributed to the algae and mosquito control of our pond.

The lotus that we bought last late summer had new leaves emerging from the water. Last year, the baby leaves were completely destroyed by the harsh summer storms, and I was worried that the lotus was long gone. Once again nature has shown how strong and adaptable it can be, also how important the right season with the right environment it is to the growth of plants. For lotuses, it needs a gentle spring to gradually warm up the water, while not dropping summer hails and stormy rain bullets to tear up the tender leaves.

broken lotus leaf
We bought the lotus last summer and the baby leaves were all destroyed by the rain. Our pond was really muddy as well because of the soil erosion back then.

Peonies are the same. Last spring, we planted three peony tubers and yet they never grew. We tried different methods, moving them around, changing the water, the soil, the ventilation, and the sunlight conditions, but nope, nothing. We were so upset and thought that we were just bad at growing peonies. But this spring! Completely forgotten and given up, they quietly send out beautiful and lush leaves, growing happily and healthily. So we understood, they need time to recover and to adapt. The first year, peonies may not be doing well, just be patient and give them time. When the plants are well established, they will reward you with abundance.

After a year of observations, we are just getting familiar with our backyard: where it has the most sunlight, which slope stays dry and won't get waterlogged, where the soil stays moist, and which spot provides shade in the harsh Georgia summer noons. Only when we know this micro-environment well, we can make better plans and grow plants in the right place. But there is still so much to learn, to observe! We started to notice the different blooming times and periods of different flowers, the different colors of foliage, how plants look in the winter, and how they look together as one. We started to learn to group different plants together to ensure a continuous focus: from bloom to another, from shape to height, from deciduous to evergreen...The more we garden, the more rhythm of nature the garden reveals to us, training our ears and eyes to receive more details of the well-designed complicacy. It's just the start of our journey, and we feel touched and awed every day.

Our pond in the woodland garden
Our pond in the morning sunlight, April 24, 2021

Weather report: Mostly Sunny. H: 85°F L: 62°F

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