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Connecticut project a blank canvas

Cionnecticut garden-586I arrive in the US to visit my son Nick at the end of April. As we leave Newark airport the road is lined with cherry blossom trees in full bloom.

“Am I in time for the spring blossoms?” I ask him.

“Perfect timing,” he says and it is.

Here in Southport, Connecticut the cherry blossoms are just a part of an amazing array of blossoms trees. The colours here range from white [dogwoods cornus florida] through every shade of pink [cherry trees] to purple and magenta [eastern redbuds cercis canadensis].

The house is quite new and the garden under-developed. Nick has given me free reign to create gardens in the front and back. His only criteria is that the plants be evergreen. And, most importantly, that they don’t inhibit the sprinklers which keep his weed free lawns lush and green.

“I still want some colour and shape in the winter when it snows,” he says.

It’s interesting to me that here in Connecticut, surrounded by deciduous trees, he wants the evergreen of the bush at home. At home, I, surrounded by bush, am striving to create an area of deciduous trees similar to the woodland here.

There is minimal existing planting. Nick likes a variegated leaf and there are a few by the roadside and some around the back. The plants he has chosen remind me of coprosmas but belong to the Euonymus family which also has many variations. There are four of one type of box hedge and two of another and three azaleas, two of one colour and one of another. They all give me a base to work with.

Nick’s partner, Vanessa, and I take the first trip to the garden centres. There is a spring festival and as we enter the entrance is taken up entirely by flowers. A woman in pink pinstriped dungarees from Muddy Feet Farm is selling tulips. Vanessa succumbs before I do. I am lured away by the peonies and roses.

“No roses,” says Vanessa, “He won’t have roses.”

The trip gives me an idea of prices and we return to Nick with long faces, worried he’ll never afford the plan.

“Home Depot,” says Nick, “we’ll try there.”

Home Depot is like Mitre 10 and here we find all the plants we are looking for at reasonable prices. More azaleas, rhododendrons, more of each of the box hedges and thujas. Thujas come in an amazing variety here. The range of plants is entirely different from what I’m used to because the plants have to survive snow. I particularly like a small rounded thuja with orange tips, Thuja ‘Fire Chief’. I manage to get a couple of these into the trolley or ‘cart’ as they are called here. We also buy a grinder to sharpen the spade. The day we go there has been a delivery of roses. I linger. Nick strides past.

“No roses,” he says.

The garden progresses and unfolds as I plant. In my new $14.98 gardening shoes from Walmart I begin. The ground is full of rocks and stones. Nick arrives home the first day and does some digging to avoid a mutiny. Across the road, Nick’s neighbour TJ, a frequenter of the equivalent of garge sales, has everything else we need. He has a wheelbarrow and a handcart. We discover a machine which sucks up the fall leaves at one end, mulches them, and deposits them in a covered

cart attached to the other end. The machine hasn’t been used for three years, the leaves in the back well rotted. They will provide the much needed mulch.

“Gold,” says Nick.

Among the evergreen plants I include hollies. To produce the berries for Christmas there needs to be girls and a boy. We find three Ilex Blue Princess and one Ilex Blue Prince. When I feel I have enough evergreens I slip some peonies in between. I may get to see their flowers before I leave. This week Dawn arrived and together we have completed the three front borders. On our last trip to Home Depot there has been a shipment of standard roses. We both stop. Nick looks at me and grins.

“I’m prepared to rethink the roses,” he says. “Won’t these tall ones give the garden some height?” Standard roses. Thornless and self-grooming, what could be better. I am delighted.

RETHINK: Roses give the garden some height with their long stems.

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